I’ve just returned from a mini-break in which my wife Judy and I and two friends spent two-and-a-half days scrambling around Yosemite National Park.
Six months ago, we had reserved a campsite near Lake May, thinking July would be about perfect, weather-wise. As it turned out, however, on our planned arrival date the meadow was still under eight feet of snow, so we had to improvise just a bit.
We spent a lot of time above 10,000 feet, and there was still snow everywhere despite the fact the daytime temperatures hovered in the high 70s. I’ve been to Yosemite many times, but never when there was so much ice and snowmelt around me. It made the whole park alive with the sounds of moving water, from the trickles that made most of the trails we followed into muddy messes, to cascades and waterfalls of breathtaking volume and violence.
(While we were there, reports spread through the park that three people had been swept over Vernal Falls after one of them slipped on the rocks near the wild water on July 19 and the other two followed in a sequence of failed rescue attempts. Sadly, the reports turned out to be true.)
Everywhere we went, I was reminded of the earth-defining power of wild water and the compelling nature of the medium with which watershapers work every day. The snowpack in the High Sierras this year was 200 percent of normal, and wherever we turned we saw fresh signs of the influence of water on the environment — trees toppled from banks, trails washed away or buried in water-caused rockslides, beaver dams broken down by overwhelming flows.
It was all amazing, and I had the sense that I was walking through a tremendous laboratory in which nature was showing its stuff, staging a grand clinic and wreaking havoc on any semblance of normalcy, expectation or predictability.
It was a wondrously mind-clearing break. Although I am back at my desk, I know I’ve been changed.
It’s yet another reminder that we all need to get out and see the world from time to time — and leads me to ask if any of you have had similar stories you’d like to relate about attractions (natural or otherwise) in your own area. If so, please share them below.