My 70th Birthday – A Right of Passage
There was a burning desire to do something epic so I just kind of threw out the idea of, a rite of passage. I figured this was certainly a milestone to be honored as it was about to be my 70th birthday. The implications of what I was presenting myself didn’t then occur to me.
My wife Erin and I processed several ideas and came up with well, “let’s hike and then climb Half Dome!” This is a difficult hike, but beautiful. It fit the criteria of Epic, especially at my ripened age.
We had, relatively recently, hiked this trail (The Mist Trail) until what we thought was halfway to Half Dome, to the top of Nevada falls. Although the hike was hard on us, we really enjoyed it. Yosemite is an absolutely beautiful place in Nature, and a great place to spend a 70th birthday celebration.
When I set things up like this, for myself, the Universe provides me ample opportunity for greater experiences than I imagined. I’m open to that. As I presented myself with the experience of a rite of passage,” I did not know what I was asking for. The process was rich!
After the fact, I researched the rite of passage, because of the immensity of what I had just experienced. Actually, I’m still in the process of experiencing it.
Supposedly there are three phases to a rite of passage. This phrase was coined by a French. Ethnographer Arnold van Gennep in his work: Les Rites de Passage. The terminology is now adopted into anthropology, literature, and popular cultures.
These three phases are separation, transition, and incorporation. He called the transition part liminality. It symbolizes moving from normally one group to another group. Through the process of that movement, in the transition stage, you’re not part of either group. I had no clue what group was I coming from and what group was I moving toward.
The thought didn’t even really occur to me about this process as I was setting this up. My thinking was: “I’m turning 70 and need to do something that is difficult. This will demonstrate to my clients and students that my lifestyle is applicable for a healthy and rich life experience,”
A Right of Passage was more than I bargained for.
The first eight-tenths of a mile is pretty nondescript, just a slight incline, paved and gently rises to the first artifact of the journey, a wooden bridge traversing the Merced River into which the Vernal Falls empties.
It’s really energizing to hear the water. The sun hasn’t peered over the mountains yet, so everything’s a little hazy. Our journey begins in earnest after the bridge. The road now transitions into a trail interspersed with rocks with the incline getting steeper for another piece of a mile.
As we approach the mountain, the vernal fall staircase rises in front of us. It is not a normal staircase. These are giant steps of various heights, some of them as much as 24 inches in height, granite steps, and I have a picture as an example. We didn’t get a lot of photos on this part because we’re just focused on getting up these steps. I did bring walking sticks, and they were helpful and I’m so glad that I brought them, Erin, my wife did not bring sticks but she’s in much better shape than I am.
These steps go on for about a mile and then you get to where you can see Vernal Falls. The falls are breathtakingly beautiful, as you can see in the picture. Thundering and dynamic sheets of water crash down the granite cliffs. Mist rises as the water crashes into the broken blocks and shards of granite below.
At the top of the falls, there is a brief respite, a few feet of flat trail and we pass a clear pristine body of water called the Emerald pond. It beckons me to jump in. However, there are warnings not to swim as an undertow would pull one right off the cliff into the falls.
We start another ascent into a different kind of stairway The stones ascending between vernal and Nevada falls are not as organized. These steps are not quite as steep but they’re less sure-footed as the rocks are not as square. It’s another mile and a half of this climb. At this point, Erin gets ahead of me as I paced myself while we climb.
The sun starts coming peeking over the mountains as the ascent continues, step after step, continuously going up. My legs feel it for sure. However, I’ve done this part of the hike before so at least I know what I’m in for.
Listening to the crashing waters of Nevada falls has been the background soundtrack for a while. Now the falls come into view with a white mass rushing down the slope of the mountain like a hurried force of liquid thunder sliding down sheer granite. It’s not a straight drop like Vernal Falls is but more angled. I am mesmerized as the churning waters come slipping past me into a gorge.
It is surprising to me that the falls have as much water in them as they do because in California we’re in a drought. There was no expectation on our part that the falls would be as full as they were. I was relieved and happy to see that.
Aside from this, now I needed to get to the top of these falls, as this will be a milestone because it is as far as I have hiked up this trail in more than 50 years!
As I finally reach the top of Nevada falls my legs get a little break because the trail becomes flat for about a mile. The path actually gets kind of sandy and it’s that way up to Lake Merced which is the source of the Merced River. It’s a body of water that collects the snow melt and the rain that seeps through the granite of the higher elevations until it gets here to this lake.
The woods around the lake are mostly pines with varied heights. It’s not quite a forest, for the dominant landscape is the granite which is so incredibly amazing. This park was formed by a glacier that cut through that granite and created Yosemite Valley and sliced the mountain where we are hiking in half, to give its name: Half Dome. There are countless vast walls of sheer granite. Variegated colors of hundreds of thousands of years of evolution are etched in these granite cliffs throughout every step of the hike through the beauty of Nature’s marvelous wonderland.
After the brief flats, the ascent continues on… and on… There are fewer pictures from this phase going up, because the focus is on putting one step in front of the next, with an occasional break for essential water. We brought 5 liters. At the time I thought it was overkill, but it turned out to be just enough!
When I thought it must be close to the beginning of the sub dome, I passed a rare sign, the mileage left to travel.
I choked back tears. I couldn’t believe there were 2 more miles. I was fatigued. Doubt crept in.
No! Yelling at doubt, told it where to go! Back to hell where destructive emotions breed to rob us of our joy and life. Imagining my upper body as a sail, the breeze behind me started pushing me up the mountain. A smile came across my face. My mindset training was being put to task, and it worked! I (almost) glided up the path until it disappeared onto pure granite. The journey was almost done because I made it to the base of the sub dome!
There was the peak on the not-to-distant horizon. I can do this!
Erin was waiting, she was a half-hour ahead of me and she was just starting to worry when she saw my tired body and yellow shirt making my way up the sub dome.
We were near the top of the world and the views were truly spectacular!
A reward for the journey thus far is a brief rest, listening to the ranger go over the dangers of the final assent. The cables of Half Dome!
Erin has a fear of heights and my arms were very fatigued because I used hiking sticks to help me traverse the mountain. Therefore, the cables looked to be even more challenging than we thought. But we were going to try.
The angle of ascent is 60 degrees on sheer granite. The cables are steel threads woven into a metal rope. 5-foot poles are drilled into the rock and the cable threads through them so you can grab one cable with each hand. If you don’t wear rubberized gloves, they are slippery.
Those poles rise up at 6 feet intervals. With a 450-foot climb, there are 75 of them. We made it to number 6 before Erin said, “I can’t do this,” and we turned around and came down the left side, walking sideways.
At the bottom, a hiker told Erin she could do it and just needed rubber gloves, and she gave Erin her gloves. Another hiker gave me his. I had rubber gloves but had accidentally brought 2 right-handed gloves. We looked at each other, asking silently if we should try this again.
A man named Larry called out: “Let’s go up in a group and encourage each other as we go!” We agreed and started up again. We’d go two or three poles then rest a few seconds. Repeat.
Sometimes folks would come down the left side, we’d go to the right. My arms were shaking. About halfway up I told Erin I was getting dizzy. Wrong thing to say. But Larry, bless his soul, calmed her and told her to go up and he’d stay with me.
I shortened my treks to one set of poles and rested a little longer. Larry kept talking about other things, to get my mind off my stressed body, I suppose. Then a second wind came into my body, refreshing it and I went up four sets of poles, and again, and again, and all of a sudden, I was there and Erin was beaming as she saw me come up, we had conquered Half Dome! I was by far the oldest person on the mountain that day and I got many congratulations. It was exhilarating!
There was a little cave we found to cool off in. We also ate some fruit and it was delicious!
Now to go down. It looked downright scary, but gravity really helped and we walked sideways all the way and we figured we had done the most difficult part of the journey!
Stopping to eat some lunch at the summit of Sub Dome, we found a bristle cone pine that gave us some shade. I had dried salmon jerky, half an almond butter sandwich, and lots of wonderful water! We were literally on cloud nine!
The issue at hand now is that we had to hike 8.5 miles back to the car! It seemed to take forever. Our calves were already sore from all the steps, going down was much more difficult than I thought!
Departing the sub dome at 2:30 in the afternoon, we arrived at the car at 7:30. Each landmark going down seemed much further than it should have. I realized that our rite of passage was much more than getting to the top, it was completing everything that went with it.
We walked down together for the whole decline. That was really special. Erin usually power walks way ahead of me and then walks back to check up. This time, we had the same pace going down the entire trail. During this part of the journey, we talked about what an amazing adventure we just experienced, and took in the incredible beauty of our surroundings. It made the difficult trek back rather delightful!
After finally arriving at the car, we still had a half-hour drive to the lodge we were staying at El Portal. There was a Pizza place on site and it closed at nine. I was hoping that we could get our order in. Those carbs sounded really good about now! First I had to check my activity on my health app.
We made it back in time and I waited in line for about 20 minutes to order, as the lodge was pretty packed! After eating and a much-anticipated bath, we then had a visitor. She was a rarely seen Ring-tailed cat.
A relative, but much smaller than its cousin the raccoon, this cute little creature doesn’t usually show itself, but she was a messenger. We couldn’t sleep, and after seeing our visitor, we knew we had to get back to our own furry family left at home — our sweet 18-year-old kitty, Littlest, and our 3.5-year-old Lab, Ginger. The team we assembled was back taking care of them, but we knew we had to get home soon,
Therefore, the journey was not yet complete.
We left El Portal at about midnight and got home at about 4:20 AM…
I went around and came in the back door since we had given our front door keys to the folks taking care of our furry family. As I walked in, to my left I saw Littlest, our kitty, levitating above her lifeless body. She had just passed. I let Erin in the front door. There were a lot of tears shed that morning. We had a ceremony and buried her the next day.
Our shift had happened. We did our Rite of passage and our lives will never be the same.
I work with energy in my healing practice. At 70 now, I know my practice is changing. I will be focusing more on the energy bodies and less on the physical.
We experience life entirely through our senses. This journey we took led us to maximize that experience. Beyond the sensory world, there is more. We are more than our physical bodies.
It’s my purpose now to fully explore that realm that I have been working on the edges of for some 30 years.
Now is the time to dive in.
Many folks may be skeptical of anything that cannot be seen and proven with the senses.
Others are conditioned by what they were taught and have no place for something so esoteric.
That’s OK. This work isn’t for everyone.
However, if you are compelled to want to discover more of your true nature…
If you are ready to make a significant shift in your life…
I have developed:
A Right of Passage – curative transformation, just for you.
In this work, you will learn to:
- change the response of your body to various types of traumas
- use constructive emotional energy to overcome destructive emotional responses
- understand who you are and what your true life calling is
- take action to become your best and true authentic self
- Live joyfully instead of fearfully
Schedule a free 15 min call to see if you are ready for the shift. Schedule Your Call Here
Jump right in and schedule your first hour Right of Passage -Curative Transformation Session Schedule Session Here
If you are experiencing a shift and want some tools to navigate it. Check out my “Right of Passage” Mindset Mastery personalized workshop here.
Most of the photos are by Erin East, as I forgot my phone charger so my phone was on airplane mode most of the time.