October is the month that I meet up with other climbers to road trip to Yosemite. The cooler temps with less people make it a good time to attempt new routes and “ooo and ahh” at the El Capitan daredevils. I aspire to climb that face in a parallel universe where normal humans like myself are devoid of fear. In 2009 I was doubly encouraged to hit the rock when the Ken Burns National Park series started airing on PBS. I couldn’t take one more day cooped up with TV nature porn. The mountains were calling, none from my gang of climbers could go—so off solo I went.
Yosemite Valley Camp 4 is a walk-in campground known for its resident dirt bag climbers from all over the world. All I had to do was show up early to ensure first come service. The group in front of me claimed the last remaining spot. Darn! Without hesitation they invited me to crash in their tent. What single woman would shack up with strangers? A climber’s gotta do what a climber’s gotta do. Besides these guys needed a fourth for the next day to establish two routes. Score!
I threw my camping gear into their tent and drove off to find the overflow parking lot. I got lost but noticed a guy sitting in his car with a map. Surely he could help. I knocked on his window and asked for directions.
Matt was transitioning from a decade at Microsoft to a renewable energy company and took three months off to visit national parks. He’d read that most people dream of touring national parks without a schedule but few ever do. He said he did not want to wait until he retired or was too old to get lost in the wilderness without a compass.
All this I learned after his initial brush-off of, “I can’t help you I just landed here myself.” What was really going through Matt’s head was, I’m single and here is a woman asking for my help. We stood there for an hour engaged in conversation before he asked me to grab a beer. I wasn’t thinking I wanted to rip his clothes off just then, but there was something intriguing about this guy. In the meanwhile my camping gear was sitting in a tent with the climbing dudes. I doubt they were trying on my underwear. Life is short – live on the edge.
Over a beer I learned that Matt and I were the same age, we both grew up in the Midwest and he was deathly afraid of heights. Hmmm. He proposed a 16 mile hike: up Half Dome and back. He clearly wanted his feet on solid ground if he was to climb over 8,800 feet. Our Half Dome hike was planned for the day *after* I climbed with my other new boyfriends.
I secured my own campsite after my epic climb with my original tent-mates. On the morning of the Half Dome hike, it was pissing down hail on my tent. Hiking in such conditions could have been an exciting first date. Matt and I texted and we agreed to postpone our hike. Undaunted he texted, “is there room in your sleeping bag for me?” I ignored his forward thinking. A few hours later we texted and agreed to meet at the Ahawahnee.
The Ahwahnee lodge is romantic when it’s stormy. It was built in 1927 as a rustic yet luxurious hotel to attract wealthy socialites and it is considered a masterpiece of “parkitecture.” We caffeinated for hours in front of the sandstone fireplace, then sedated ourselves with a bottle of wine. If you ever want to test compatibility with another, go share a mummy sleeping bag with a lover in the outdoors. Having passed the test, two years later Matt proposed to me in Zion National Park and we married in Colorado under the Maroon Bells.
The National Park centennial slogan is “Find Your Park”. My advice to single people seeking mates is to put yourself out there and find your park. Head to the location that tickles your soul where you are uniquely you. There you may find true love.
Take a trip with me around the world to meet fascinating cultures, experience rituals, history and escape…if only I could write a blog an hour. (insert emoticon sticking tongue out with cross-eyes) I will be delivering images and stories for sheer enjoyment with a goal to inspire new perspective, conversation and understanding about the complex, mysterious and ever changing world.
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