Yosemite Yearning

Editor's Letter

By Jack Houvouras

“Wherever we go in the mountains, or indeed in any of God’s wild fields, we find more than we seek” –  John Muir

During my junior year in college I read two books that changed my life. The first was “Walden” by Henry David Thoreau and the second was “My First Summer in the Sierra” by John Muir. They would forever alter my appreciation of the natural world. While I was fortunate to make a pilgrimage to Walden Pond in 1987, I never visited the Sierra Nevada mountains or the crown jewel of the sprawling mountain range – the Yosemite Valley. For years I yearned to see Yosemite, but it never came to pass.

All of that changed in May. After waiting 28 years, I finally made the journey to Yosemite National Park. My expectations were high after reading Muir’s poetic accounts of the region, and I’m pleased to report that I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, the experience exceeded my wildest musings.

The drive into the park was an aesthetic feast that culminated with my first glimpse of the Yosemite Valley. After entering a long tunnel I emerged to a vista that was overwhelming in its raw beauty. Stopping the car to take in the view, I was struck by how small I felt in a landscape of such imposing size and scale. It was as if I were standing in a land of giants.

Once I reached the valley floor, enormous granite walls surrounded me. Nearly everywhere I turned there were waterfalls cascading from high above. The symphony of sights and sounds was everything a natural voyeur could ever want.

During my stay I strolled through meadows, climbed to the top of waterfalls and rested by rivers and streams. I walked among a grove of Giant Sequoia trees that have been growing since before the time of Christ. I could have easily spent a year in the park and never experienced all its offerings.

As I was driving out of the park on my last day, I spied a calm and secluded section of a river and pulled over. I walked to its banks and pondered whether I had the courage to leap into its icy waters. After all, it was May, and the river was being fueled by melting snow. Despite that, I jumped in. The sensation was thrilling. After swimming back to shore I lounged on the grass while the sun warmed my skin. Imbued with a new sense of confidence, I decided to plunge into the river one more time. I have never felt more alive.

My last day in Yosemite was bittersweet. While I was saddened at the prospect of leaving such a special part of the world, I knew I would return. What’s more, I wanted to share my experiences with the readers of this magazine. In the end, Yosemite is everything Muir said it was and more. Put most simply, its beauty is so otherworldly that I often wonder if it isn’t a glimpse of heaven itself.

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