I have literally been camping since I was a baby. I would have to verify it with my mother, but I’m pretty sure it’s possible I went before I was born too at some point. My family have always carried a serious outdoor appreciation.
Having grown up in California, my earliest memories of forests are in Yosemite National Park. I have a lifelong love for the place to this day. I was riding around the trails in a carrier on my father’s back as a small child – an experience to which I could quite possibly credit my fear of heights. Being carried is not bad, and even the transfers up and down from the carrier were tolerable even if a little tense… but you haven’t lived until you’re that small and dad decides to sit down for a break on a boulder. By a cliff. With you still on his back. Enough said.
All humor aside, Yosemite left a lasting impression of another kind on me. Each year was a grand adventure. We played at the edge of the Merced river, and sat by glowing fires, and took in with abandon all that the city does not offer. There were squirrels and blue jays to watch, pine cones to collect with fascination, and even bears – about which I have a few stories to tell later. My most cherished memory is of my mother waking my brother and I in the middle of the night to hear wolves howling in the valley. I was only about 5 or 6 years old at the time, and quite wide-eyed and excited about it. I remember asking her if they could get us. She had to point out that we were in a camper on that trip. 🙂 I even stood on the steps of the Mist Trail at that age, in awe of the rushing water nearby – Vernal Fall.
Eventually our annual family campouts changed to less distant locations, and I did not revisit my first love of forests until the age of 18. When I was there that year, my group stayed at Tuolumne Meadows as well as another camp at a lower elevation. We hiked from Glacier Point to Yosemite Valley one day of the weeklong stay. I have been looking at slides of photos taken by my father on the Half Dome cables my entire life. From Glacier Point, I could clearly see Half Dome once again. When I was young, it wasn’t the kind of thing that young ladies were really encouraged much to do. It seemed an impossibility, as difficult as everyone made it sound. Still.. the more I stared at that mountain, the more curious I became. After revisiting the park, I revisited my father’s slides. The view is intimidating, I will admit. I’ve never let that stop me from anything else I wanted. Why let it stop me now?
I was about 2 years from my 40th birthday when I saw a program on TV about Yosemite. A man was climbing that trail for his birthday.. something like 70. All I could think was to ask myself why I had slipped into a mindset of such inability. If he could do that at 70, why couldn’t I at 40? I decided to do it. Then 2006 happened, and so did Lupus. Everything stopped. I had already sustained injuries and had various health concerns, but this was critical, incapacitating pain. After months of agony, I gave up. The biggest worry in my world was being able to stand up for a shower, and whether I could ever make a meal for myself again, or drive a car. Hiking was the farthest thing from my mind, save for the painful realization that it was over for me. At that time, even once I found support groups, information was nothing short of discouraging. It predicted a downhill slide from where I was already setting.
I am happy to say that three years later I have found a better path. I am taking all of the dietary measures necessary to manage my illnesses, and I am working toward an even better level of fitness than I had before this came into my life. I have to. I still have a mountain to climb. 🙂