On Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012, I decided to hike up Cloud’s Rest, in the northern part of the park, despite feeling achy and tired from a week of trekking various gorgeous spots off Tioga Road. The descriptions, and accounts from fellow hikers, sounded like this would make for an unforgettable experience. That it turned out to be, for more than just the scenery.
At 9,930 feet, Cloud’s Rest towers 500 feet over Yosemite’s landmark, Half Dome, across the Valley. It’s a strenuous, 7.5 mile uphill climb. (Roundtrip is more than a half marathon, but at what seems to be a 20 to 40-degree grade with switchbacks much of the way!) The peak itself is not really so perilous, although about 1/4 of climbers seem to halt about 500 feet short – from vertigo, fear of heights or wind or lightning or whatever. Hikers are surrounded by deep valleys on all sides, and these mountains all around in the distance.
At the top, I observed a man, about 24 years old, with what I was told was advanced MS, walking shakily with two canes and braces, attempting that final 500-foot stretch, seeking to experience the spectacular view.
Eight men (with a civic or philanthropic group, Rotarians maybe?) had taken turns carrying him up the entire trail in some sort of chair device, just to that 500-foot short mark.
Helped out of the chair, with the eight guys circling him for safety and clearing a path, he would walk 2-3 steps with the help of his supports, halt, sometimes fall, but then get back up, rest and catch his breath and balance, and then push on.
Normally a shutterbug, and a journalist by training, I did not take a picture of the endeavor, because it seemed like such a precarious, private and special moment for all involved, but cannot get this inspiring guy, and those who helped him, out of my mind. I wish I knew more about the guy and his friends, but just observing them renewed my faith in humanity.
This photo was taken from the peak of Cloud’s Rest on that afternoon. The view faces the opposite direction of the peak; for scale, if you know the park, the huge Tenaya Lake off Tioga Road is in the center background, a small blue dot.
Beverly Shores, IN