|In the Ansel Adams Wilderness south of Yosemite|
Where do you feel most at home?
I pursue an interesting combination, I think. I am at home in San Francisco, of course, but every summer for the past 22 years I’ve spent a number of days in the wilderness areas of Yosemite National Park, and have gotten to feel pretty much at home there. Yosemite [YNP] is 96% designated wilderness, and most tourists only see the 4% that comprises the main valley (Half Dome, El Capitan and other features of the valley wall are quite famous).
The wilderness areas are only available to those willing to carry food (for up to 9 days in our case) and to carry their shell on their back (tent and sleeping bag). We get dirty. We grow beards. We sometimes get cold and wet, but this year we were hot and dry and sometimes ran out of water. We run into very few animals – this year it was a number of bears, some fish and one pesky marmot.
The event takes days – we planned a nine-day trek and ended up completing it in seven days. My five hiking partners were so energetic they zoomed on the trail. We pressed each day’s distance another 25% beyond what we had planned to cover. When on the trail, we do some talking, though at times we’re going uphill and too winded to talk. Carrying 50+ lbs on the back isn’t easy. I do kind of a meditation when on the trail, followed by near-exhaustion (at the end of some of the days – but most days just plain tired) and early sleep (9pm) and early awakening (before 6am). It’s an experience that “cleans out the mind” and fills it with vivid visual memories.
Some of my friends like going to the beach or sea diving or golfing. My thing is wilderness. More on this in a few days…