After four amazing solo days in and around Yosemite National Park, I arrived at a friend's house in Oakland yesterday evening in dire need of a shower, with a case of the perpetual sniffles from a summer cold I seem to have caught and in absolutely excellent spirits.
There was a time in my life where the idea of four days alone in the wilderness, mostly without cell service, would have bordered on my definition of hell. In fact, not that long ago, even a few evenings in a row without social plans would have left me feeling isolated. In setting out on this trip, though, I actively sought loneliness, trying to provide myself the space to be completely responsible to no one but myself and be taken out of my comfort zone. I was excited about this, but I recognized it also as an act requiring of me a bit of courage.
When I set out on Monday, I was euphoric - the simple fact that I was doing it was incredible to me. This lasted me through an absolutely stunning drive over Highway 108 North over Yosemite instead of crossing through it, getting the van temporarily stuck in a muddy pull off (and being helped out by a kind stranger), and arriving at Mono Lake. When I arrived, however, the visitor center where I planned to stop for more information had already closed, the sun was setting and I had a moment of panic.
The place I had thought I might stay was an ugly RV park, devoid of views and teeming with people - not at all the wilderness escape I had envisioned. So, I drove up to a vista point over Mono Lake, pulled out my maps, and realized there were some camp sites up the road en route to the Eastern entrance of Yosemite. A few deep breaths and some good luck later, I had found a decent spot to camp. However, as it was past dusk and quite buggy at this point and I was lacking bug spray and a decent lantern, I had a somewhat pathetic dinner of chips and salsa and cheese on the floor of the van and tucked in, slightly defeated, for an early bed time.
The next day, however, I woke rejuvenated and ready for new challenges (and ready to get some supplies I hadn't realized I was lacking). In short, from that point on, I had an incredible morning at Mono Lake, hiking around a portion of the perimeter without seeing a single other person, ventured in to Yosemite, where I hiked up to Dog Lake in the late afternoon. I camped that night East of the park again, but left enough time and had the right equipment to make not only dinner but also a lovely camp fire. Wednesday, I took a foggy but beautiful drive through the park and into the valley, secured a top spot on the waitlist for a campsite in the park that night (which I later got), hiked up to Vernal Fall, via the granite staircase of 600 plus steps and got absolutely soaked by rain and water off the fall, which was incredible. I was starting to feel a little tired from the onset of my cold, so I took the shuttle in to Yosemite Village and explored around there, where I saw a baby black bear from the window of one of the shuttle buses. The next day I hiked to Mirror Lake and then drove up to Granite Point and hiked down (and then back up) some of the Panoramic Trail to Illiloutte Fall. Got a late start back to the Bay area after an awesome hike, and arrived in Oakland well after dark. After one of the best showers I have ever had, my friend (and host) Marlowe and I had a fabulous evening catching up over beers.
The last few days alone renewed my sense of independence, strength and capability. I felt decisive and clear-headed and, other than a few moments on the first night, I was not only happy but deeply content. Other people and relationships are so important to me that I think I sometimes risk forgetting my own desires and abilities, which serves no one in the end. There's more to say here, and more I'm still processing, but it was amazing and I will be making a point of seeking out solitude more often.
For now, though, I must run to go pick up my friend Alecia from the airport who is joining me for the next leg of my trip. She has been a huge part of my life since I picked her out on the first day of kindergarten and forced her to be my friend and I can't wait to continue my explorations and adventures with her at my side!