It was a crisp day in January, and I was about as excited as I have ever been. The three of us angled to get a better look. I wedged myself through a small group and stood to see the Yosemite Valley in all its beauty, “hallowed in eternal repose.” A sea of snow-topped monoliths rose out of the ground. The massive granite walls stood tall, true, as magnificent as anything I have ever seen. I scanned the landscape: El Capitan was to my left, Bridalveil Falls was to my right, Half Dome was in the distance, and a blanket of colored pine trees covered the valley floor.

I stood there consumed with nostalgia, thinking about the family trips we took to Yosemite when my brothers and I were kids. I can remember my uncle eating his cereal with water because there was no milk and mixing his tuna with yogurt because there was no mayo. I can remember hiking to Vernal and Nevada Falls, my father carrying my youngest brother on his shoulders up the steep rock stairs. I can remember trying but failing to make the long journey all the way to the top of Half Dome. What fun we had. What an appreciation for nature we developed at such an early age.

I was in the California Central Valley visiting my brother, Joe. For no reason, we had the idea to take a day trip to Yosemite. Upon hearing this idea, Joe’s friend, Clay, wanted to join us.

We woke early Saturday morning to make the journey in Clay’s big Ford truck. We pushed up the 41 and into Yosemite National Park.

After stopping at the iconic Tunnel View scenic overlook, we drove down into the valley. I had never been to Yosemite this time of year and was mesmerized by the whitened surroundings. John Muir once said, “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.” What truth.

It was like walking on ice, but we made it to the Vernal Fall bridge.
When we found parking, we made peanut butter sandwiches and ate with smiles on our faces. The three of us were anticipating a fun hike to the Vernal Falls footbridge knowing that the trail was closed beyond it. There was a snowstorm the previous week which made conditions too dangerous beyond the bridge.

“It’s going to be like walking on ice, boys.” I heard Clay say from the driver’s seat. I was standing outside eating my sandwich. My eyes were watching a raven scavenge for food as I took deep breaths of the clean, crisp air. It was a beautiful day – the sun was out, bluebird sky as far as the eye could see.

The three-year anniversary of my kidney transplant is approaching. The recovery has been hard and slow. But for the last year and a half, I have felt well enough to get back to training at the gym, something I used to love doing. Getting back in shape was something I longed to do while I was sick. I have been making steady progress towards that goal and wondered how my body would perform on the hike.

“Are you guys going to make it?” I asked with a smirk, knowing my brother and Clay were both out of shape. “It’s not that far to the bridge.”

“I can do anything you two can do,” Clay responded without hesitation. “But I am just off the couch,” he followed up acknowledging the fact that he was out of shape.

At the trailhead, we were having fun, tossing snowballs at each other with big loud laughs. Then we hit the first incline, and things got serious. We were, as Clay had warned, walking on ice. It would be a slippery hike indeed. Like bombs, large chunks of snow were falling out of the trees at random.

“What did we get ourselves into?” I called up to Joe who was about twenty feet ahead of me.

He stopped and turned to laugh but before he could say anything his face got serious and he yelled, “lookout!”

I ducked my head and heard a large clump of snow land near me with a loud thud.

“Dude, you almost got nailed. That wouldn’t have felt good.”

We pushed on, and as we got higher, my breathing labored. It was the altitude, not my body. That was holding up nicely. All the training was paying off, and I was proud of myself.

As we continued, I began watching the other hikers. Some were doing as we were doing, trying to gain footing by mashing their shoes into the hard snow and ice. Other, more professional hikers, wore snowshoes or chains around their hiking shoes.

We made it to the bridge without incident or injury. We stood on it triumphantly, arms held high above our heads. Vernal Falls was above us, sending hard-flowing water underneath the bridge. Below us, the iconic granite walls were covered in snow, glowing. As I looked closer, I could see sheets of ice hanging off the rock that seemed to be as long as a football field. I couldn’t believe it.

The way down was more like a slip and slide. At certain points, I curled into a ball, put my feet together, and used my shoes as a sled. I made it to the bottom way before Joe and Clay. While I waited, a nice couple told me about the Mirror Lake Trail not far away.

When Joe and Clay appeared, I convinced them to go on the short, easy hike. When we arrived, the lake was frozen over. Lots of people were walking on its surface posing for photos, so Clay and I joined them without much thought. When I turned to see where Joe was, I found him standing at the edge of the lake, timid to walk on water.

“All right, I’ll come down,” he said after Clay, and I started in. “But only so you two can’t make fun of me all the way home!”

We had our fun and began to make our way to the car. Our Yosemite adventure was ending. We were all eager to come back in the summer, to hike all the way to Vernal and Nevada Falls and to see Mirror Lake unfrozen.

Along with the sun, the temperature fell. With it, a fog rose from the ground. After getting a large cup of hot cocoa, I told the guys to pick me up down the way from the Yosemite Village, where we were parked.

A foggy meadow was what I wanted to see. It was so creepy, like something out of a horror film. I took a few photos with a bunch of other onlookers and then hopped into the truck when I saw it come around.

On the way out of Yosemite National Park, the sun was setting. Without trying, our timing was perfect. Again, we pulled over to see the Tunnel View and watched the golden hour turn the sky into cotton candy. I felt content, pleased that the best thing that had happened that day was that nothing at all had happened.

After a fun-filled day of adventuring in Yosemite, we watched golden hour at the Tunnel View.