Despite an unexpected stay-over in a hot Oakhurst parking lot, we made it to Yosemite National Park.
Some friends we had met in King’s Canyon had set up camp in Tuolumne Meadows, and were smiling huge when we pulled up. They pointed to a neighboring site and told us that Ron Kauk was staying the summer there and had invited us over to share beers around the campfire that night. I wasn’t sure who Ron was, but I could gather from our party’s excited reaction that he was someone special.
We put on our woollies and sat and watched the sun set behind the rock. When the mountain cold started to settle in to our bones we headed to Ron’s campsite, where a healthy fire was burning and Ron sat alone looking out over his camp. Ron is a living legend of the climbing world, and has been climbing in Yosemite since the 1970s. He’s been involved in putting up routes all around the park and has been featured in multiple climbing movies.
Of course, I didn’t know any of this that night. In fact, Ron is a man of such great humility and generosity that I was shocked when I learned of all his accomplishments. He shared his story with no trace of ego, and listened to ours with deep respect.
We spent the next few days exploring Tuolumne Meadows and spent a blissful afternoon swimming in Tioga Lake. National Parks are perfect for people watching, and I think I paid just as much attention to the tourists as I did to the scenery.
On our last day in the park we spoke with Katie Lambert, an accomplished climber who has been calling Tuolumne Meadows home for five years. Katie is wise -she says she’s learned a lot from the rock. She told us about her writing, her climbing and the fall she’d just had on El Capitan. She’ll have an article in the next issue of Alpinist about how stitches mend more than our bodies.
It’s going to be a big change when we head to San Francisco – we’ve been livin’ in the woods for a while now.