Monday, March 15, 2010


This is what it says it is… an epilogue. If you would like to read what it’s an epilogue to, check out Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

In the years since John, Kyle, and I made our trek up the mountain and through the woods, much has happened. Kyle moved to California to study a scientific discipline I can’t even spell. John finally looked over his shoulder and saw an amazing woman standing there who will soon be his wife. I returned from Yosemite unaware that over the next few years I would navigate a car-sickening ride of life, career, and geographic changes.

It’s been a big five years.

Re-reading this story has made me realize that I need to go back to the mountain. I need perspective and grounding. I need to dangle my feet over a ledge and remember that sitting on the edge of something uncertain, while terrifying, can also be beautiful and exciting.

Of course, I also need somebody to pay for the plane ticket. Interested?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


While this post can stand somewhat steadily on it’s own, it’s much more stable when supported by Part 1 and Part 2. If you haven’t read them yet, maybe you should do that now...

After an hour on top of Half Dome, Kyle, John, and I headed back down the trail toward camp. Down may be a faster direction than up, but both force your muscles to fight the mountain. And when your muscles fight the mountain, the mountain always wins. And when the mountain wins, you muscles are always sore losers.

It was dark when we finally got back to camp. Each of us went our separate ways to shower and apologize to our aching legs. I started a fire so we could heat some canned beef stew, but was overly generous with the lighter fluid. The resulting campfireball almost blew us into the trees. Fortunately, when you’re primitive camping and there’s no TV, a few small explosions are welcomed entertainment. John, Kyle, and I sat around the blaze for hours, staring into the flames, eating our stew and contemplating how much our muscles would hate us in the morning.

On our way out of the park a few days later, after our legs had forgiven us, we stopped at one of Yosemite’s redwood groves to walk through the giant trees.

The redwoods in these ancient forests are so broad that in 1895, a group of industrious settlers carved a tunnel through one of them. Forrest fires burned a tunnel though another one. The tunnels are large enough for a Honda to drive through without scratching its bumper. The park’s forest rangers don’t like it when you drive Hondas through their trees, though. Apparently it distracts the elves from putting fudge stripes on their cookies.

These beautiful redwoods have been alive for (literally) thousands of years. Before Jesus had skin and cooed in the manger, back when the earth was still flat and MTV actually played music videos, these giants were standing. Growing.

In the 1860’s, however, nearsighted lumberjacks walked through the Yosemite Valley and couldn’t appreciate the majesty of a forest that was planted when Cleopatra swam the Nile. They stood in the woods and had no respect for trees that would one day rise twenty-nine stories into the sky. They measured trunks that circled ninety-two feet and were somehow unimpressed. They saw branches as thick as a man is tall and continued walking with their hands in their pockets and their minds in their wallets.

These lumberjacks missed the majesty and saw only a challenge, an arm wrestling match with nature. They didn’t see ancient beauty in the branches or hear the voice of God rustling through the leaves. With necks bent back and faces pointed toward the sky, they saw only profit. They heard only the whisper of their own ambition. And so, these short-sighted men started chopping.

They stood beneath monstrous trees that had outlived fifty generations of men and cut them with saws and axes and other tools that would rust and dull. And when the mighty trees fell, they shattered. Instead of landing whole and complete, the trees cracked under the force of the fall, broken into four foot sections.

Sacrificed to ego and ambition, the pieces of these once-giants were too short to cut into lumber for furniture or houses. Wasted, the fallen trees were chipped and whittled into toothpicks and pencils, splinters of their former selves. Ancient pillars that survived two millennia of fire, earthquakes, ice, bugs, and birds were reduced to fifteen seconds of picking corn out of somebody’s teeth.

What a shame.

In 1878 people picked their teeth with giants.

Unfortunately, they still do.

In a country where we’re obsessed with all things organic and eco-friendly, too many giants are still being sacrificed for a lesser good, cut down in their prime, whittled into toothpicks of their former selves. If you’ve been listening, you’ve probably heard some of them fall.

California couples like the artist and the architect celebrated their love through marriage until one day voters candidly informed them that
equality was meant for everyone else.

Millions of hardworking Americans watched as talking heads on the nightly news claimed that
they haven’t yet earned the American Dream… or the right to affordable healthcare.

An entire generation of young Africans disappeared in under-reported genocide while wealthier nations
fought each other for revenge, ideology, and oil.

Ponzi schemes were built, mortgages were sold, and bonuses were collected by wealthy men willing to
sacrifice the financial futures of men and women who now fear words like foreclosure, downsize, and retirement.

I wonder, though, if the lumberjacks among us would still swing their axes if they stopped obsessing over:
whether oaks should be allowed to marry maples,
whether the forest should offer free fertilizer and subsidized rain,
whether foreign seedlings are taking root in domestic soil,
and whether or not it’s fair to ask bigger trees to care for smaller ones,

and stop to watch God dancing through the leaves.

Which He is.

(I’m sure the poetry of idealism has blinded me to its impracticality. But still, I wonder.)

To Be Continued…
Click here to read this story's epilogue.