When I was 16 I took a three-week trip through the Sierra. It was my first long backpacking trip and it forever changed me. We began at Devil’s Postpile and eventually made our way to the top of Half Dome, hanging above Yosemite Valley, where we spent our last night. I recently found this poem by Gary Snyder about Mt. Ritter—a peak that we passed by early in the trip. Mt. Ritter, Banner Peak all represented a whole new world. Someday I’ll go back.
John Muir on Mt. Ritter: After scanning its face again and again, I began to scale it, picking my holds With intense caution. About half-way To the top, I was suddenly brought to A dead stop, with arms outspread Clinging close to the face of the rock Unable to move hand or foot Either up or down. My doom Appeared fixed. I MUST fall. There would be a moment of Bewilderment, and then, A lifeless rumble down the cliff To the glacier below. My mind seemed to fill with a Stifling smoke. This terrible eclipse Lasted only a moment, when life blazed Forth again with preternatural clearness. I seemed suddenly to become possessed Of a new sense. My trembling muscles Became firm again, every rift and flaw in The rock was seen as through a microscope, My limbs moved with a positiveness and precision With which I seemed to have Nothing at all to do. Gary Snyder