I remember my first time REALLY backpacking.
I remember carrying my backpack. But I don't remember the weight of the pack on my back. I remember stopping to smell a Douglas Fir, and a Ponderosa Pine on the side of the trail. I remember huffing and puffing up switch backs and the incredible feeling when we reached the top. I remember arriving at camp and realizing, we had made it. I remember slinging off my pack and pulling a seemingly endless supply of goods out of it. We had everything we needed. Honestly, we had far more than we needed. I remember my numb fingers filtering water in the river, and I remember knocking over a water bottle that was nearly full and coming close to tears because I had worked so hard to pump it. And I remember all these things with a big, huge smile on my face.
I made it to the top of Half Dome that trip. I don't even remember the top, because I had terrible altitude sickness. But I remember the confidence that came with being able to say that "I did it." I remember sitting at the bottom of the cables and looking back up at the summit and knowing I was capable of so much more than I had given myself credit for.
I summited Half Dome again this summer. This time, Eric was making his first ascent. Again, we hiked down from Glacier Point, across the Illouette Creek. We skipped Panorama Cliffs and went an alternate route to Little Yosemite, but we were back. I breathed it in.
I've never been a breakfast eater, or a morning jogger, or someone who catches the sunrise.
But there I was, 3am, stuffing my pack with enough water to get me through the 7 miles of hiking I would be doing that day, and contemplating putting on a beanie. Because this is what I love, more than anything, this is what I love.
We summitted with the sun. I was prepared this time. I had taken some medication to stabilize my altitude sickness and I remember every glorious moment of it as though it were burned onto my brain. I close my eyes and I can watch the sun rise over Clouds Rest. I see my shadow cast on the Dome and I am in ecstasy. The chill of the moments before first light is in my bones and the warmth of the sunrise is in my blood. There is nothing better, nothing more beautiful than sharing a moment like this.
I love introducing people to new things in the outdoors. I was lucky enough to introduce Eric to backpacking, so I felt so blessed to take him on top of Half Dome for the first time as well. He's not convinced there will be a second... those cables are scarey!