Fear

August 5, 2020
May Lake
Total distance walked: 4.8 miles

An unexpected benefit to Yosemite’s new lottery system is, Chris and I go to the park more often as a couple than ever before.  It has been a joy biking together around the Valley, and bringing him to some of my favorite trails and lakes, such as May Lake.

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May Lake

On this day we drove up to the May Lake trailhead west of Tenaya Lake.  It was an uneventful hike with all the familiar views.

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This section of Mt. Hoffman I have dubbed Eagle Rock. That’s not official, just my pet name for it.

Upon reaching the lake, we walked to its north side and sat in the sunshine enjoying the cool mountain breeze.

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Interesting rock.

We gazed at the smooth waters of the lake and savored the calming atmosphere of peace.  A perfect place for lunch.

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On the way back, Chris led the way.

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He pulled farther ahead while I stopped to photograph the wildflowers and trees and rocks.

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Fritillary butterfly on mountain pennyroyal.

Then I pulled off trail for a minute to see the view of Cathedral Peak.

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Cathedral Peak

That’s when things went awry.  He was still well in front of me and I didn’t hear him say that we were off trail.  Since I didn’t respond, he thought I was happy doing something adventurous and fun—forging our own path down the granite mountain.

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Half Dome, view from the trail.

I followed behind not really paying attention to our surroundings.  The sun beat down on us and the glare from the granite made me squint.

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Eventually I looked up and nothing looked familiar.  What I call Eagle Rock (part of Mt. Hoffman but not its official name) had always been in view and now I couldn’t see it.

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We were off trail at this point.

Once I realized we lost the path, I shouted, “We’re off the trail!”  He knew we were.  I wanted to backtrack, but was so disoriented, I had no idea where to turn back to.  I panicked and all common sense left me.  A hundred things raced through my mind: We have two waters. Will we be stranded on a cliff’s edge like in Death in Yosemite? How long until it gets dark? I have to go to the bathroom.  Fear set in and I started to cry—yes, I’m mortified to say that I cried.  I whined to go back uphill to try and find the trail. Chris thought I was being a stubborn “rules girl” just wanting to stay on trail.  He didn’t realize that I was really afraid until he turned around and saw the tears.

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No matter where we walked on the trail, I could see Mt. Hoffman.

I thought he was being stubborn too about not wanting to go back uphill.  I didn’t realize that he knew generally where we were.  Alas, the only thing I could do was trust that my husband—who is good with direction—knew what he was doing.  I followed just a step behind, not wanting to be too far away, until we miraculously—in my mind—came to the trail.  I breathed a heavy sigh of relief.

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Back on the trail.

To this day I cannot tell you where we went wrong or why I panicked, which is the worst thing to do if you’re lost.  Maybe it goes back to my four-year old self who, along with my younger sister, got lost in the woods for an hour or so.  I vaguely remember the child-like fear of being eaten by a bear.

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May Lake

I feel safe having Chris as a hiking partner.  He’s strong and able and logical and willing to go off trail for the fun of it—which I do enjoy when I know that’s what we’re doing.  Who knew that the new park entry requirements would mean that I get to hike with my husband more now than ever?  It’s been a good summer.

14 thoughts on “Fear

  1. Another very true heart story, and one that gives me confidence that one doesn’t have to be a super-woman to go to the park and have adventures! Thank you Janet.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I enjoyed reading your blog and I’m glad Chris was along with you. However, if you were hiking alone you probably would have been paying more attention to where you were and likely would not have lost the trail. Something I had hammered into me when I was a student pilot is that panic CAN be controlled.

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    1. Thanks, Dad. You’re right. If I was alone, I would not have veered off trail. I was in autopilot following Chris. When I’m alone, I’m usually alert. If I were alone, the I probably would have controlled myself. Knowing that I could count on him, I freaked out. LOL 🙂

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  3. Janet,
    Again I love the trips you…and Chris take me in as I live in the humidity! Yosemite is by far my favorite place, I do have several on the coast. I have spent may summers camping with Connor from the age of 7 months! He now spends time nearby with his own family.
    Please don’t ever stop your adventures, on and off trail! Hugs to you both!!
    Ellen

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    1. Thanks, Patti. As my husband says, he’s “a trained professional”. LOL Retired, but still has the knowledge that came from doing his job for decades.

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  4. I’m so moved by your honesty. This story rang true to me, I remembered immediately a time when we were new in the West and hiking a portion of the Pacific Crest, we got off the trail. The wilderness is enormous and often hikers don’t realize how easy it can be to lose yourself. It is terrifying. To deny that terror can be fatal. Fortunately we had a compass and extra equipment, and we made it out just fine, in time to return to our campground and cook dinner with still a late light in the trees. But I remember the cold sweat on my skin.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow Janet, I understand that fear. I got lost in the Sierra’s in a blizzard years ago and that fear is paralyzing. It is so very easy to get turned around. My heart goes out to you and tears are good for the soul. All in all, you guys made it back and the photos are gorgeous. Hope you and Chris are staying well.

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