I was nine years old when I first visited Yosemite in the summer of 1955 with my father, stepmother and four-year old half-sister. I had never heard of Yosemite before then and mispronounced it as “Yos-mite,” when I first saw it written. But when we entered the valley I felt the awe and reverence that it has evoked in every visitor since John Muir. At my enthusiastic urging, my father agreed to hike with me to the top of Yosemite Falls. He grew up on a farm in northern Sweden and had worked as a lumberjack in British Columbia. He was experienced. I had never hiked before. “But if we start, we will finish. Be prepared,” he told me. We set off early in the morning without water or food. I wore sandals. It was hot and I was soon thirsty, tired, and blistered. He stopped to let me catch my breath and then we pressed on, and on. Late that afternoon we finally reached the top of the falls. Squeamish city-kid that I was, I flopped on my stomach to gulp from a shallow feeder stream. Clouds of mosquitoes buzzed around me. My father laughed. “Next time you’ll be prepared. Congratulations! Always finish what you start.” It was a harshly delivered but worthwhile lesson. I felt even more triumphant than exhausted. That first hike didn’t dim my enthusiasm. Since then I have hiked in Yosemite many times and in parks and mountains all over the world. Yosemite remains special.
Karin Bergstrom Costello
Santa Monica, CA