Thursday, June 12, 2008

Yosemite Part II: The Panorama Trail

On Saturday, part of the group did the Half Dome hike. I was pretty beat from the Yosemite Falls hike the day before, so I wimped out and stuck with the group doing the Panorama Trail – which is the easier/shorter hike – but the most scenic in the whole park. I’ll have to tackle Half Dome next time. The Panorama Trail begins at Glacier Point with a spectacular view of Half Dome, as well as the Nevada and Vernal Falls, our destination across the valley.

It winds in a U-ish shape around the valley with a steady decline to the floor below. On this trail, you encounter three sets of falls. When we reached the first, Illilouette Falls, we stopped for a quick snack and a short nap in the sun. Then we were on our way again.

After leaving Illilouette Falls, the trail turns into the mountain, causing you to lose sight of Nevada Falls. Upon reaching the summit of the trail, it cuts back to the edge of the mountain where Nevada Falls comes into view again.

The visual splendor is so impressive, you almost don’t notice that, even from this distance, you can hear the rumbling of the crashing water as it collides with the granite cliff and boulders below. When I realized what I was hearing, I was surprised by the incredible enormity of the sound. I’ve never heard anything like it. Joseph Smith’s description of Jehovah’s voice from the passage in D&C 110 came unexpectedly to my mind: “And his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, even the voice of Jehovah….”

I’d never given any thought to that comparison, but suddenly I understood the brilliance of the metaphor. Was it Joseph Smith’s own wisdom to describe the Savior’s voice this way, or was it given to him in revelation? I don’t know, and it doesn’t really matter. The phrase, for the first time, meant something to me.

We followed the Panorama Trail to the top of Nevada Falls. We stood next to the water and watched it forcefully throw itself over the edge of the cliff. The sound was louder now, simply because of our proximity to it, but it had held the same intensity from across the valley.

On the way down to the valley floor, the trail takes you past the third and final set of falls. This part of the hike is called the Mist Trail for obvious reasons.


On Sunday, we attended the LDS services in a small non-
denominational chapel directly across the meadow from Yosemite Falls. Coming out the door after the meeting, we could see the falls straight ahead of us on the other side of the valley. Joseph Smith’s words were still at the forefront of my mind and I wanted to be as close as possible to the “voice of Jehovah” again before heading back to Los Angeles.

Sarah and I took the path to the base of the falls which winds through a wooded area and climbs a slight incline where the calmness of the trees is suddenly opposed by the crashing water. We stood there momentarily and felt the spray of the water and the surprisingly strong wind produced by its force.

Again I was struck by the accuracy of the comparison. The “sound of the rushing of great waters” is immense. Amazing and beautiful and unstoppable. You can feel its magnitude as it vibrates through your insignificant frame. You are faced with the sheer energy of the rushing water, its unmistakable power, as it pushes the otherwise still air into great wind gusts. Strangely enough, despite the sense of power it carries, the sound is not scary, but inviting. Yet, you become acutely aware that if you choose not to respect the source of the sound, if you dare to test or challenge its strength in a feeble attempt to prove your own, you will not win.

Joseph Smith surely had occasion to hear the rushing of great waters at various times in his life. Prior to my visit to Yosemite, I had not experienced such a sound. Now that I have, the voice of Jehovah sounds different to me. And I love it.


Cecily Markland said...

So amazing...everything...the pictures...your trip...the scenery...but, even more the beauty of your insight! Thanks for sharing and for helping me "hear" in a whole new way.
Love you!
Aunt Cecily

Miriam Oh said...

I like that Chelsea!

Jenn said...

Ok. So I stumbled upon your cute blog! How the heck have you been!? Ours is:

Talk to you soon. I'll be lovin' reading yours!