On the Trail in Yosemite
Copyright © Paula Friedman 2001. All rights
reserved. On the Trail first appeared, as The
Little One, in Earths Daughters 2001.
With probably only days until my own turn, Id
say these were the people but what I mourn more was (tritely enough)
Yosemite, where as a young man I guided, but I remember most two
times it pierced my soul.
evening in the Valley, slipping from the cedars something glided,
dark and huge like a creature of science fiction but finally I could
see it was a bird, the head white and feathered; and then the great
bald eagle flew across the sky, where, far above, hung the high
country, the silence of boulders, limned glacier tarns.
stiffly, years later I was biking one spring morning, again in the
Valley, for no particular reason below the cliffs, and decided to
park and climb the trail to Yosemite Falls. These two women were
approachinggrey-haired, my own age (somewhat over 50, then).
One, who wore a fading blue tee-shirt over rather baggy jeans, asked
What, you decided to ride down? I laughed and said Its
harder going up but faster coming back," and they laughed too
and went on. After locking the bike to one of those racks, I started
outthere were about 200 switchbacksand not far along,
still among thick brush and darker rock, I caught up. The little
one, the one who'd spoken before, apparently was short-winded and
often had to rest. I decided to keep them company, at least part
way, have some company myself; we got to talking. I explained how
it'd been, how I'd been avoiding people, how I needed time off on
working too hard there? the little one joked. I'd said I was
from Seattle. My office follows me too.
its . . . emotionally difficult. We kept puffing along,
the whole time climbing back and forth up the stone-bordered trail.
do you work in?
health. Then I decided to say it. AIDS. I work with
people with AIDS.
said, Thats hard. She had a relative, it turned
out, in the field.
told her Id lost so manythat was how it seemed thenbut
now my closest friend is dying, it's been going on and on, I needed
to get away from it a few days.
other woman gave the little one a glance, but I saw she pretended
not to notice.
that little one was careful of her friend (whose name was Martie),
and at every opportunity made sure that this Martie, a freckled
lady who turned out to really be a quiet archivist, shared
in the conversation. Where the path straightened and ran along a
ledge, we all put on sunblock and those widebrimmed hats and took
one anothers snapshots.
The tiny womans comment took me aback. Then I peered closer
at the longish hair and no makeupsure, this one could have
been an ex-hippie.
caught my look, and pretty soon I was telling them (we were climbing
again) what it was like, handling wounded in Nam, catching on to
the waste of life there, and how much the protests back home had
meant to certain of us.
you, I said, twenty-odd years later.
grinned back at meand in the same instant, was laughing. She
practically doubled overleaning on Martie, who supported her,
concernedcaught up in a sort of quiet hysterics. I must have
looked stupidly puzzled.
old fogeys on the trail in Yosemite, gasped the little one.
Having 60s nostalgia.
far after this, there was a stretch where the trail got very slippery
and rough, and I found myself giving them each a hand. Then they
stopped and rested a minute. I surprised myself by halting, too,
instead of going on.
little one said, Thats good. Im glad we've a companion
of the trail. Thats certainly one way Id never
seen myselfas a companion of the trail. As Dave would surely
have been willing to attest. Even though I was there, finally, by
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