Yosemite National Park is, as it turns out, in California. That came as a surprise to me, since I had always confused Yosemite and Yellowstone (look, they both start with Y, they’re both in the west, and they both have bears; how can an East Coaster be expected to keep track of the difference?) and therefore assumed that Yosemite was also in Idaho. (We won’t even talk about how disappointed I was to learn, a year ago, that Yellowstone is only barely in Idaho.)
I learned this because my (extremely athletic) ward had planned an overnight hiking and camping trip at Yosemite, which also explains why I found myself, late Friday night, or, to be more accurate, early Saturday morning, after classes and informal syntax gatherings, after a rushed packing job and dinner, and after a trip on BART and four hours in a car, sleeping in a tent, trying not to roll downhill onto the three girls crammed next to me. I mostly succeeded.
Early Saturday morning, around four, the ward activities coordinator walked around the campsite, shining his flashlight into tents and singing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” for which I’m sure he will get bonus points in heaven, depending of course on how God feels about the U.S. flag. I know I will get bonus points for not strangling him.
We were at the trailhead by six, loaded down with water, and, in my case, everything a girl could need hiking, from moleskin for blisters to a whistle to a deck of cards. (My hyper-responsible uncle packed for me. Though, um, not entirely.) We set off in a group, about forty of us, determined to make it to the top of Half Dome.
My quest for Half Dome went wrong about three miles in. I was somewhere in the middle of the pack, hiking together with this guy from the ward, keeping a safe distance from the dating couple ahead of us, but when the four of us came to a fork in the path, we couldn’t see the others up ahead, and couldn’t see Half Dome listed on any of the signs, and so, entirely on accident, chose the path less traveled by.
(I would like to state here, for the record, that I did not choose our path. That’s right: I got lost and it wasn’t my fault. I’m still excited about that.)
By the time we figured out we had taken a wrong turn, we had climbed a mile of steep switchbacks, and had probably fallen behind the last people in our group, so we decided to continue on our new hike. Another few miles along the path, we ran into a pair of girls hiking the same trail from the opposite direction, who were tired and blistered, and resting from their with heavy backpacks, and convinced them to turn around and join us. (I like to think my deck of cards was a draw for them, but, come to think of it, it was probably the moleskin for their blisters.)
But our path less traveled by made all the difference. Sure, the new hike was eight miles uphill, but so was Half Dome, and the new hike didn’t require hiking those eight miles down to the group’s designated meeting spot, just hitchhiking down, which is a lot easier. (Advice to females: ask around while waiting in line for the bathroom.) And sure, there was no shade on our new hike, and sure, I exhausted myself by volunteering to carry another backpack, but at least I didn’t have to pull myself up a bare rock face with cables. (Plus, hey, bonus points in heaven.) And I may have missed out on bonding with the whole ward, but This Guy and The Couple were very pleasant, even funny, and so were our new hiking friends, once we agreed to disagree about whether Mormons are Christian. I don't think I've ever enjoyed getting lost so much. And in the end, the view from Glacier Point, with the sun shining on Half Dome across the valley, was worth any number of sleepless nights, national anthems, wrong turns, heavy backpacks, heat, and evangelical Christians, all of which is a very convoluted way to reach my real point: I'm glad Yosemite is in California.