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The wind was beginning to pick up and it was getting chilly, so Andy, who had taken the lead, suggested that we head down the rock so we could start the 8-mile journey back to the car. After all, we still had a five-hour drive ahead of us that evening.
I changed my socks, strapped on my backpack and got ready to leave. I knew going back down the cables was going to be fun, but I almost forgot something very important. The rock! It was still in my backpack and. I told the others and asked them to wait while I found the perfect spot to leave the rock.
I set it on a boulder and took pictures of it for the memorial. Then, I left it there, along with the painful comment that nearly destroyed my life. I didn’t even look back. It was no longer my burden.
I walked toward the cables with what I had dubbed the “Fellowship,” Andy, Bre, Mike, and our new addition, Ms. Rosemarie, who had decided to ride back to L.A. with us.
I was again first to get on the cables. Going down wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. The biggest challenge getting down was the crowd. There were people coming up as we descended and everyone had to stay inside the cables, so it got a little congested. There were occasional weirdoes climbing up outside of the cables and they were pretty much free to do so since there were no rangers present to monitor the situation.
When I reached Sub Dome, I took pictures of everyone as they came down from the cables. The mission had been accomplished and I felt so much lighter.
Although I ate some of the food I carried in my backpack and drank more water, the reason my backpack was lighter was because of the burden that had been left behind. The rock was small enough to fit into the palm of my hand, so it wasn’t very heavy. However, what the rock symbolized in my life was a heavy burden and it was now gone.
To console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.
Isaiah 61:3 (New King James Version)
I took a few pictures, ate a little bit and drank some water. It’s easy to become dehydrated at high altitudes and develop altitude sickness, which I was prone to. However, the altitude no longer affected me. I was wired and ready for the cables.
It was a comfort to me that the cables were so crowded. I knew that if I happened to slip and fall, there would be people behind me to break that fall. I didn’t want that to happen, of course.
I rejoined the group and saw that Bre was talking to a lady that I had met previously on the trail. Her name was Gretchen and she was sitting on a rock at the base of the cables. Apparently, she and her husband had gone up the cables together and Gretchen got scared early in the ascent.
She decided she couldn’t do it and came back down. Her husband continued up the cables and was probably at the top already. Now, Bre was trying to encourage her and talk her back into going. I got after Gretchen. (If you look to the right of the crowd in the picture above, you’ll see Gretchen sitting on the rock. She is wearing a white hat and a dark blue jacket.)
“What do you mean, you’re not going up?” I said. “You have to go up. If I can do this after all that I went through back there, you can do it, too. I am not going up those cables without you, Gretchen. You’re with us now, and we will help you.”
I was determined to not let Gretchen sit on that rock and miss out on her victory. I meant every word I said to her, that I was absolutely not going up those cables without her. She was one of the people who encouraged me way back when I was contemplating giving up and I was giving it back. She must have realized that I wasn’t playing and that I wasn’t going to leave her alone because she got up and stood with us in line. I was so happy that she chose to give it another try.
Andy agreed to go up behind her and act as a safety net, while I went ahead of everyone. I was first on the cables and Gretchen was right behind me. Bre and Mike followed behind Andy. I looked fear in the eyes and laughed in its face.
About halfway up the cables, I felt confident enough to take out my camera and snap some pictures. Yep, I know it was probably foolish of me, and I saw no one else doing this, but I just had to get those spectacular shots. I even snapped a picture of myself on the cables.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Psalm 23:4 (New International Version)
We rejoined the guys and headed toward Sub Dome. To say those freakin’ steps were brutal is an understatement. The best way that I can describe them is that they were stairs carved into a huge rock leading straight up into the sky, or so it seemed. They made the Mist Trail and Nevada Fall steps seem like steps in a kiddy park.
I saw healthy-looking, athletic people stopping multiple times on the way up to catch their breath. And, of course, every couple of steps, I had to stop. I kept waiting for Bre, Andy or Mike to complain or say something, but neither of them did. They were so patient and true examples of God’s love and grace.
Finally, we saw the light and the end of those crazy steps. What was funny to me was that I had miraculously gained a fresh wind. I also didn’t fear heights as I thought I would up there, at least not where we were thus far. We hiked up Sub Dome to the saddle, which connects Sub Dome to Half Dome, the “mother lode”, as some call it. I couldn’t believe my eyes. We had finally made it to the cables. There was a line, so we didn’t get to just latch on and go up. We had to wait a while. However, the wait turned out to be a good thing. A very good thing, indeed.
It took a while for the caffeine in the Gu drops to take effect. By the time I got a fourth of the way up the steps, I wanted to curse. That’s how brutal the steps were to my already aching body. I had to start singing. I remembered singing in the choir at Lakewood Church in Houston when we sang worship songs on Sunday mornings and Tuesday nights at choir practice. I pictured myself standing in the choir loft with my beautiful brothers and sisters, my hands lifted high, praising and worshiping God. Whenever I felt that curse word coming on:
“Glorify your name, glorify your name, glorify the name above all names.”
And one of my favorites:
“Sing over me songs of deliverance. Lord, cover me with your mighty hand. Sing over me, God of the second chance. Sing over me once again.”
The next phase of the journey took us through Little Yosemite Valley, a virtually flat place where the trail is laden with beach sand, which is somewhat difficult to hike through. Our group reassembled at a rest spot and then we headed further up the trail. At this point, we were beginning to gain altitude, and by the time we reached the switchbacks coming up out of the Valley, I felt it big time.
My initial perception of this part of the hike was that it was going to be fairly easy. I couldn’t have been more wrong. This was the part where I encountered hell and some awful thoughts began churning in my head.