Yosemite National Park

This summer has been a lengthy lesson in making the best of whatever gets thrown my way.

I flew into John Wayne International Airport in Orange County, California. I was supposed to be headed to a hotel to get a good night’s rest, wake up the next morning, and head out onto the Pacific Ocean for a long weekend of sailing and sea kayaking through Channel Islands National Park, a marine wildlife preserve off the coast of Santa Barbara. But, I wasn’t headed to a hotel; I wasn’t going to get a good night’s sleep; and I wasn’t going sailing. I was driving.

This summer has been a lengthy lesson in making the best of whatever gets thrown my way: from dealing with dehydration in the desert, to grizzly bears in glacier, to breaking everything from a tripod to a hammock to a Camelbak bladder in Colorado. Spending time outdoor fosters a person’s creative resilience, because all you have out there is what you take with you. You’ve gotta learn to make do with what you’ve got; you’ve gotta be flexible; you’ve gotta learn not to get too attached to anything. And so, when a coastal storm destroyed some of the ports in the Channel Islands, de-railing my plans in the park, I didn’t cancel my flight. Instead, I rented a car. I made a new plan. I was driving to Yosemite National Park.

If you ever have the chance to visit Yosemite, take this one piece of advice from me: don’t fly into John Wayne International Airport to get there. Fly into Sacramento. Fly into Fresno. Fly into Reno, or Oakland, or San Francisco. Any of those airports would be closer than the five-and-a-half-hour drive that Orange County is from Yosemite. I started my drive around midnight. I got to Yosemite just after sunrise.

Still, as sleep deprived as I was, the Yosemite Valley blew me away. The first time that you emerge from the Wawona Tunnel to see the Yosemite Valley, you’ll believe in God. The granite walls there are astounding. El Capitan rises 3,000 feet, straight up, from the valley floor; it was carved by glaciers over a million years ago. Capturing the scale of something like that on camera was something I struggled with all weekend.

Unfortunately, despite my efforts to put together one hell of a trip on the fly in Yosemite, we had to abort the route we teed up. My travel partner for the weekend came down with a pretty serious illness, which limited our action in Yosemite to reconnaissance only. But, on the plus side, I now know exactly where I’ll be going when I return to Yosemite in the Fall. Until then, the pictures from my first trip can give you an idea as to why I can’t wait to run it back in Yosemite.

Matt Patterson

Seattle, Washington