Yosemite National Park & Half Dome: Conquering Fear & Finding Belief

Late May / Early June, 2013: I’m in the final stages in recovering from a breakup in one of the most toxic, anxiety ridden relationships I’ve ever been in. My weight is down, muscle is up, I’ve been running & lifting a lot these past number of months to get over the relationship problems I’ve had. It’s crazy how much older and wiser I feel being a 31 year old writing about my days when I was 27. However, it was at this stage that I grew stronger in so many ways. I learned to let go of my past, my problems, what has been done to me and what I’ve done to others. I saw myself as the victim of so many hurtful relationships within my family and with significant others. Through exercise & travel I felt that I could break away and grow stronger each time. This will be the first time I’ve ever admitted some things online, yet in doing so I feel that it will hopefully help someone else in a similar position one day. If that is you and you are reading this now, I’m happy that you are here. As my relationships progressively got worse I found myself feeling worthless & often had thoughts of suicide. I’d ask myself questions like, “How could _____ cheat on me?”, “Why the hell am I lying/cheating?” or “Why even bother?” I let the lack of trust I ever formed with family after some traumatic events seep its way into my relationships. I was insecure, up & down and would drink too much. When I lost a girlfriend of 3 years that I fell deeply in love with, I stopped caring as much about the consequences to my actions. Tony at the time would think, “Why bother being faithful, she will hurt me anyways and this isn’t going to last.” Then after recovering from my insecurities and how hurtful I was to a really nice woman, I found myself on the opposite end of things. The problem now was that I’d stick it out for a girlfriend whose cheating, believing that the lessons I learned could help her turn her behavior around. Either way, I was putting too much value into the outcome with others & their behavior and I wasn’t focusing hard enough on the behaviors of my own. After being cheated on one too many times, I left and decided to take better control of my life. I overcame so much fear. I had already felt that I lost so much that all I really had was myself. So, better make myself the best I can be. I would aggressively work out, run and attack this trip knowing that I would hike The North Face logo despite the heights and sheer drops. Nothing was in my way anymore, especially me. One last thing. I’m not bitter towards anyone in my past, despite anything that happened. We are all the captains of our own ship. I’m been hurt and hurt others. I’ve decided to let go of all that guilt & hurt so I could solely focus on being the best version of me I can in the time span of the life I was given. This fearlessness & belief in myself is what carried me straight to the top of Yosemite, and with it I arrived.

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See that car ^^^? That was supposed to be the cheap, basic, economy car rental from the airport. On this trip I was lucky to be accompanied by my good friend Brian. I would arrive at the Sacramento airport an hour before him and pick up the rental. Though, once I was at the rental office I had a change in plans. I asked the Indian accented man behind the counter how much an upgrade would be to one of their top of the line sports cars. He told me it would only be $7 extra a day… SOLD! “So what are my choices?” “A ford Mustang or Dodge Ch…” “I’ll take the Dodge!” There was no way in hell I’d be caught in some new ugly Mustang. So I take the Dodge Challenger up to the side of the airport and get a call from my friend Brian. He’s waiting outside and looking for me in a black economy car. I’m literally 30 feet in front of him. I say, “Yea dude, I’m in the black car, you’re looking RIGHT AT ME!” I get out of the car and yell to him. To this day I’ll never forget the look on Brian’s face and how speechless he was. He stuttered a good 3 or 4 times before asking about the car. Once we loaded up his luggage, OFF WE WENT! (and probably too fast for airport driving speed) We make our way to Yosemite. Some parts of the drive are straight so of course I have to test out the speed of this beast. Brian probably told me a time or two that he thought we were going to die, but come on this is a sports car! Anyways, we make the 3ish hour drive probably an hour quicker than we were supposed to. Night closing in, and we settle to camp. I nearly get the car stuck parking on a hill in total darkness. That would have been bad. So would the bumper sequoia tree situation. More on that later.

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Day 1: We are face to face with the the United States tallest waterfall, Yosemite Falls! So what are we going to do? Hike to the top of that thing of course. We had just hiked around Devils Lake State Park, WI a week before after all… Yea, that was nothing compared to this. This hike I’ll say ended up being the most difficult hike of the trip. It was all the constant switchbacks. I hate switchbacks. Back and forth over and over, with no end seemingly in sight. Finally we get to some great views. Simply incredible!

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It was here we got our first good look at Half Dome. As you can see in one of the pictures I’m calling my shot. We didn’t get lucky enough to get the pre order permits to hike it just yet. But when the day came that we got them we would hike it no matter what. Going in, I knew how Half Dome could be dangerous if it’s rainy or the weathers bad. I didn’t care. Half Dome would be mine no matter what.

The next couple of days we would take in some of the other more popular views of the park, still no permit. We would see the highlands to the north, the gigantic Sequoia’s, and get to the popular picture view of El Capitan, Half Dome & Bridalvale falls. It was all beautiful.

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May 29th, 2013: Our time has come. The permits have gone through for our names. Onto Half Dome. This hike is easily one of THE BEST hikes I have ever done! I put it right up there with the ‘W’ Trek in Torres del Paine, ‘The Highline Trail’ in Glacier National Park, and ‘Observation Point’ in Zion National Park. There are so many great hikes for so many beautiful reasons. This one to me is extra special. The views… so many great views over a decent sized 16 mile hike. The hike as it starts out is no joke. For a few miles it is a constant stair master incline. However, the views reward you enough to take your mind off of things. You get 2 amazing waterfalls, Vernal & Nevada Falls. Sadly, someone died at Nevada Falls just a few days later. Word of advice. Do not go into rushing water above a 600 foot waterfall. It’s truly sad how many avoidable accidents happen. But then again who am I to talk? You see on the edge of cliffs almost every trip. If I ever had to go, I rather it be in a beautiful place like this anyways. In any case, once you get past the waterfalls it’s a more level hike straight to the base of sub dome. Oh sub dome, so cool. The incline is enough to make you wonder if you’ll fall at any given moment off the side of the mountain. Once you reach the end of sub dome, you come to the base of Half Dome. The 400 foot cable climb looks intense. “Does this thing go straight up?!” At the base are used gloves from past hikers. I came prepared and brought some ‘electrician gloves.’ Trust me, do the same. This morning there was a light rain so the cables and granite rock were especially slippery. The rubber sole grip helped me tremendously, especially with the amount of perspiration my hands would be doing. This climb is no joke. It gets the heart racing. I left no room for doubt as I would begin this climb. Was there fear? Oh yea! I remember thinking of how much I had to live for and of my cute niece Josie as I made the climb. This climb, if you’re not an experienced climber, which I’m not will put things right into perspective for you. The cable climb is at a rough 45 degree angle mostly with some parts feeling like 60 degrees plus. As I climb, my forearms get sore, and I occasionally stop to let them rest as I stand on wooden planks. I’m damn near having a panic attack, but I tell myself that there is no way in hell I’ve come this far without completing the damn climb. Courage as I learned in Karate is to face & conquer fear. When you encounter moments where courage is needed to complete a task and you find it within yourself to do the right thing, you come out of those experiences a stronger & better person for it. This is why I hike. This is why I travel. This is why I explore the unknown. You never know what challenges you’ll face or how bad they might be, but if you believe in yourself you will find a way to conquer whatever comes in front of you. Back to my climb, I make it to the top. I am ecstatic! I can’t believe the view. I text my brother Gio (yea signal is great up here) to let his stupid roommate know that half dome can be done in a day and that it’s not even noon. I love proving people wrong who doubt my capabilities. I get to the edge and get some breathtaking photos.

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I could tell you so much more about the Yosemite trip but to be honest the rest, though beautiful would pale in comparison to Half Dome. Brian even said something like it was the best day ever! The feelings and sentiment is the same here bud. Though also to note Brian had a strong aversion to animals on this trip. He threatened that he would punch a bear in the face if one were to take one of his muffins. He’d also freak out anytime we walked past horse crap on the trails and apparently a squirrel attacked his tent too haha. Sure made the  entertaining. That and me backing up the sports car into a giant sequoia that was used to space parking. It lodged the bumper right out but thankfully I was able to push it back it and the rental agency never noticed.

So to close here are some more pictures from the rest of the trip. And if you’re a tourist couple from France, don’t worry when you see a deer. It isn’t a mountain lion.

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