I thought the switchbacks would never end.
Up and back.
Up and back.
It seemed like hours had passed since I stood at the top of Vernal Fall and marveled at the beauty of what Yosemite National Park had in store and now all I could think was this trek wasn’t worth it – my legs were on fire and there were miles left to go and I had not adequately prepared myself for such an endeavor.
And then it appeared. Nevada Fall.
This was relatively early in the season and in a year when California wasn’t bone dry, so the sight of the water pouring over the crest was equally powerful and beautiful. It was also refreshing ever before I first felt how cold that water was or tasted how clear – a reminder that the fire in my quads was going to be worth it after all.
I’ve seen some beautiful things in my life. From morning on the everglades to the way that midnight glows over the Canadian Rockies, there is natural beauty everywhere. But the first 500 or so feet before I saw Vernal Fall when I hiked the Mist Trail had me wondering whether just seeing a picture would be equally worth it, and when I hit those switchbacks using John Muir Trail, there was nothing that had me convinced that the amount of work that I was putting in would be worth it.
I’ve still got the photos – this was done back before digital cameras were all the norm – and I can honestly say that continuing up that trail was one of the best choices that I’ve ever made. Because putting the photo with the memory – the snapshot in my mind – is a million times better than just staring the beauty that somebody else saw.
I have friends that have never been to Yosemite National Park. They’ve lived less than two hours from one of the world’s most majestic places their entire lives and never set foot inside to see how El Capitan rises into the blue yonder, or the way that Half Dome looks like it was split by the hand of God himself.
And when I think about how close I’ve lived to it my entire life, I feel guilty about not taking advantage of it more often.
I know people from the East Coast that have made special trips to California to see Yosemite and the Napa Valley – both places I could have been every weekend and spent it instead doing something far less majestic.
But when I wanted to stop on that trail to the top of Nevada Fall I didn’t, and as a result I have an appreciation for what a little bit of perseverance and hard work can actually yield.
And if I forget, I have the photos.
Never underestimate the power of pictures that you’ve taken yourself.
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