Saturday, October 3, 2015

Dad's Yosemite

"I used to always wonder if I'd ever get back to Yosemite," my dad told me a few months ago. "I'm pretty sure now that I won't."

Dad was right.

I told him goodbye Thursday night, having arrived at the hospital an hour after he died of complications from pneumonia following a long battle with an ever-growing list of medical problems.

Dad didn't make it back to Yosemite, but he left me with a love for the valley and the remarkable
natural features that tower over it. This summer I got to share some of those wonders with Asher, my 10-year-old son, when we traveled west to fish for trout. Dad anticipated Asher and me traveling west to see so many grand places, including Yosemite, and I think he liked knowing about it when we were in the park. I spoke to him by phone from an overview of Mount Shasta the day before we visited Yosemite, and my sister Laura shared pictures I had sent her or had posted online when she visited him a couple of days later. I also got to share pictures from the whole western trip after I got home.

Dad and I actually first entered Yosemite Valley together on a family vacation when I was somewhere around Asher's age. Dad had studied the park's cliffs and waterfalls so thoroughly, though, that he was able to introduce me and the rest of the family to El Capitan, Half Dome, and Vernal, Nevada, Bridal Veil and Yosemite Falls is if they were old friends. He also knew exactly where we needed to drive to and where to hike in order to get the best views of each and how to make the most out of our first visit to the park.

Yosemite immediately became Dad's favorite place to visit and he returned many times over the years. He even took me there for a week as a college graduation gift. Each day of that trip brought a different and well planned adventure: hiking the 4-Mile Trail (Dad's favorite), ascending the back of half dome on a guided mule-back trip, seeing the giant sequoias in Mariposa Grove, hiking from the top of Nevada Falls to the base of Vernal Falls, exploring the high Sierras. Laura said that when she visited after Asher and I were in the park, Dad talked a lot about the trip he and I had taken together.

I like thinking about Yosemite travels because they remind me of my dad's awe over natural wonders, which he passed along to me at Boy Scout campouts, family trips and walks to our front yard to look into the night skies at constellations, the moon and the planets. Dad was quite the astronomer and always could tell me what I was looking at as I peered upward.

Dad seemed to find the greatest wonder in extra big things, like heavenly bodies, sequoia trees, high mountains and waterfalls. Even his favorite animals were elephants. I suppose my special area of wonder is over anything that relates to a stream. I'm fascinated by all things related to God's creation, though, and it's my privilege now to pass along those things to my children.

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