Monday, September 24, 2012

One thing, many things

Campground skulking and stump coffee went smoothly this morning. Deliciously legal, illegal coffee in the tent cabin. Mmmm.

Today's hike led us along Mirror Lake (which is dry) toward Tenaya Canyon. Then up the rock wall toward Snow Creek Falls and the high country. Granite slopes and domes as far as we could see. According to the ranger this is the steepest trail in the valley. The idea is not to reach the top, although that is possible. From here you could hike for days...

For 3 hours we didn't see another hiker. No one else wanted to spend their afternoon going vertically up and vertically down. We had the lizards and a few insects for company. The lizards flourish here on the steep south-facing rock. They flick quickly, freezing as we pass.

Whenever I lift my head, there is granite. Above, Basket Dome and North Dome. Across the canyon, Ahwiyah Point and Half Dome. It takes a while to identify Half Dome though. It does not look like anything but a sheer wall of rock from this angle.

(Not knowing the name of Ahwiyah Point it became Elaine's Nubbin. Just for today.)

That was a first lesson in backpacking. Never count on orienting yourself visually, the way most flatlanders do. The mountains transform themselves depending on your position, light and weather, time of day. Even a familiar landmark like Half Dome can shift its shape and go incognito. It can be unsettling, almost disturbing, to know where you are and to not know at the same time.

You quickly come to terms with the concept of perspective. And that we all have one.

Gazing long at something familiar that you don't recognize, the granite itself starts to reveal many forms. It is the crushed sand under our feet, a slippery dark plate rising directly in front of us toward the high country. It is folded layers that look almost soft like water, a sharp arch chiseled away by a glacier.

At the same time, one thing and many things. Some of them unknown.


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