It’s a cold and rainy day in Yosemite. I’ve been home almost a week – back from a three week stay in Bishop. My thoughts drift in and out of climbing dreams, life dreams, dreams of dreams and I keep finding myself in the same position, sitting at my computer staring out the window. I’ve been wanting to write a sort of recap of the last month but I can’t seem to muster up the inspiration to do it. Perhaps it’s because I experienced so much that I am finding it hard to put words on. However, there remains this lingering feeling. My mind keeps returning to the east side, to the Buttermilks, to morning lattes at The Black Sheep, and to the friends that I parted with until the season starts in Yosemite.
Winter in Yosemite is a special time for the locals. The tourist head for warmer, dryer destinations and for those of us that live here all year we get a relief from the commotion. The cliffs are virtually void of climbers, leaving us to have our pick of routes (as long as they’re dry). We get in a flow and rhythm that is hard to find anywhere else. But, this year has been a little different – this year has been a wet winter. And, to prevent myself from completely losing it I opted for the dryer, sunnier side of Bishop.
In years prior my visits there were usually with a group of friends or a boyfriend and always with my pup dog, Sid. This year I went solo and with no real plan of any sort other than to climb as much as I could. I left on a Wednesday morning and drove through the day down through the smog choked central valley and up around the bottom of the Sierra. Once over the Tehachapi the landscape opened up giving view of the dramatic high desert. To the east were the Eastern Sierra to the west were the Inyos and the Whites and intermixed were beds of volcanic rock. Craters lined the bottom of the hills and mountains giving a glimpse into the history that created the area. As I made my way up 395 Mt.Whitney rose into view and a feeling so overwhelming and impressive came over me. I felt choked up, I wanted to cry. The Sierra and it’s Mt.Whitney were provoking me to feel them and I did, in my chest. Those mountains had taken up residence in my heart area and I knew then that this would be a memorable trip of growth and experience.
I coasted into Bishop sometime that evening and took up residence in my favorite parking lot in town. With my van tucked safely into it’s spot I now had a house in Bishop. Evening gave way to night and night gave way to days of Bishop living. I fell into a routine of mornings at the coffee shop sipping lattes, emailing, and conversing with whoever was around. Around 10:30 I would head to the boulders meeting up with friends and dogs, unless there was some weather then I would cruise around town, checking to see what the larger population was up to.
Because I was alone on this trip I found myself venturing out more than usual. I went to the theater, I talked to local business owners, I talked to strangers at the hot spring, I stayed at newly made friends’ homes, and I got to know my friends better. I climbed a lot. For three weeks I bouldered, hiked, cooked, laughed, tried hard, failed and succeeded and felt free. My wings opened and I was sailing on the winds of the western landscape. I felt as if I could live out the rest of my days there. And then there was that lingering feeling. Yosemite was pushing it’s way back to me and I started to dream of my projects and all the familiar rock climbs and river spots that I love so much.
My skin was shredded, grabbing crystallized granite holds was painful and pulling on volcanic pockets was tugging my tendons too much. I would need a few days of rest to feel really good but Yosemite weather was looking intriguing. I decided it was time to make a break back to Yosemite; if I didn’t do it now, I thought, I may never go back.
I left on a Wednesday morning and drove down passing underneath the Sierra and across from the Whites and Inyos over Tehachapi and up through the haze of the Central Valley. I gripped the steering wheel tightly and wondered if I would survive the drive up hwy 99. As I got closer to the Merced river canyon relief hit me. I was excited to see home again and I was coming back a slightly changed individual. I was coming back more familiar with myself and with my relation to the land.
The Eastern Sierra will be there, right over the walls of Yosemite. Their presence never too far away and their inspiration forever in the heart and mind.
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