One Moment Can Change Your Life
In the fall of 2013, days before a government shutdown, I visited my first National Park: Yosemite. I hadn’t camped in years, if you could call it that. Mostly camping had been an easy way to achieve some underage drinking without anyone asking questions or getting caught.
The outdoors never concerned me. I had harbored some fanciful dreams of mountaineering, but mostly my life was wholly consumed by the rat race that is living in Los Angeles. Work, go to bars, network, party, and work a whole bunch more. That was my routine for years, until I met my future wife at a house party I was throwing with my roommates.
After about six months of dating, she snagged a late season campground at Crane Flats Campground just outside of Yosemite Valley but inside Yosemite National Park.
At 6am on a Saturday morning, we headed north. I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Being born and raised in Nebraska, I don’t know that I could’ve told you what a Half Dome was. To be honest, we weren’t even really taught about the Sierras in school—it was all about the Rockies and the Appalachians.
If you’re thinking this story is going to end with a moment of transcendence seeing Yosemite Valley for the first time, you’re wrong. I regrettably can’t recall that exact memory. No, that trip to Yosemite was actually pretty mundane. We spent a lot of time at our campground, we bought lattes from the café in Yosemite Village, and barely did anything more adventurous than drive to Glacier Point.
Don’t get me wrong, Yosemite is amazing, but I wasn’t hooked. I wasn’t the “National Parkie” that a ranger would later dub me. What it did do, was inspire us to go Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park nearly seven months later.
This moment I remember vividly. This moment changed the course of life. This moment is why I took the time to write this post.
We had decided to test ourselves. There was a six-mile hike that I wanted to try. Mind you, I hadn’t hiked anything longer than about two miles up until this point in my life. I didn’t know what SIX miles really was. Doing the Sugar Bowl Loop in the Red Mountain Grove of Giant Sequoias was like hiking to the moon.
BUT, it wasn’t even a moment on that hike that I can pinpoint now the moment everything changed.
It was on the drive to the trailhead. On a narrow little dirt road that our little Ford Focus had no business being on. I saw it. My first giant sequoia tree reaching towards the heavens.
Unnamed, unheralded, and—by park standards—unremarkable. I was floored. I couldn’t believe a tree could be that big. The hike that followed was a euphoric galivant where six miles could have been six feet. My future wife and I danced our way along that trail with hundreds of sequoias, unwittingly being transformed.
Later that day, we wandered about The General Grant. Families were running around, tourists were taking turns posing for a photo with the its sign, but we longer felt that we fit in with them anymore. We knew there was something different.
Those Redwood Mountain sequoias changed us. Down to the very fibers of our beings. Our existence and their existence became one. Anyone who threatens the natural world, threatens us.
We became a part of the parks that day, and they a part of us.