Now, John Muir, almost EXACTLY 150 years before, on the 13th of June 1869 (as today was the 11th of June 2019) in his journal which became part of his book My First Summer in the Sierras, said:
“Another glorious Sierra day in which one seems to be dissolved and absorbed and sent pulsing onward we know not where. Life seems neither long nor short, and we take no more heed to save time or make haste than do the trees and stars. This is true freedom…”
Those are cool words. They were inspired by that summer he spent tending sheep who were free-grazing across the Sierras – again, the same thing he railed against twenty years later. This job afforded him time to trace the contours of the Merced and Tuolome watersheds, and botanize the mountain vegetation. It allowed him time seek out sensations amid a part of Creation which, I say, provides an afterglow of Eden, where there was no sin, no death and no time.
Some say time’s an illusion. They say ticking seconds on clocks are an invention that enslaves us to the production and consumption schedules of the modern industrial world. There’s some truth to that. Perhaps great truth. Unfortunately, it cannot be said that the words “we take no more heed to save time or make haste” applied to me. They didn’t. I’ve already remarked how the ticking clock was pushing me around like Clark Griswald.
It would have been nice to be unmindful of time, especially right here at the top of Nevada Falls. I’d turned around and was looking up the Merced. The appropriately named John Muir Trail follows the Merced upriver. It leads to the Little Yosemite Valley. It leads to other trails that take you to the highest country where all streams flowing into the Merced are born.
The sun’s glorious glow was fostering a state where every step is led by an insatiable curiosity to see all contours of Nature – of trees, water, rock and sky – revealing themselves in ever-changing angles of beautiful composition. Every step is a pleasure. Every step is wonder. It was like seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time.
Muir had courage to heed impulses of this nature. He walked on from here, for years after 1869. He braved grizzlies, cold, snow, gravity, getting lost and loneliness which, for better or worse, compel me not to be so wild. Seeking the heart and essence of what Nature here has to offer, he responded to the call of Emerson. He explored like Thoreau, but over wider distances and with more danger. Muir was fearless. Muir was a man.
Then there was me and Mr. Tummy. Muir went into the wild with tea, bread, blanket, a tin can and clothes. Personally, I’d like more. But I’m not so brave. I’m also not so motivated by call of Emerson who sought a revolution in world thinking through understanding intimately the processes of Nature which he religiously believed reveal the processes of the human mind. Maybe he was right. Maybe Truth will one day exalt him as a prophet. But, my calling is not that of those men. My calling is something else, even though I’m not totally sure what it is.
And that’s ok. And it’s ok that I didn’t walk up the Merced (though I did in future Yosemite trips). And it’s ok that the clock affects me. It’s ok I’m not perfect. In not slowing down there was still great joy, which was the prime directive of the day.
Regardless, seeing that fire rainbow at the bottom of the falls causing mist to rise upwards amid glowing canyon walls, with a perfect balance between chill and sun, created similar emotions that inspired the above sweet words of Muir. However unlike him I was, in that brief moment, I felt exactly what he said.
I then went the other way down the John Muir Trail, which led from Nevada Falls, and back down the south side of the Merced Canyon to the trailhead of the Mist Trail. My feet were still wet from the mist of Vernal. My shoes slogged through the rocky trail, which rubbed my heel raw.
But this made no difference. All the world was right.
Then, lo, the Nevada Falls from the side. I captured it in a panorama photo with granite domes named Liberty Cap and Mount Broderick rising above the falls. Here Yosemite was relentlessly trying to win my heart even more.
The Muir Trail, however, shortly became awful. It’s steep and covered with sand. It’s like walking on ice. It’s almost treacherous, and I had to carefully select every place to put my feet so as to avoid slipping. This tired me more than going up, and the crankiness that set in made me dislike my fellow hikers.
But I was at the bottom soon enough.
There was no way I was going to hike up the Yosemite Falls trail today. Almost 9 miles of hiking was enough. It was after 3pm, and this meant 10 hours of bustling so far. With the hour and a half drive back to Oakhurst, where I wanted to stay at that motel again, it was time to meander back.