“The sun shines not on us but in us. The rivers flow not past, but through us. Thrilling, tingling, vibrating every fiber and cell of the substance of our bodies, making them glide and sing. The trees wave and the flowers bloom in our bodies as well as our souls, and every bird song, wind song, and tremendous storm song of the rocks in the heart of the mountains is our song, our very own, and sings our love.”
― John Muir
I had just finished reading a Renegade Health newsletter before entering The Sierra Nevada from Southern California. In this particular summer of 2011 blog, Kevin Gianni describes the process of diving into a cold river in Oregon akin to overcoming fear–I was fascinated! Never before had I really considered it this way. I had run into the cold Pacific Ocean in the beginning of spring and it was, as one may imagine, cold. Yet frigid rivers and streams always held me back. I think this is pretty normal across the board but there was a part of me that really wanted to give it a try. Living water is a topic that gains more and more momentum with each passing year, David Wolfe talks about its benefits down to the cellular level, as well as, waking us consciously tuning into the environment where wild water is born. Steven Sinatra and Clint Ober’s research in grounding is strongly connected, touching the earth in a way where we neutralize the free radicals in our body with the Earth’s energy. It was not until I touched the glacial waters of the high Sierra’s that I truly understood and became fascinated.
Bruce and I were heading to South Carolina to study at Shanti Yoga in Myrtle Beach. We had just sold our Catalina Sailboat in Dana Point and purchased a pre-owned Toyata 4-Runner to make the crossing. We had lived aboard a sail boat for the last year, ridding ourselves of most possessions save for a small storage space. We had now cleaned up storage, shipping what was important back to family in Connecticut and were down to the essentials–I could not imagine any better time for self reflection than traversing the amazing landscape of our National Parks. A good look into uncertainty always holds some kind of benefit and here we were about to re-evaluate our yoga practice after a chance meeting in Manhattan with one of our teachers. She happened to be studying with Dharma Mittra at the time but also provided us with our first introduction to Ashtanga some years ago. She continued to study with Swami Kriyananda, disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda, until his passing just recently. I carefully considered all of the opportunities ahead to feel water that had made a great journey out of the mountains and into the canyons and valleys. Thinking back now it is like yoga practice itself, acknowledging the teachers that have come before and letting the wisdom wash over our the soul.
Geological evidence, research and interpretation is woven into the extraordinary story of our earth. The sheer knowing of glaciers and water shaping the Sierra Nevada expresses nature’s extraordinary energy–it has had a profound effect on me. Bruce and I camped at the Big Bend Camp Ground, a Forest Service site at 7,800ft on Poole Power Plant Rd found along Highway 120. We looped around twice and secured our spot well after nightfall. It was July and many campgrounds were full. We happened to find this particular one by chance just as a few visitors were backing out of their campsite. We set up camp and quickly drifted off to sleep.
The next morning we awoke to the sound of rushing waters and were delighted to find Lee Vining Creek and Big Bend Falls.The Campgrounds along this road are true gems–the perfect base camp for Yosemite National Park. Big Bend Campground is surrounded by Aspen and Jeffrey Pines with towering granite overhead. The creek, filled by the Mt Conness Glacier and melting snow is quite beautiful and stream side plants seem plentiful. I absolutely loved the feeling–after a bleary eyed night–to be dazzled by these awesome sights in the morning. I knew I could swim in these waters! We hiked a bit, discovering our surroundings and finally I decided to test the creek. Grounding to the Earth is essential in my everyday life. I can’t remember a time where I lived too far away from a trail, a meandering stream or an open body of water such as the ocean. It resets the rhythmic systems in my body. Clint Ober in the book, Earthing, gives a meaningful description while he was discovering his path.
“Upon rising the next morning an odd notion went through my mind that the Earth itself was trying to tell me something. I didn’t know what, though. But I felt there was some urgency, and I knew I had to go west somewhere for the answer. I drove to Los Angeles and felt it was too crazy. Then I drove to Tucson and Phoenix, and neither of those places felt right. So I headed north and wound up in Sedona at ten one night. I parked at a recreational vehicle resort by a creek. The next morning I looked out and was enchanted by the beauty of the land. The scenery spoke to my roots, of growing up in rural Montana, exposed to Native American culture that emphasized the connectedness to the Natural world.”
Now once we enter the wild landscape it is best to remember we share the splendor with its inhabitants. In my case, a small bear cub joined me for a swim in Lee Vining Creek! I must have made it look so easy–and really, after the initial shivering it was a terrific cold water experience. Absolutely electrifying! I become increasingly aware from the release of endorphins and firing neurotransmitters. I giggled letting the creek carry me and then swam back up to do it all over again. I remember Bruce directing me to get out of the water at one point. He was very calm. I thought there could be danger but I just couldn’t imagine what kind. Soon we had most of the campground marveling at the bear who had just swam across the creek while I was splashing around. I was elated to have shared the creek with this young bear! Bruce and I figured he was just on the other side of a log where I had entered the Lee Vining Creek upstream. He plunged in shortly after me and while I was happy to share space with him, I am glad it was not a closer encounter. A man native to the region speculated that the mama couldn’t be far away as some children tried to run after the cub. It was time to pack up, I was filled with happiness and ready to travel up Tioga Road.
The drive was spectacular–winding and climbing to nearly 10,000 ft. It is closed in the winter usually opening sometime in May after evaluation and repair work. Bruce and I stopped at an overlook by Warren Fork where we could peer out into the valley in the direction that Lee Vining Creek makes its descent towards Mono Lake. What a perspective to trace our camp at this altitude! I recalled the first cold water plunge of the trip taking in the scenery!
Securing an overnight stay in sub-alpine Tuolumne Meadows was a bit more challenging than we had expected. I never imagined that a National Park would be so busy. We put our names on a waiting list early in the morning after camping clear on the other side of Yosemite! We waited in line for some time and then added our names confidently to a long list of visitors. With that ordeal behind us we explored the meadows and streams. I was used to the cold water now and took every chance I could to submerge my body in the Tuolumne river at a little under 9000ft! Later, after much anticipation our names were called for a one night stay. Friends had warned us before leaving that we were crazy not to make reservations but we thought camping opportunities should be endless in Yosemite–perhaps they were if we had our backcountry passes! With a night secured in the park we planned a hike to nearby Elizabeth Lake.
We hiked towards the glacier carved Alpine Lakes late in the afternoon curious of displaced rock known as erratics. The glaciers transported rocks and even large boulders into Tuolumne Meadows–it was unbelievable to the eye that such an event ever took place. Trekking nearly 1000ft We imagined how conservationist, John Muir may have felt. This passage from “Yosemite Glaciers,” New York Tribune, December 5, 1871 was part of his first published piece.
“Such was Yosemite glacier, and such is its basin, the magnificent work of its hands. There is sublimity in the life of a glacier. Water rivers work openly, and so the rains and the gentle dews, and the great sea also grasping all the world: and even the universal ocean of breath, though invisible, yet speaks aloud in a thousand voices, and proclaims its modes of working and its power: but glaciers work apart from men, exerting their tremendous energies in silence and darkness, outspread, spirit-like, brooding above predestined rocks unknown to light, unborn, working on unwearied through unmeasured times, unhalting as the stars, until at length, their creations complete, their mountains brought forth, homes made for the meadows and the lakes, and fields for waiting forests, earnest, calm as when they came as crystals from the sky, they depart.”
Crossing Unicorn Creek and climbing up to the Alpine Lakes we began to see snow patches as the sun set. It was July and we contemplated a journey ahead, not exactly sure where it may take us. There was freedom in not knowing, letting the mineral rich waters flow over our skin. Letting our own yoga practice work on us like glacial movement over many years. Yosemite is exactly where we needed to be.