Tuesday, September 22, 2009
So Where Is Full Dome?
It took me ten years of California living for my first visit to Yosemite. One of the awe inspiring show pieces in the Mother Earth Collection had always been on my jukebox wish list, recently getting heavy demand. I had several different scenarios on how I was going to make it there, I can assure you none of them involved doing my best Batman impersonation scaling a granite mountain side.
So how did I find myself teetering over the edge of Half Dome? The internet of course.
My guide, coach and spiritual Sherpa, Tenzig, and his company (http://www.insightadventures.com/) had popped up a few times from my love, the Lawyer – named from my previous tender post, Dear Fuckface; irony and my sweet disposition helping Lawyer beat out Fuckface by a nose - she introduced us at Wizard School graduation. A few weeks ago Tenzig sent an email about an upcoming spiritual journey, a night hike to the top of Half Dome. A little resistance, a phone call to make sure the Lawyer was in trial that weekend, and a few brief communiques later, I was in, set to pick up my carpool buddy Saturday morning.
I'd met my fellow hiker Captain Kid previously, a Wizard Schooler and fellow Son of Massachusetts I knew through the Lawyer. Driving to pick up my fellow Masshole I was cut off by prick with Mass plates, so I knew we'd be okay. Soon we were zipping up the state in my oddly unnamed wagon. Our first stop was Selma, the self proclaimed and highly publicized raisin capital of the world. Our stop courtesy of the brave men and women of the California Highway Patrol and my speed. Eighty seven miles an hour to be exact, I know because I looked right after noticing the CHP car I was flying past. No question I was getting pulled over, no way I was getting a ticket. Lights on, off to the shoulder I went, his radio squawking to life telling me to pull off the ramp. Officer John, not Ponch, was friendly and a bit bewildered at my audacious pass. I handed him my license, told him the truth (that I didn't see him), and he told me his (that he didn't have me on radar, but he couldn't let me zip by unhindered). I turned on the BS and we had a laugh or two at my expense. Then he asked me where I was headed. His eyes lit up, he'd never hiked it, but had helicopter rescued many an overmatched hiker from the area. Great. Then out of the blue John mentions people having "awakenings" at the top of Half Dome. Phew, no ticket and no helicopter rescue for me. Another couple of laughs, a goodbye and we were back on the road, ticketless and on a mission from God, and Chips.
Yosemite here we come. It does not disappoint, it truly is God's Country. I assume my readers know I write of God in whatever terminology I use. I try to be inclusive using many of her names, Universe, Spirit, Mother, Father, Self..... If you don't believe in God, I hear you, I respect your opinion, we can disagree without being disagreeable. Then go to Yosemite and tell me about the randomness of life, for the hand of God is everywhere. The view from the highway leading up to Fresno? A different story perhaps.
Shortly after arriving I met up with Tenzig and two of his friends at the lodge in Curry Village. His friends were not hiking with us, they were whack jobs, I mean, rock climbers. I was a little disappointed we were parting ways as one of said wackos was a six foot Themyscirian Goddess. Oh well the Avid Outdoorsman was here for an adventure inward this visit, no distractions from my intention. Ah yes, intention, it's been coming up heaps for me. Setting them and holding myself accountable. My intentions for this trip was quite simple - Connect more intimately with mySelf and God. Oh and make it to the top, with or without tears, just make it.
Leading up to nights escapades Captain Kid and I took in the wonder surrounding us, both moving inward, preparing ourselves for our own experience. We met up with Tenzig later, the conversation left me knowing I was in good hands and in for some great fun. Geared up and ready to go I found myself walking down a dark road in the valley of Yosemite. On to an adventure I was excited and freaked out about. Hiking to the top of Half Dome for a sunrise meditation, hopefully shedding some old stories while gathering strength, insight and hope along the way. The Avid Outdoorsman was back and in action!
We arrived at the trail head early. A fellow Wizard Schooler showed up shortly there after hailing us with a wizard call. She'd been there all day, not seen anyone familiar, and was about to head home when she found us. We were all meant to be there, a few tests of commitment along the way great opportunities to learn and grow. I laid in the dirt, connected to Mother, marveling at all the stars. Are they closer up there? I've asked that question at other times in my life. The first time deep in the woods of Canada one summer as a kid visiting relatives. They sparkled, danced and sang their rhythmic song, a call from home.
A hail from Captain Kid brought me back to Earth, our group was here and ready to go. Team introductions were made, a great group of wildly different folks, some Wizard Schoolers, some not, not an Everest summitter in the lot. Tenzig was enthusiastic and grounded and a little nervous, which worked great for me. I don't work well with false bravado. His exuberance catchy, I was rip roaring ready to go. He gave us his spiel, setting some groundwork for the adventure; Safety First!; Drink lots of water; What happens at Half Dome stays at Half Dome. (As always here at BS I speak only of my journey, the names closely tied to my story are changed to keep them out of the watchful eye of the World Management Team.); Set intentions for the hike - check; Be honest when communicating; Meet at least two teammates and find out what their intention is for the journey - comfort zone pushed? - check; Have a hike check in buddy, someone who looks after you and you do the same for him, in my instance Captain Kid; And an idea to write some old beliefs I want to release on the rocks I had in my hydration pack - the backpack formerly known as a Camelback until I purchased it's generic cousin that morning.
I was carrying rocks up a hill of granite? Why yes, yes I was. Tenzig's website information told me to bring some rocks to carry up with us, metaphors for old beliefs, old stories I wanted to release during my hike. I picked them up in the parking lot of a Raleys - yeah I'd never heard of it either - on the way up after resisting the task while home. So I wrote things I wanted to release on the rocks, things that didn't seem good enough after I passed along the Sharpie. Other things came to me, better things dammit! I had a laugh at my mind, focused on what was coming up, put that energy on the stones in my pack and felt their collective weight on my shoulders. What I wrote on those stones was for me and/or for later posts.
Up we went. My primary fear was would I enjoy myself while doing it? I knew I could make it, but would I have fun? The internet had not been my friend, a clear case of too much information makes the BS quake. Most writers rightfully warn adventures seekers of the realities of the climb. It's long, it's rigorous, you should be prepared. I read their advice as I'm an out of shape struggling non-smoker who's going to get his jock handed to him by a bunch of professional hikers just back from their summit of Everest. A friend who'd been on the hike several times allayed some of those fear by being realistic, sadistic and encouraging. Half Dome is the real deal. As Tenzig said, people actually train for this hike. You may make it up and back in flip flops and a bottle of water, but I don't recommend it. Don't let the name fool you, if it was Full Dome, I wouldn't have made it - Hey, I'll be here all week folks, try the salmon.
Our team rocked! Tenzig's rule worked brilliantly as I started to get to know my fellow summiters. It was about not only the top, but my journey and my fellow travellers. We had some laughs, a few tears, some teeth chattering and a chorus of grunts, groans and yelps. I learned heaps about myself, the great outdoors (Cotton Kills!) and my teammates. I treated the trek up as a meditation, an opportunity to push myself physically and connect deeper to myself and to Spirit.
Six hours later I was pulling myself up cables anchored in to the granite face of Half Dome. Darkness my saving grace as I couldn't see just how far up I was going. Captain Kid in front of me, the rest of the team below me somewhere. Soon I was standing on the top of the world. My teeth chattering, I sat and gave myself a pat on the back for a job well done. As dawn approached a train of my teammates came chugging up the granite. I stood up on my achy legs and cheered them on, my favorite part of the journey, watching their faces as they finally reached their goal.
We relaxed and soon the blessed sun peaked over the mountains, her warmth filled me with a deeper sense of gratitude. Tenzig led us on a meditation, one so powerful that I took a nap. Then out came my rocks, my old beliefs, my old stories. I thanked them and sent them on their way, scattering them, sending them back to God. A gratitude circle completed our time up on top, sharing and laughing, preparing ourselves for the hike down. Our trip together concluded at the bottom of the cables. We had successfully made it to the top and back. I began the descent on my own, taking in the beauty around me that was hidden in the dark on the ascent. My intention very much in full swing, my heart was open to the magic around.
Four hours and two banged up feet later I was back at my car. A job well done! I know in my heart that I can rise to any occasion, put one foot in front of the other and do my best. Sure it may seem hard, it may hurt a bit, yet with grace, ease and surrender I can climb mountains. Not too bad for city folk.
Love and Light to you and your adventures,