Picture: Last light of sunset on the summit of Half Dome as seen from Olmsted Point, Tioga Pass Road, Yosemite National Park, California
I just got back from a week-long family vacation at Lake Tahoe. However, before posting anything from that trip, I have one more story I want to tell about my recent Yosemite hikes.
I have a role model. I don’t even know her name.
So there I was three weeks ago, after hiking 8 miles and climbing over 4,000 feet from Yosemite Valley, huffing and puffing my way up the brutal and narrow steps of Half Dome’s Sub Dome. Every 20 yards or so I’d take a quick break to let people pass. Two-thirds of the way up the sub dome, the stairs suddenly stop, and you’re forced to just start making a bee-line toward the top across the steeply slanted exfoliating granite slabs. With lungs heaving, my brain starts to question my initial motivation every time I look upwards with a leg-groaning “You’ve got to be kidding me…”
Just then my eyes catch a woman coming down the granite slabs, descending from the top of the sub dome. She’s moving slowly, cautiously. She has an Ace bandage on both knees, and is holding an old-fashioned wooden hiking stick in one hand. My brain raced back and forth as I thought about my aching legs, and then again, looking at her.
Finally I said something like, “You’re my hero.” She looked straight at me as she paused her descent. With a semi-breathless smile she replied, “I’d rather die on this mountain than in a nursing home.” The only thing I could think to say in response was “No truer words have ever been spoken.”
She continued with her descent as I turned and continued my ascent, thinking to myself with a slightly rejuvenated push, “If she can make it, what the heck am I groaning about?”
When we were about 15 yards apart, I turned back down hill and called out to her, “Excuse me, Ma’am, but can I ask…” Before I could even finish asking the question, she turned back toward me and said, “I’m 70.” It turned out that a lot of people had been asking her that all day long. I replied, “Perhaps the next time you do a hike like this, you should get a T-Shirt that says in big bold letters, “Don’t Ask; I’m 70″ on the front. She and a bunch of other nearby hikers broke out in laughter. She told me what a great idea that was, and that she was going to do that.
So if you ever see an elderly woman on the trail with a shirt that says “Don’t Ask; I’m 70″ on it, please consider stopping and asking for her name. Because whoever she is, she’s my newest role model.
Image ID#: 119717b_YOS-0120
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