Visit YOSEMITE from a Wheelchair — Returning to an Old Love with a New Perspective and Gratitude

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Visiting Yosemite in a wheelchair

Lovely Yosemite…tears well as I say your name…May my limitation reveal to me what I missed before…Run blindly through your beauty again; I will not.

I remember returning to San Francisco, for the first time(‘08) after my injury. I lived there from ‘93 to ‘98. Back then I was working, playing and focusing my gaze on the interiors, alleyways, and people; not up. Now I realized how little I had looked up at the buildings as an abled bodied walker.

Being in a wheelchair is such a wonderful perspective change in having the ability to roll, laid back, while looking up, spinning, dancing beneath the city’s monoliths.

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The hard gray concrete…became the color of blue-green hued limestone…The orderly stacked brick of the buildings…turned to soft desert sandstone…And somewhere…off in the distance…he could’ve sworn he heard the soft rushing of waterfalls….

Before my SCI(C-4/5 on 5/4/05) Yosemite existed, for me, as a place to climb, rough it(party/eat/sleep) at Camp 4, and cool off in the river. In 2012, on the seventh anniversary of the injury, my oldest brother and I, best climbing partner ever, returned.

In preparation for the trip, I asked my brother what he wants to put on the camping menu. He replied, “First thought…lots of tangerines and vino.” That’s the spirit! And I felt we could well survive those few glorious days on such a diet; had I not set my heart on rustic country bread and Gouda to fill my soul. The four would work splendidly together. I had my copy of Muir’s writings on Yosemite…and so I wrote:

Having sat in this seat for seven years…I will spend said anniversary in nature’s sweet caress…Lovely Yosemite…tears well as I say your name…May my limitation reveal to me what I missed before...Run blindly through your beauty again; I will not…With Muir by my side…The reckless desire of youth reined in…May I see you as I saw a lost love…Dancing in the surf...Spinning on the sand.

Another one of those celebrations to bring perspective and joy to the spectre. Interesting word; spectre. A ghost, something feared, or a dangerous occurrence. In the original Latin, Spercere, it meant ‘to look’ or a broad band of color, as in a rainbow. How we twist the magnificent to the morbid.

Upon entering the valley, from the west, we stopped at Bridalveil Falls. It was May, so the falls were running strong, and this (picture below) was the farthest up the trail I could go, but already I found my rainbow, and the spectre was immediately cleansed.

BRIDALVEIL FALLS

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As with all things disability-related, there is little information and so we go and trust that we can overcome. When we checked in at Housekeeping Camp, odd enough name, they knew I needed one of their accessible units, but they were right next to the market and bathrooms, so we immediately scouted the riverside tents.

Many of the tents are actually quite accessible to those with manual chairs: I’m in a power chair and always have my travel ramp(s). We found one that was, amazingly, available and we were lucky to get it. Tent 246A is the best. You have a beautiful Merced Riverside view of Yosemite Falls. Turn 180° around and you see Half Dome.

TENT 246A VIEW OF HALF DOME

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Campfire grills, covered patio, electrical outlets and a light in the sleeping area and patio area. For all that modern convenience it has a rustic feel. As it was still early in the season, the nights were cold. I brought three heavy blankets, slept with my wool socks on, long underwear, turtleneck and fleece, and warm cap for my head. A toasty, deep sleep it was.

A VIEW OF MERCED RIVER, AND ROOM, FROM THE PATIO. SUPER EASY ENTRY

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TYPICAL PATIO AND “LIP” TO RAMP OR JUMP FROM 225A(NOT RIVERSIDE)E0D544D2 EB4F 45C1 9955 299FACF8C265 - Visit YOSEMITE from a Wheelchair — Returning to an Old Love with a New Perspective and Gratitude

HOUSEKEEPING CAMP MARKET

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8576633E C64F 404B 824D 129BA9F698BC - Visit YOSEMITE from a Wheelchair — Returning to an Old Love with a New Perspective and GratitudeWe got up at 6:00 and immediately drove to Mirror Lake; knowing it is to be seen just after dawn and before the crowds.

MIRROR LAKE

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Then we headed back to camp, parked the van, and spent the rest of the day doing a slow rolling stroll of the valley floor.

Definitely do yourself a favor and tour the Ahwahnee Hotel. When you’re done start heading toward Yosemite Falls. You’ll see there is a horse trail that is dirt, but those with manual chairs and some strength, a little assistance, or a good power chair, can get off the designated trail and approach Yosemite Falls from above; the less touristed route.

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There is a shuttle, perfectly wheelchair accessible, that loops the valley all day. We stayed to the trails, sat by the river, the Dogwoods were in blossom, and stared up El Cap while we lunched. It was then that we understood we spent so much time focused on climbing that we had overlooked Yosemite’s simple beauty. This time we spent more time looking down, in, and around, rather than just up.

The next morning we headed straight to Vernal Fall. It is very steep(550ft in 0.8mi.), but I went looking to challenge the routes that were, just maybe, accessible enough. To get up it, you will need a very reliable power chair, or you are a beast in a manual chair with two or three friends to help pull and push.

I made it up to the Vernal Fall Footbridge. After that, the trail is not accessible. This is not for the faint of heart. You will definitely be dodging very winded tourists that are struggling up as well. Don’t forget that it feels even steeper coming down. The views are definitely worth it.

Plan Your Visit to Vernal Fall and Nevada Trails

VERNAL FALL FOOTBRIDGE

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Returning to places with this new vantage point, that gives one a chance for new perspective, brings me a depth of gratitude I feel and send to all those that help make my wheeling journeys possible.

Soaked and awed by waterfalls…Blossoming Dogwoods…Grounded by the great enormity of granite…Yosemite filled me with its spirit…And I am grateful for the calm and serenity it instills.

WEBSITE AND RESERVATIONS

Housekeeping Camp in Yosemite National Park

Operating season: April 12 October 14, 2019. Merced river. Best views of Yosemite Falls and Half Dome from your cabin tent. Campfire grills. Covered patio. Electrical outlets and a light in the sleeping area on the patio area.

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Ryan Voss

After college I got into the restaurant industry and lived in L.A. for five years, SF for four, Lake Tahoe five, Maui for a year and a half, Greece for a summer, Lithuania for a winter and spring, Santa Fe for four years, Napa for seven, and now Redding.

I've done everything on a "physical" level I've wanted, so now I counsel new injuries, write, do graphic design and still get into nature as often as possible. I volunteered in palliative care for a year before starting Mustard That Matters.

So it happened in Santa Fe(2005). I just finished a beautiful mountain bike ride with both my brothers and then we came upon a skateboard park. I dropped into it without having any clue how to do the transfer and flipped over on top of my head from about 10 feet. I immediately knew I had broken my neck and knew my life would change forever. Thankfully I had spent many years studying Buddhism and impermanence so I was immediately able to accept this new reality. I was never to move again, but after two months I finally moved my thumb. Spent another three months in rehab and regained some trunk control and a small amount of useable movement in my legs and arms. Just really glad that I can actually feed myself, drive, and be content with the limited physical ability.

It has been 14 years since the start of this amazing experience in adapting to, and living with, a spinal cord injury(C/5). There is a deep feeling of gratitude that runs through me in seeing the selfless, altruistic spirit in all those that have been a tremendous help and support in my recovery all the way down to the stranger that drops everything to open a door so I may proceed unobstructed. I've lived a grand life. It never ceases to amaze and impress me.

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