I was 20 years old, driving my friend’s beat-up van north on California Highway 41. The speedometer stopped working the night before, but that was no reason for concern. We were two young climbers on a mission to climb El Cap. I had never seen the Valley.
The road descended and dipped into the darkness of Wawona Tunnel. My eyes adjusted. As we emerged back into the sunshine, I squinted and then blinked in the brightness. When it all came into focus, El Cap stood in front of us. A powerful cocktail of emotion washed through me. Fear. Inspiration. Belief. Anxiety. Humility. Reassurance. Calmness. All of this. All at once. I felt like I’d come home. It felt foreign. It contained the nuclear element of every great story: tension. If this climbing lifestyle could produce this type of rich emotion, it was a path worth pursuing. I marked the occasion with a single, profound syllable.
Since then I’ve driven, climbed, walked, ridden and skied for thousands upon thousands of miles in Yosemite and many other national parks. My memories of countless perfect days from these places have become personal mileposts, each experience adding to an incredible life journey.
Here at The Dirtbag Diaries, we thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool to do a series of stories about these moments where people and parks intersect?” So with the help of our friends at REI, during this centennial anniversary year of the National Park System, we are going to create eight stories for you about people, parks and the places that mean the most to our community. We dubbed the new series “Mileposts,” because it’s our hope that taken as a whole they provide a little bit of inspiration to explore.
About the Diaries
The Dirtbag Diaries is a grassroots podcast dedicated to the sometimes serious, often humorous, stories from wild places. Outside magazine hailed us as the best outdoor podcast. What began as a solitary experiment has evolved into collaboration between writers, photographers, artists and listeners. You can find us through your phone’s podcasting app. We are very excited to have REI pull up a spot at this digital campfire.