I have done dangerous and scary activities before. I remember in sixth grade I was scared to death walking on logs up in the air as part of a high ropes course. I went rock climbing as an eighth grader and repelled down rock walls in the Red River Gorge. I was scared as well while riding in an airplane up several thousand feet to jump out of the same airplane. But, in fact, both of those activities were safer than a trip I just finished.
My wife and I took a break from our kids’ soccer and baseball games, our jobs and life in general to travel to Yosemite and climb to the top of Half Dome. The walk/climb up Half Dome was the most dangerous and scary physical activity I have ever done. On the high ropes course, the rock climbing and the skydiving, I had equipment to keep me safe. On the high ropes course and climbing I was harnessed and tied to a rope. I could not fall to the ground. While skydiving, I was attached to a trained professional who was attached to two parachutes. On the trek to the top of Half Dome, I wasn’t tethered to anything as I lumbered up the cables, trying not to look back and down.
The only safety equipment I had were gardening gloves for grip and shoes that my guide said I should “trust to do their job.” At that moment I wished I had bought the more expensive shoes.
The top of Half Dome is incredibly beautiful. It is 4,737 feet above the valley floor. While up there, I surprised myself. I am afraid of heights. My stomach turns over when I am in tall buildings looking down at the ground so I was surprised when I crawled face first to the edge of the cliff to look down. I also did not think I would walk/scramble to the edge of an outcropping to sit and look down into the valley. My stomach still flips when I look at the pictures and even as I write.
The hike/climb up Half Dome was the culmination of a 3 day hike in the Yosemite wilderness. The journey was as good as the destination. Along the way, I stopped many times to take in the grandeur of the mountains. We stayed 3 nights in campsites and in one camp site a bear was just on the other side of a stream. Speaking of streams, the water was the clearest I have seen.
We camped near streams each night and I made a point to submerge myself in every single one no matter how bone chilling cold each was. And, believe me, they were bone chilling. I even jumped off a bridge into one at the suggestion of our guide. The campsites were so picturesque that they almost seemed fake, like right off of a movie set.
I did not drink the water from the streams by our campsites without filtering it but I did drink directly from a spring bubbling up from the ground on the mountain to Half Dome. I felt like a real mountain person! The hike down was amazing too.
We descended the mountain via the Mist Trail, so named because the waterfalls along the way create a mist and even a rainbow in the sun. The Mist Trail is one of the most commonly traveled trails in Yosemite. We just happened to be going down it when most people go up it.
I don't know what it is that makes YOU feel truly alive. But, might I suggest, whatever it is you do it. Surround yourself with it. Seize the moment. Appreciate what matters. Your people. Your person. That special place that you always return to. That amazing place you've yet to see and the stranger's you've yet to meet. By looking at the photos, I think you might even be able to experience some of the thrill I have described. I truly hope it inspires you too.
Oh, and if you want to read about my skydiving adventure, click here!