Yosemite: A Story of My Heart, My Sister and Our Father

I’ve always underestimated my sister.

It was never a conscious thing. I could shrug my shoulders and say, “that’s what siblings do”, but I know that’d be a cop out. It'd be a crutch, and it's time I admit that.

We’re supposed to push our kin. We’re supposed to lift them higher. We’re supposed to believe in them when nobody else does. We’re supposed to come together to move mountains — but a month ago, in the Sierra Nevada, I didn’t need to. Chase conquered Half Dome all by herself. So did my dad. And I was blessed enough to share the journey.

Yosemite Valley was mystical; even more romantic with the smoke that slithered in from the Kings Canyon fires. Deer still roam free, gentle and graceful below each granite goliath. Redwoods climb from golden meadows to greet the swinging winds, carrying far off cries from climbers mid celebration. Rivers carve the land and quench small flowers. Every dose of life as vibrant as the walls are high. It’s an easy place to notice beauty. But I’ll never fully capture it.

I saw perseverance. I witnessed community. I felt fear and success. I felt small. I felt invincible. I felt alive.

Every cracking limb and forest moan startled me each night. My mind raced to my girls at home as I prepared to fend off any beast that came my way. I envied the food in the bear lockers, safely enveloped in metal some 15 feet from my feet. Whether it was the fear of my impending doom or the excitement of the climb that skirted my sleep, I’ll never know, but I found time to think in those eternities between sundown and sun up. Thought about the reality that we were there, some 6,000 feet up in John Muir’s playground. I thought about how fortunate we are —my sister and I — to have a dad who is so intentional about our time together. I thought about his health. My health. How lucky we are. I thought about my daughter. I missed my wife. I realized that when I became a dad, “becoming my dad” became more an aspiration than a fear. I was stuck in a cycle of perspective, a window where the hopes of my own were realized in the joys of my father. 

Someday I’ll be here with my kids, I thought. Someday Aria will be Chase and she’ll move her own mountains. 

Someday I’ll be in my 50s and pacing my way up, fueled by the swelling pride of my wild and beautiful children. And I’ll muster the courage to raise them, whether it’s Half Dome or our home. 

We topped it. We made the voyage, dangled by the chains and smiled down from the clouds. I sat on the shoulders of giants with my dad and my sister. It wasn’t the first time and it certainly won’t be our last. 

So it's decided: I won't underestimate. Not Chase. Not my dad. Not me. Not work. Not joy.Not parenting. Not time. No valley will keep down those who seek the bravery to see the top.