May 21, 2019
“This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never dried all at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.” -John Muir
Here I am, chasing the ghost of John Muir through the woods and valleys of Northern California. Under the trees and alongside the rivers and waterfalls, his legacy an echo in every wildflower and canyon wall. Through his wilderness experiences and vociferous writings, he led the movement to preserve many of our most iconic parks. Muir recognized that the true value of this great country was not its plunderable resources – mines and timber, but in its natural environments as they are. He saw that the spiritual value of nature far outweighed all that could be counted by capitol or industry.
The last time I visited Yosemite National Park, a few years ago, it was Summer and the park was very dry. The river was flowing at a normal rate, but the waterfalls were not. Still, I was in awe of the grandeur and majesty of the valley. That word, majesty, like many others we think we understand their meaning. We use them freely, but it is only when there are no other words that fit that we truly understand what they mean. Majesty, majestic, these words mean Yosemite. There are no other words that work. It was practically the first word that I could think of everywhere I turned my eyes in Yosemite National Park last week. This time the waterworks were on full display, and they did not disappoint. Winter has not left the Sierras yet this year. A heavy snowpack still lingers high in the mountains, and as it melts, the water flows down into the canyons and valleys. There are over 25 named waterfalls in Yosemite National Park, Yosemite Falls being the tallest at 2,425 feet. They were all flowing. Not just flowing, but gushing out of the mountains - roaring with sustained force and power, creating wind and soaking the valley with spray. Majestic. The river was swollen taking in all of this water, overflowing its banks and washing out the trails. And from every view, a backdrop of grey granite rising sheer and blocking half the sky. It is easy to see how John Muir was moved by this place. Who wouldn’t be? To experience awe is to relish that sweet moment when your mind can’t catch up to what your eyes are seeing. That moment when all is abstract, unquantifiable, and when all description is just out of reach. That is Yosemite.
This grand show is eternal. Only in the deepest hubris could we ever expect to improve upon these places with pickaxes or saws, with herds of sheep or cattle. At Muir Woods, or Redwoods, or Sequoia or Kings Canyon or Yosemite, we see the intrinsic value of nature. Its spiritual force harkens deep into our hearts. It pierces through our modern encumbrances and stokes the primordial fires within us. And we feel alive again. It is always sunrise somewhere… as the round earth rolls – and we are not just upon it, but of it.
Parks visited since May 11:
Point Reyes National Seashore
Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park
Yosemite National Park
Muir Woods National Monument
Redwood National and State Parks
Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve
Crater Lake National Park
Tule Lake National Monument
Lava Beds National Monument