It's very hard to put into words the feelings Yosemite National Park evokes. Yosemite is so majestic that it transcends everything else, filling you with reverence because you can hardly believe a place like this exists...and yet there is an underlying energy that is very grounded, familiar and wholesome; it makes you feel like you are home. It's a beautiful mix of awe and contentment and of heights and roots.
My most powerful moment in Yosemite was experienced on Clouds Rest...
Long before we had even booked our American adventure, I had stumbled upon Clouds Rest on the interwebs and it promptly became emblematic of Yosemite's grandeur. I actually fell so in love with Clouds Rest that I banned myself from researching it any further, so that I could have my own most pure and real experience of it.
At a height of 3,027 metres, this mostly granite ridge rises above the valley and was given its name by Lafayette Bunnell, one of the first non-Indians to enter Yosemite in 1851, who noticed "the clouds rapidly settling down to rest upon that mountain".
On the summit, there were no clouds for us; just an endless horizon of granite under a dazzling sky with a warm, rustling breeze. I sat there alone, perched high on a small outcrop that jutted out precariously enough to get my heart racing and have me feeling like I was the only person in the whole wide world. How long had I wanted to be right there, in that very spot, in that very moment? I could hardly believe that I had finally made it here and I wish time had stood still. I thought of the moments that represented raw, sheer fulfilment to me, like when climber Conrad Anker topped out on Meru after three attempts and paid respects to his late mentor and mountaineer Anatoli Boukreev’s poignant words in his memoirs, “Above the Clouds”. I was moved to the point of tears. I know that Clouds Rest can hardly compare to their achievements...but it is still my own personal achievement.
When I was ready to break the spell, I returned back up to where everyone else was hanging around, expecting a bit of a circus. But everyone was totally transfixed by the view. Nobody was talking. Nobody was even taking photos; any movement at all was minimal, except for the occasional shooing of a squirrel. The silence and stillness felt sacred and it was as though we were all praying. I knew then and there that Clouds Rest and Yosemite would forever remain home for me.
I had read many John Muir quotes before coming to Yosemite. My favourite one is, “it is by far the grandest of all the special temples of Nature I was ever permitted to enter". This was certainly always a glorious idea but it was only on Clouds Rest that I entirely understood it. When I look back on my too-short-a-time in Yosemite, I recognise it as having been one of the most content and rewarding times of my life and I have to believe that we will be back there one day soon.