Yosemite National Park, CA
Headlights shine on the road in the dark. Not a single soul surrounds me. I feel completely isolated. I started my trip amongst the civilized, and ended up amongst the wild things.
- Mitch Bender
I found my wildness through shrinking myself down to the size of an ant, and walking amongst the trees. Every ten steps of ground in the valley holds enough history to reduce every human being to the size of an ant.
Standing on the valley floor at 4 am waiting for a camp spot makes for a whole lot of shivering and a whole lot of thinking. I had planned this trip for months and had finally made it; drove North for 4 hours with a quick pit-stop from 9pm-2am and then more driving into the Valley. But I’m not excited. I am cold. Damn cold. But things are still. The rock, the trees, and even the sleeping people seem completely indifferent to the cold. In my mind, I am the only one. But remembering what I had come for sends warmth from my head down my spine and throughout my toes.
But what had I come for?
Yosemite Valley is a story book, with names and dates chiseled into the walls with bolts and gear. I was standing right in front of it all.
Every pioneer of the vertical stood where I stood and felt the monstrous El Capitan, the same breathtaking face of Half Dome, the same cold at 4am in Camp 4. And who wouldn’t want to make the pilgrimage?
Thousands of feet of vertical granite hold still for someone obsessed and insane enough to voyage up. The history of climbing is one of many stories within the chapters of this sacred ground. The story today involves roughly 4 million people a year, 200+ miles of road, and still 1,101 miles of sheer wilderness. Wildness dominates while the civilized attempt to relate but inevitably infringe upon nature.
The National Parks were founded to defend the wild. They were founded to inspire and draw us closer to the trees. John Muir once said, “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity”.
Wildness is a necessity. That is something most learn to forget. Those who remember? They begin to search out the wildness that continues to increase in scarcity. That is what I am doing in Yosemite.
I hope that standing in the midst of Yosemite falls or the soft sunset over Half Dome will communicate a sense of hope to me about my own wildness, about the wildness of people.
Wildness is a necessity.
We all have a wildness inside of us. Every threatening situation and dangerous moment injects us with some addicting thrill that makes you reach for more. More and more of the“over-civilized” will continue to realize their way of life will not satisfy, that their quiet comfort screams in their faces, and the only cure for their fever is to find the wild.
Yosemite allows the seekers to find the wild. Despite the 200+ miles of road littered with multiple hotels and gift shops and tour buses and restaurants and gas stations and campsites, I can feel my own wildness. Somewhere within those 1,101 miles of sheer wilderness, lies a place for me to sleep, and a place for me to climb.
My journey away from the over-civilized leads me to the El Cap meadows, the Tuolumne River, to Glacier Point, to myself. I found my wildness through shrinking myself down to the size of an ant, and walking amongst the trees, the granite and the Stonemasters.