It's really hard to write this post. Words/pictures just cannot do the experience justice, but I'll try.
First off, I'll start by saying, I've never been much of an 'outdoorsy' person. Until this trip, I haven't been on a camping trip longer than 3 days (and certainly not in the backcountry!). I don't really like being dirty and I certainly don't like pooping in holes (or so I thought!).
The first day, I was nervous. Nervous about the hike (4.5 miles) and about how much I had prepared (or not prepared). When we showed up at the trailhead, we were greeted by Dashielle and Jesse. They seemed very warm and showed us how to properly pack our packs with our personal and some group gear. Then we started. I won't lie, the hike was hard for me. I don't do anything cardio and I certainly don't hike in my everyday life. But it was doable and we all made it relatively unscathed (I had some sore knees and blisters).
When we entered our campsite, my breath was literally taken away. I couldn't believe the view. I couldn't believe this beautiful, serene place was our home for the next 5 days. There was a creek that flowed on the side of of campsite (Snow Creek) and our 'yoga studio' sat on a promenade that overlooked Half Dome, North Dome and Yosemite Valley. We set up our tents and got settled. We were asked by our guides if we wanted to have Thai, Indian or Italian night for dinner (what?!) So we decided on Italian.
Before our meal, we did a 'welcoming circle' around a camp fire - lead by Dashielle, we were asked to introduce ourselves and tell the group why we came on a trip like this and what we wanted to gain from the week. Unsurprisingly, most of the group cited 'getting away' and 'unplugging' from our stressful city lives as the biggest reason for the trip. Then we dug into our gourmet pesto pasta with kale, goat cheese and pine nuts! As the moon crested over the mountain range, we saw that it was almost a full moon and it lit up out entire campsite. Along with the moon, the temperature dropped and we all bundled up into our cozy tents, exhausted from our first day.
In the morning, I awoke to Dashielle's beautiful, soft voice singing me awake (how awesome is that!) outside our tent. Hot coffee and tea was waiting for us and breakfast was scrambled eggs, grilled veggies and hash browns.
The next few days we spent on day-hikes, doing yoga, dipping into the creek, or just laying on rocks, talking and napping. The evenings we spent talking, sipping whiskey and relaxing by the fire. Each meal was more impressive than the last. Our guides brought books with quotes and poems that we took turns reading aloud before each meal. Our guides also told us stories about the wild life, plants and the native people of the land that we were so privileged to be able to visit. On the third night, we were treated to a completely full moon and took a walk away from our fire for just taking it in and trying to capture it's glorious beauty. There were 3 deer that continually roamed our campsite and looked at us not with fear, but with wonder and curiosity, just as we marveled at them.
One of my favorite mornings, was a 'silent' morning that was suggested by our guides. We awoke a bit before sunrise by song, had hot coffee/tea and, without speaking, each took our drinks, found a secluded, scenic spot and sat in silence by ourselves as we tried to take in what was around us. Later, as we discussed this time, watching the sun rise over the mountains, we were moved to tears. In our everyday lives of constant conversation, deadlines, machinery and concrete, it was incredibly powerful to have this solitary, silent moment where you are watching nature at it's most beautiful, unfold all around you.
On the last day, we hiked out of our little campsite and made our way into bustling Yosemite Valley to spend our last night. We were excited for showers, pizza and cold beer. But as we drove into civilization, we were all immediately aware that this was a great and abrupt departure from our beautiful, serene world of the backcountry.
The next morning, we again gathered as a group for our 'closing' circle. Dashielle told us that she wanted each of us to recall one memory from the trip and also pick one person with whom we got to know on the trip and tell the group why we were happy they were part of this experience. During this conversation, there was lots of tears shed. We had all emotions unveiled and ultimately gratefulness that we had all shared in this amazing experience. We had bonded with one another in a very unique way, had all bonded with nature in a life-changing way and it was inspiring to acknowledge it.
Dashielle left us with the thought that when we visit places, we leave part of ourselves at the places and the places became a part of us that we can access at any time. We leave our breath and our energy and in turn we breathe in the air of the place, our skin absorbs the sun, we drink the water and even the dirt under our our nails came from this place. Knowing almost immediately how much I would miss Yosemite, this gave me some comfort.
After returning to the city, I slowly began to realize how truly life-altering this experience was. I was now an 'outdoorsy' person, as I think that all of us are at our essence and core. We all come from the earth and as hard as we try to build our environments to be sterile, clean and to shield ourselves from nature and the elements, we all crave the peacefulness and bliss that being in nature provides. Whenever I miss it, I know that I can access it inside myself, breathing and remembering.
Om to the Dome.
(Yoga in Yosemite Retreat 2015 with Veronica Rottman is already being planned. Watch for details in the coming months about how you can be a part of the next trip.)