Up to a few years ago, I was a hardcore numbers person, seldom interested in anything outside the cutthroat world of business which I thought was the lifeblood of my existence. It is ironic then, that it was on a business trip that I had a life-changing experience that completely transformed my worldview!
After a successful meeting with a business associate in Silicon Valley, he invited me to go along with him on a short trip to the Yosemite National Park. I declined at first, not particularly interested in spending the rest of the week in the wilderness. But after some insistence on his part, I yielded. I expected it to be a nice experience, even better as an opportunity to bond with a client!
We entered through the Hetch Hetchy Entrance on the western boundary of the National Park. Expecting the smooth wide roads to change into a bumpy jungle path, I was taken aback when the roads continued deep into the park, presenting a beautiful juxtaposition of a functional yet aesthetic man-made environment along with the imposing granite cliffs and the woods. For all my initial reluctance, I had to admit I was captivated by my surroundings. Just a few kilometers in, I could appreciate the vast store of natural heritage this National Park is – and we had just scratched the surface!
As I was travelling with a Yosemite frequenter, he had already charted out the itinerary for the next two days. Sensing my wide-eyed wonder at the natural beauty around me, he smirked at me and said, “Wait till we get to Yosemite Valley”. And he wasn’t exaggerating – the Valley is an exquisite sight to behold, even before you set foot on the ground!
Photo by: Stephen Moehle/ shutterstock
Below the huge clouds in the sky, El Capitan, the mammoth granite wall dominates the scene, extending almost a kilometer towards the sky, a favorite for rock climbers and hikers. The Valley is covered by a layer of glacial ice in the winters, and the melt results in the formation of beautiful lakes, ponds, and cascading waterfalls that flow out into the Merced River. Hiking through this valley, we came across many others like us. Though guided tours are available, most were going about hiking, photographing, climbing and marveling on their own. What was common to all was an unspoken sense of knowledge, respect and pride for the land.
A true wanderer, my friend had decided not to take any of the well-known hiking trails over the next two days. After scoping out a tentative route, we set off into Yosemite Valley. He had obtained all the required hiking and camping permits and we decided to hike into the Valley as the sun started its descent on the horizon. When it finally set, we pitched our tent and had our packed dinner. Over dinner, I thanked him for bringing me along with him and told him how beautiful and diverse the Park was. He then went on to educate me about how this Park came about. It was made possible only through the concerted efforts of naturalist John Muir, erstwhile president Theodore Roosevelt and the National Park Service. Had these agents not defended the right of this land to be preserved, Yosemite probably would not be the coveted wilderness that it is today. I felt an inexplicable urge to wander the length and breadth of this wonderful National Park, understanding and marveling at the biodiversity, land and water forms contained within the Park boundaries. Over the next two days, we traversed across iconic attractions like Taft Point, the Sentinel Dome and Glacier Point. From the latter, we could see the entire Yosemite Valley at the Tunnel View Point, an experience that humbled and enthralled me at the same time. Not to mention the beautiful Vernal Falls and the Tenaya and Gaylor Lakes, which are postcard-perfect sights. We were also lucky enough to spot the mule deer and bighorn sheep which populate the woods.
The lasting memory of Yosemite’s biodiversity in my mind however, will always be the majestic sequoias or Redwoods at Mariposa Grove. These behemoths are not only taller than other trees, but also taller than some buildings and are hence some of the largest living things on land. Especially jaw-dropping was the Grizzly Giant – an 1800-year-old sequoia that is 63 meters tall and around 30 meters in circumference! The imposing tree is actually the perfect emblem to describe my trip to the Yosemite: humbling.
Photo by: Javen/ shutterstock
While the tree elicits that reaction due to its size, the National Park does the same through the values enshrined within its 3000 square kilometer area and its 200-year-old history. The geography stayed with me long after the trip and I spent the next couple of months reading up on everything that I could about its history. What was fascinating was not just the natural wealth of the region, but how immaculately all of it was documented through numerous expeditions and accounts that followed. Moreover, all of this information was painstakingly recorded and utilized to make a case for the preservation of this land, a request that was not very common in the late 19th and early 20th century. Since the government declared this as a protected area, Yosemite has endured as a national symbol of the USA – cherished and respected by everyone.
When I returned to India, I immediately wanted to familiarize myself with India’s vast swathes of forests and immense biodiversity therein. After touring the country and its many forests extensively, I realized just how important these jungles, not just from an environmental point of view, but also for the people whose lives revolve around the forests. In the interest of my newfound passion for India’s forests, I have since taken a break from my consulting business and have been working closely with NGOs, advocacy groups and the government to aid efforts in documenting the extent of our depleting forests and helping conserve them. A hard task to say the least, I am sure my rekindled love for the outdoors and the associated challenges will keep me dedicated to this cause. And if I were asked about the turning point that led me – a person who lived and breathed in the world of business –to appreciate the importance of forests and the outdoors, it would have to be the life-changing experience of visiting Yosemite National Park.
Just like my life-changing experience, there are many others who have been inspired by places to alter something about themselves, their lives and aspirations. You can log on to www.lufthansa.com/places to be inspired by some of these amazing stories of #LifeChangingPlaces.
enjoys writing and follows what he thinks is an eclectic mix of interests. Especially passionate about travelling with good music and a book to boot.
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