the great adventure: day 7
sleeping in a comfy hotel bed makes the prospect of sleeping outside on the ground that much more difficult, but its not nearly as bad when the campsite is going to be in the sierra national forest just outside of yosemite national park.
we got up and packed the car before grabbing a free breakfast at subway thanks to some gift cards i brought along, then headed almost due north up state highway 41 toward the park.
the drive from fresno to the park was an amazing study in contrast. the valley was relatively flat and full of golden fields with a few trees here and there, but driving up into the sierra nevada mountains was like entering another world, as the temperature dropped considerably and giant trees of various sorts lined the road on either side. we set camp at summerdale and made our way into the park along the curvaceous road leading to the south entrance, collectively deciding to hike the mariposa grove and take in the giant sequoias.
early in the hike we came across the grizzly giant; the oldest tree in the grove that could be anywhere from 1900 to 2400 years old. it stands 210 feet with a crazy huge base measuring 92 feet in circumference.
being in the presence of something so large and so old was awe-inspiring. i spent many moments staring up in wonder and amazement and many others thinking of what it must have been like for natives to pass through this grove hundreds of years before explorers stumbled upon them and started cutting them down and building roads through them.
as i mentioned previously in my post on day 2, the world that existed here before europeans landed in plymouth and headed west is fascinating to me. i find it inspiring and believe connecting with the creator was much simpler then.
walking in the mariposa grove was almost like being transported back to a more primitive time. as sunlight peppered the pathway and a cool breeze sifted through the dense wood, i felt as though i were walking in the presence of the creator. like the passage from genesis 2 where adam and eve:
heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day…
because even though i walked alone i was not alone. my footsteps seemed to echo as i lagged behind brian and jase, who are in much better shape and were well ahead of me. and the sway of the trees and the call of various birds and the complete and utter lack of a freeway or airport nearby brought me to a peaceful state of mind that is almost impossible to find back home in the big city, where every moment is confounded with much more industrial noises and technological distractions.
we reached the upper grove and took a rest near the old log cabin museum where a handful of other hikers were doing the same. there was an overly large crow hopping around hoping for a free snack as the light from a falling sun pierced the grove and made its feathers glisten. i never would have imagined thinking of a crow as beautiful but in this place it was fitting.
as something so normal and typically uninspiring transformed into something beautiful right before me i realized that this is what god does. its his pleasure to take everyday things and reveal their beauty and in this case he did it with just a hint of light at the right angle in the cool of the day.
he had whispered to me in the desert beneath the arches and at the canyon. he had spoken to me on the sands of the pacific under an early morning fog. and that afternoon in yosemite, he showed me who he is in a grove of ancient trees on the wings of a common raven.
and my hope for a personal transformation was quickened.
as the sun descended we realized our time was fading and headed back down the trail, hoping to make a quick drive to glacier point before sunset. after a few wrong turns on the trail we arrived at the car and made our way to the lookout, climbing to an elevation of 7200 feet before finding a place to park and walk over to the lookout. as we neared it the sky widened and a sense of the vastness we were approaching grew in me. half dome peeked at us from across the yosemite valley and seemed to grow as we closed in. arriving at the edge, the valley dropped away below us in glacially carved elegance and hid in mounting shadows as the sun neared the mountainous horizon.
we marveled with the others gathered there at the sheer enormity of the panorama, each of us taking pictures like crazy and stopping every so often to stare in near disbelief at the wonder of this place.
as i moved around taking in different angles a park ranger was giving a talk about how it was all formed and i only caught pieces of what he was saying but he explained at one point that half-dome was a misnomer because only about a quarter of the original face had been taken away by glacial drift leaving the amazing monolith in its current iconic state.
i guess quarter dome didnt sound as catchy but its name didnt matter nearly as much as the fact that it was there before me having a dramatic effect.
once again i felt as if i were standing in an untouched world and the purity of that sensation overwhelmed me. and very much like the moments i spent with my legs dangling over the edge of the south rim in big bend national park, i knew…..i knew that god was not a maniacal tyrant as he is often depicted. i knew he was not composing my pain and depression but that in a way i cant quite describe, he was orchestrating them into a larger more wonderful symphony of light and beauty.
as if only after tragedy might there be triumph.
and this thought drew my mind to jesus on the cross. the story of his brutal death and his victorious resurrection jumped into focus and with a tear in my eye i bowed my head and said a prayer of thankfulness, grasping if only for a moment the deeper magic from before the dawn of time that cs lewis wrote of in the lion, the witch and the wardrobe.
as these thoughts filled my mind we watched the sun set behind sentinel dome chased by the crescent moon and as the light faded we loaded back into the car for the trip back to our campsite.
it was night by the time we reached our spot and the stars were shining down at us through the treetops from millions of miles away. i gazed for a while as the milky way rolled by and felt the peace of an ancient god cover me. as i thought about the day and all that had happened so far i was grateful and slipped from prayer into sleep as comfortably on the ground as i had in the hotel.