It did not feel right to me to enter this turning-over-a-new-leaf (if you will) phase of life by simply driving away and starting class…a desk job to a classroom desk?

No. Not quite right.

I felt I needed to go to the woods immediately, needed to be among trees, in quiet, and alone.  I needed time to process, time for silence.  I needed time to be in my thoughts and also to not think at all, which I find I can only do when I’m intoxicated by the aroma of sap + pine + decomposing leaves.

So I decided to do something I’d long talked of and have long been ashamed of having not got around to – I went to Yosemite National Park.

Even the drive in was enough to send me into a childlike state of glee.  I felt like I was driving into Jurassic Park when I saw the sign: a sense of make-believe and giddy anticipation.  Every bend in the road offered gifts and I was hard-pressed not to pull over constantly to take a picture and just take time to look.  I was swooning at the sight of so many trees – vast canopies in the valley viewed from above, an aesthetic border to the road for sunlight to play with shadows, a canvas for lichen to decor.

I didn’t know if or when I’d get a view of the valley on the drive in.  I was happily listening to a mixed tape made by a friend, and the long “Let Down” by Radiohead was on, and I took a bend in the road, and suddenly – there it was.  The Ansel Adam’s image I had stared at daily growing up, framed in my bedroom: Yosemite Valley.  Needless to say I couldn’t have been anything further from “let down” (although that Radiohead song is now my Yosemite theme for henceforward, any listen will bring me to this moment instantly).  I was at a loss of breath.  I cried alone in my car as I drunk in the sight, confused by my own emotions.  Apparently, this was just what I needed.


I had a brief hike in a meadow near Hodgdon Meadow Campground first.  No real route in mind.  The lighting was spectacular – this was mostly a photo safari for me.

My day hike of choice, however, was a fusion of 2 routes (essentially the reverse loop option described in the post linked here):

  • I parked (for free) at Curry Village where you can then either take the free shuttle (leaves every 15 – 30 minutes depending on what time you are trying to catch it) and get off at the Happy Isles stop or you can walk about 1 mile to the Mist Trail trailhead.
  • I started on the Mist Trail, then at Vernal Falls footbridge I took the John Muir trail option up to Nevada Falls
  • At Nevada Falls I went down the Mist Trail option to make a loop, ending back at the same trailhead

If you want to replicate the same loop, I recommend going the direction I went : go on the John Muir Trail on the way up and the Mist Trail on the way down.  The John Muir Trail has more switchbacks with a challenging but gradual grade.  The Mist Trail is mostly granite stairs with a pretty significant, almost vertical, grade.  It requires caution going down, but going up seemed to be breaking many-a-spirit of people I passed on my downward journey.  Takes about 4-5 hours I’d say.

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The weather was perfect.  The light just beginning to have a tinge of autumn in it.  And – the early bird get the trail to herself!  Since it was a week day and I got an early beginning, I had many sections quite to myself on the way up.  On the way down, I felt a salmon swimming upstream.  But I had my first taste of Yosemite as if it were my own, almost as John Muir must have seen it for himself many years ago.


There is a larger truth to my Yosemite trip, which is this: choosing to leave my home and all those most treasured in my heart was a heavy thing to select.  That might sound over dramatic, but it feels as such.  So – I needed something to look forward to, something that would make driving away less impossible.  Yosemite became a salve, and I cannot wait to revisit its spirit healing powers again – as soon as possible since it is now my neighbor.


8 thoughts on “kickoff

  1. I love the personal, lyrical writing, and I love the stunning photos. I look forward to reading more of your blog posts–they brim with fascinating, nuanced, and perceptive thoughts.


  2. Jaime! Wow, girl, what a way to kickoff this new beginning. Such style and so, so appropriate! Reading this gets me excited for my own adventures, and I’m grateful for having a friend like you who is not afraid to pick-up-and-go, in pursuit of passion, dreams, and wild places! It’s inspiring. I’m sorry we never got together before your exit, but sending you a strong cyber-embrace, my friend! Best of luck. xo


  3. We were up in the Sequoia area 2 weeks ago, went out to the Buena Vista lookout (trailhead just up from Montecito Sequoia area) and could look from the Liberty Cap and Little Yosemite Valley to the north all the way down to Sawtooth paek (and Pass from Sierra Trek 1). Did you see any evidence of fire damage when you were up at Nevada?


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