Hiking Notes: El Capitan

El Capitan is a 7,573-foot high vertical rock formation that is on the Northside of Yosemite Valley. I have always marveled at the giant, naturally made glacier rock, but it wasn’t until the middle of March that I was able to finally come face-to-face with the famous wall that I had seen so many times online.
After a long day exploring the park, I pulled over on the side of the road and decided that there was no excuse not to get a closer look at the famous naturally made skyscraper. I hopped out, loaded up my gear, and lifted my chin towards the sky to try and see the top of its rounded peak.
I headed north through a covered forest and started hiking towards El Capitan’s rock face. I had noticed that there was no definite trail, but there was enough room between each tree to make my own. There were giant rocks the size of cars scattered amongst the forest, with other round rocks of varying sizes all around them. I had learned earlier that these rocks had been tumbled over the years in water from melting glaciers in the national park.
Because there was no specific trail, I continued to weave in and out of what I thought may have been the past remains of a stream, trying to find my way to the famous rock. I remember that I kept looking up and couldn’t see anything but trees and a grey background ahead.
Unlike most hikes where explorers can summit at a peak and can overlook a grande vista, this hike ended in a rock wall. By following its cool gray tones, I finally emerged from the forest and found myself in an open area overflowing with round rocks of all kinds. I had noticed that other hikers had started stacking the rocks on top of each other to build small towers, which elegantly complemented El Capitan as if they were natural beads, adding a jewelry effect to the wall. Stepping forward, I noticed that vein-like streams were falling against the rock-like tears. There were areas where the complete side of El Capitan was covered in a thin sheet of water pulled by gravity.


I remember placing my entire palm against the rock and feeling it’s cool hard body. I let the water run over my fingers. Looking up, the tip of El Capitan was curved forward, making it fully draw the sky to a visitor down below. The grey clouds moved across its bald head with ease, giving it a moody yet inviting presence. It’s smooth, giant walls reminded me of what a major accomplishment it is to be able to climb the massive attraction.

Trail teachings
This experience may seem small, but gave me and most folks who get the chance to come face to face with the monolith take the downhill walk back to civilization feeling a sense of humbleness and wholeness that fully encompasses the entire park of Yosemite. As I headed back up the coast to Washington state, I was reminded of my smallness and vowed to never forget the humble heart I developed thanks to the magnificent, El Capitan.

Onward and upward,
Madison Ford

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