My introduction to the Sierra backcountry came the summer before my senior year of high school. I'd been raised in a family where vacation meant sleeping bags and tents in nearby Yosemite, Sequoia, or Kings Canyon, but the hardships of those adventures were limited to whatever might be encountered at numbered campsites and scenic turnouts. While these trips engendered a healthy appreciation for nature, I was not prepared for the epiphany delivered by the full emersion experience of backpacking. Suddenly I felt like I was more than merely viewing nature, I was experiencing it.
For many years thereafter I was an avid backpacker, looking for any excuse to retreat into the grand solitude of the High Sierra. As the contingencies of adulthood (career, marriage, family, mortgage) shifted my priorities homeward, the trips became shorter, but also started to include a camera to help me capture and convey my feelings.
A few years ago my daughter expressed an unexpected desire to try backpacking (the same daughter who was reduced to convulsive tears whenever she couldn't wear a dress to kindergarten). I quickly recruited a friend and the three of us spent an extended, late summer weekend exploring the Twenty Lakes Basin just east of Yosemite. The years must have mellowed me because backpacking has become less about covering terrain and more about savoring the scenery. Rather than logging ten or twelve daily miles at 11,000 feet, we hiked few miles, then set out cross-country for a short distance until we found a nice camping spot. There we set up camp for the duration of our trip, taking day hikes throughout the spectacular terrain. My delight with the surroundings was magnified by the vicarious joy I felt watching Ashley's first backcountry exposure.
The mountain in this image is North Peak; its crest is on the boundary separating Yosemite National Park and the Hoover Wilderness. The lake is one of many unnamed gems decorating the aptly named Twenty Lakes Basin. To capture this image I woke before sunrise and wandered downstream on the creek adjacent to our campsite until I encountered this lake. Blocked by a granite ridge, I waded about fifty feet through (frigid) shin-deep water to reach this patch of wildflowers, then watched the sunlight descend the peak to meet me.
* Website: Eloquent Images
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