learned love, learned life, became brave.

Yosemite.

Oh, Yosemite.

It is magic.  It really is… as you might be able to tell from the video.

I’ve gone there six years in a row… lived there for two whole summers.

They were some of the best summers of my life [thus far].  The first summer there was the one where I grew up, became me.

The second summer is when I learned love, learned life, became brave.

Not too long ago, I was convinced I would never go a year without going to Yosemite.  Now, this year: 2012… I’m slowly realizing I don’t think I’ll make it to Yosemite this year.  I don’t think I can… I don’t think it’s in the cards.

The shortness of breath starts… watching this video, I almost cry.

I have to go.  It is my reset button.  It is how I remember.

I have to find the freedom of Yosemite from year to year.  The refreshment.  Remembering when I found myself.  Remembering me.  Who I am.  Remembering when I found love.  Knowing love.  Remembering when I found life.  Knowing life.  Knowing what it means to live.  Remembering overcoming fear.  Doing it.

Yosemite gave me all these things.

Will I be able to remember all these things… to be all these things… without my reset button?

[oh, i hope so.]

reinstated.

When I lived in Yosemite [the 2008 time], we instated the “One Song Dance Party”.  It was only one song, and it had to happen every night.  It was glorious.

Some people would just be sitting at the kitchen table, watching… laughing… And then there we’d be… dancing, smiling, laughing… sweating…

It looked something like this…

one song dance party at the "B" party.

…That was taken at our “B” party.  Please note “Boy Blue, Little” and “Backpack”.

And almost always, this dance party revolved around this one song…

Oh, the MGMT times… everyone was doing it.

And then I went on to have “One Song Dance Parties” by myself in kitchens: https://rachellaurenmarie.wordpress.com/2009/02/27/dancin-with-myself/

Well, tonight, after driving home and listening to bad pop music, I decided it’s time to reinstate the “One Song Dance Party”.  Each night it will be to a different horridly amazing pop song.  And it will dance all the bad of the day out, as well as celebrate the day full of… well, whatever there is to celebrate…

Tonight’s song was this… [remember, i’m aware that it’s horrid/awesome]…

And now I have a partner in crime… dance crime…

the move no one can resist.

yep.

elbows and duck lips.

ahhh!

fist pumpin'.

gettin' doooowwwnnnn.

we want YOU... to dance with us.

think a dance-off challenge was happening here.

you be the judge.

that is a lot of arm.

stretching?

annnnnd...... we out.

welcome home.

Yosemite.

The incredible mountains, the hilarious people, the climbing in mass amounts and the mass amounts of people climbing.

I love how it is always the same and I’m the one that changes every time.  I do love that so much.

Last year the change was almost tragic.  I didn’t want to be faced with the change in myself… the mess it was… the beautiful mess of it all.

This year is amazingly refreshing.

I forgot how many people you meet in Yosemite… how many friends are always here.

At the Mobil on the East side at 9am, I am walking in for coffee and I see an old friend…

– Hey!

– Heeeeeyyyyyy….

[big hug.]

– Welcome home, Rach.

So warm inside.  Home.  And the realization that this is not my home… I love my home that is not here… this is not my home… but it always could be.

Last night after logistic frustrations and spending most of my time with just one other person, I decided it was time to get a drink… not a beer… at a real bar… not a bear bin.

Went to the Mountain Room Bar for a stiff drink and some baseball watching.  Evan stayed for a hot second but then remembered that he hates baseball and had old friends to dine with, so decided to leave.  I sat at the bar, by myself, LOVING the amount of people in this silly Yosemite bar cheering so loud for the Giants.

An older man sat next to me and soon enough, we were friends.  His name is Dennis.  We ordered another drink, watched the game, talked baseball, childhood t-ball, father/daughter relationships, love relationships, Yosemite, jobs, everything.

– I’m here celebrating my 39th anniversary with my wife.

– Congrats!  That’s awesome.

– Thanks.  Yeah, thank goodness we’re just such great friends… aside from the romantic relationship and all.

– Yeah, that must help.

– Well, see… it’s all about compromise… every relationship is… but I think you’re too young to know that.  Do you compromise in your relationship?

– Ha… I try.  But, then again, I was sitting by myself at a bar because I wouldn’t let my boyfriend convince me to go have dinner with his friends.

– Haha… Good for you.

We ended up hugging after the Giants won and I congratulated him again on the amazing place he’s at in life… he wished me luck and thanked me for the good talk.  Friends.

I walked to a dark picnic table at Camp Four and had another drink, meeting/making new friends over candlelight.

This morning it was raining, Evan was feeling sick…

A sign for a garage sale.  In Yosemite?  Sure.  Let’s do this.

Walk up…

– Heeeeyyyy…

– Heeeeyyyy…

– Jane, right?

– Yeah!  Rachel?

Awesome.  Old friend.  I bought some of her old clothes, Evan was handed the most perfect shirt for him ever and we found Scrabble… which we’ve been kicking ourselves for not bringing this whole time.  Ah-mazing.

The simple simple joys of Yosemite.  Of life, I guess… but everything’s more alive, more gorgeous, in Yosemite.

On the walk away from the garage sale, with our large bag filled with new treasures in hand, we run into Dennis.

– Dennis!

– Rachel!

– Dennis, Evan.  Evan, Dennis.

– Hey, Dennis… I’ve heard a lot about you.

– Ha, oh, ummm… Yeah.

– Good day?

– Oh, it’s always an amazing day here.

– True.  Welp, have a good one.  It was great meeting you.

– So good meeting and talking with you, too!

Simple.

Gorgeous.

The tip of all the amazingness and love found in this valley.

And all to the soundtrack made by a love for our old employee kitchen.  Dillon, a beautiful Yosemite boy, called it “His Love Letter to the Terrace”… the Terrace being the area we lived.  I’ve been playing it non-stop and wish you were all here to sing along…

discarded.

The deodorant I recently bought smells like Yosemite.  Or, wait… no, it smells like the kind I wore in Yosemite.  Either way, it brings me back almost every time I put it on.

Also, I saw a discarded bouquet this morning.  It brought me back.  Again, to Yosemite.

One day I came back to my tent to find a bouquet of flowers on my porch.  Weird.  But exciting.  I walked inside, my roommate was sitting on her bed and I asked her…

– Did your boyfriend leave you these flowers?

– No.  Definitely not.  Pretty sure they’re for you.

– Who would give me flowers?

– I dunno.

And the mystery continued.  I asked all my friends.

– Hey, seriously, did you guys put these on my doorstep as a joke?

No one did, they swore.

So, I figured it was a mistake.  Someone got the tent wrong.  Poor girl missin’ out on flowers and poor boy botching the swooning.

Luscious life in Yosemite continued.  We had a Dead Poets Society night.  We all sat around the fire and read our favorite poems, our own poems, song lyrics, beautifulness.

Then it was Andrew Castle’s turn.

Andrew was a tall, gangly, red-headed boy who’s mystery knew no bounds.  His dance moves were amazing and his climbing was worthy of awe.

Andrew didn’t have a piece of paper to read off of, no journal, no book… He just started reciting, almost rapping, the most amazing poem I’d ever heard.  And he kept going… and going!  Rhyming about life and love and heartbreak and food and dancing and silliness and seriousness.  It was amazing.  Jaws dropped.  We’d clap with no control, hoot and holler in smiling amazement.  It was awesome.

No one wanted to follow.  We played music and sang the rest of the night.

The next day, in the kitchen, Andrew was there.

– Hey, awesome job last night!  I did not know you were so talented.

– Oh, thanks.  Yeah, it’s just something I enjoy.

– Well, we all enjoyed it.  Strong work.

– Thanks.  Hey, did you like your flowers?

– What?

– Those flowers I left for you.  Someone discarded them at a wedding I worked at last week.  They were pretty.  They reminded me of you.

– Oh, wow.  Thanks.  I love them.

– We should hang out sometime.  I like your style, Rachel Stevens.

I like your style, Rachel Stevens.

Ha.  I had never had anyone be so brave, so forward.

I didn’t know what to say.  I was taken so off guard.

And of course I didn’t hang out with him.  Of course I have to make life/love more difficult for myself.  Won’t take a risk with the off-the-wall spoken word poet who “likes [my] style”.  No, I have to fall for the boys who steal my Billy Collins books and then tell me they won’t love me.  What fun would life be if I didn’t make love difficult?  Oh, wait… Probably a lot of fun.

Though, Andrew Castle did get busted for acid and kicked outta the park.  So, that probably wouldn’t have been fun.

learning to climb, love, live.

I have so much love for a certain place.  Many places, actually, but maybe the most love for Yosemite.

Our access to climbing and camping in Yosemite is in danger, though.  Check it out.

The Access Fund encourages us to write a letter to the park.

I wrote a letter, thinking that it would just be a couple simple sentences.  But man, oh man… I love that place…

one of my first days ever in yosemite.

my first climb ever in yosemite valley.

boystown olympics with loves in yosemite valley.

anna and me climbing in yosemite valley.

To: Kristine Bunnell
From: Rachel Stevens

Dear Kristine,

Past summers I have worked anywhere from a Taco Stand Server to an Interpretive Naturalist to live in Yosemite Valley. To revel in the amazing granite walls, the Merced, the wildlife and the people; I would do about anything.

Climbing is such an important part of who I am now. I first learned how to climb at Cookie Cliff in Yosemite. The prospect of shutting it down breaks my heart.

Planning trips back to visit Yosemite, I expect to camp primitively, enjoying the Valley like it should be enjoyed… Bright stars, fresh air, dirty hair…

The changes you want to make not only limit the magic of Yosemite Valley for myself and so many alike, but they are also the last resort behind steps that haven’t even been taken.

If you want to preserve and show respect for the Valley, the river, then start with fundamental problems. The traffic in Yosemite is out of control. Think about the fuel emissions clogging up Yosemite Valley (only one mile wide by seven miles long!). A free transport into the valley with the current shuttle system running would solve so many problems.

And think: If people are limited to what they bring in, it is inevitable that they will leave behind less… as well as feed the wildlife less of their own fruit roll-ups and beef jerky… because now they have a limited amount instead of the Costco boxes waiting in their cars for bears to bust into.

Yes, life will be inconvenient for many Valley dwellers… especially climbers trying to drive to coveted climbs before their 2pm Taco Stand shift starts… but in the end, people will deal, the Valley will thrive.

Yosemite is where I learned to climb, learned to love, learned to live. Please do not restrict the ability for any of these opportunities to thrive.

And now a word from a organization I sponsor…

Thank you for the opportunity to provide scoping comments to the Merced Wild and Scenic River Plan (MRP). Please consider the following points when developing a user capacity program for the Merced River planning area. Yosemite is perhaps the most important climbing area in the world and Park planners should use this plan to protect and enhance climbing opportunities.

Climbing Should Be Identified as One of the Merced River’s Outstanding Remarkable Values

The Wild and Scenic River Act provides for the preservation of “outstandingly remarkable scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife, historic, cultural, or other similar values.” Climbing in the Merced River planning area fits the “recreational” category for an outstanding remarkable value and should be protected and enhanced as such. To be included as an ORV, a value must meet two criteria. It must be (1) river-related, and (2) a unique, rare, or exemplary feature that is significant at a comparative regional or national scale. Much of the climbing in Yosemite Valley and Merced River Gorge segments of the planning area lies within a quarter mile of the river and is undeniably linked to the river and its processes. Climbing in Yosemite has also inspired several guidebooks, thousands of unique routes, and countless stories and legends. It is well established that climbing in Yosemite Valley’s Merced River planning area is a unique, rare, and exemplary recreational activity that attracts visitors regionally, nationally and internationally. Accordingly, YNP should reference climbing as an Outstandingly Remarkable Value for the Merced River Plan.

Yosemite’s User Capacity Framework Should Consider Climbing’s Unique Characteristics

Yosemite National Park should consider the unique characteristics of climbing, and develop management policies in the MRP that enhance the climbing experience while protecting current use levels and environmental conditions. To protect and enhance Yosemite climbing, the MRP should address:

• Transportation into the Park.
• Increased camping opportunities, with more primitive sites.
• Parking spaces at traditional climbing access trailhead locations.
• Intra-Park transportation with bus stops placed at major climbing access trailheads.
• Maintained climbing access trails, staging areas and descent trails.
• Ability to stay in the Valley for extended periods. The climbing in Yosemite is among the most difficult in the World and takes weeks to master even for expert climbers.
• Amenities such as groceries and showers and the climbing equipment shop.
• Interpretive and educational facilities for and about climbing, including a climbing museum.
• NPS support facilities and services, including Search and Rescue and the Climbing Ranger program.

Critical to maintaining the outstandingly remarkable values of the climbing experience in Yosemite Valley and Merced River Gorge are the following qualities:

• A healthy and protected natural environment.
• Reduced development in Yosemite Valley.
• Primitive camping opportunities.
• Effective transportation to and from climbing access trails.
• Maintained climbing access trails.
• A quiet soundscape consistent with the Valley’s wilderness designation, NPS regulations and the California Vehicle Code.

Unlike other recreational activities, climbing is a widely dispersed activity taking place in a vertical landscape with thousands of possible routes and destinations. Other uses, by comparison, are limited to far fewer established trails, picnic sites, and boating locations. Accordingly, Yosemite planners should take into account the unique characteristics of climbing and not unnecessarily affect Yosemite’s climbing access in the MRP.

The Merced River Plan Must Allow for Access to Areas Outside of the Planning Area Boundary

The Merced River Plan and any user capacity model adopted by the NPS must allow climbers to access areas outside the Merced River Plan boundary. Many approach trails used to access climbing walls (such as El Capitan and Half Dome) pass through the MRP planning area. Yosemite’s user capacity model should not unreasonably restrict access to outstandingly remarkable recreational values within the planning corridor. Importantly, YNP should also not place unreasonable restrictions on legitimate activities located just outside of the Merced River Plan boundaries but which require access through the planning area. No other activity has the same dynamic as climbing whereby passage through the planning area at many dispersed locations is necessary, and it is critically important that YNP recognize this circumstance and manage for reasonable use limits at least consistent with existing low-impact climbing use levels.

In short, I support recognizing climbing as an “outstandingly remarkable value” for the Merced River planning area, and believe that Yosemite’s user capacity framework should accommodate climbing’s unique characteristics in Yosemite Valley and the Lower Merced Gorge. Thank you for considering the importance of Yosemite to climbers worldwide and for your hard work on this extensive planning process.

Sincerely and Passionately,

Rachel Stevens

a view of the valley... and myself.

beautiful loves makin' smores in the valley.

my niece, emerson, who i hope grows up to climb in the valley.

I encourage you [especially my yosemite lovers] to get involved.  Huge props to the Access Fund for keeping us aware and fighting for our passions.

i am done.

It was a hard year.  The hardest yet.

Last fall.  Leaving Yosemite in a blur to try and soften the blows of a family emergency and my sister’s divorce.  The darkness of that.

Fresno.  The tears of family, the delicacy of a two year old in question in your arms.  Hard. The frustration of uncertainty.

The pain of an uncertain love.  Being embarrassed by the pain and hopes of it all.  Dark.  Pain.

Twelve job applications.  No employment.  Lost.  Losing.  No direction.

Jackson.  Laying in bed, not able to get up, can’t see clearly.  Physical pain like I’ve never known.  Waking up in the middle of the night sweating, shaking, freezing, crying, confused.

Five minutes to get up.  Ten to get out the door and into my car.

At the Emergency Care…

– You have a horribly bad kidney infection.  We don’t even know how you got here by yourself.

– [trying not to cry and focus on the face of my doctor or nurse.]

– You could either just take the antibiotic for $4 or the shot for $170.  We highly recommend the shot.  You need to get something in your system now.

– [trying not to cry.] I just can’t afford the shot.  I’ll have to just take the pill.  I’m sorry.

– …We’ll be right back.

They leave the room for about five minutes and then return…

– Well, you’re in luck.  Usually the shot is $170, but today it’s on special for $25.  Would you like it?

– [crying.] Yes, thank you so, so much.

Georgetown.  Home.  Defeated.  In every single area of my life.  Not winning at anything.

Australia.  Australia?  Australia.

The. Family. From. Hell.  I kept searching for hidden cameras.  Not from the family, but from some kind of cable TV show.  This had to be a joke.

Lonely.  The loneliest.  Missing everything.  Everyone.

Crying.  Daily.

New family.

Lonelier.  How?

Mother/boss lost her job.  Fired.  What?  One week’s notice?  Whatever, screw you.  Middle finger to this place; I want to go home.

Beat down.  Defeated.  Desperate for living of any kind.

The darkest time.  Family, love, friends… All torn down, failed.  My own doing.  My responsibility for my darkness.  Powerful.  My responsibility for darkness in general.  Crushing.  Suffocating.  Ready to be done.  Making the decision that there is nothing to live for, nothing in myself that I want to look at… but the belief that maybe [some day] there will be something there again… and having to desperately grasp on to that.

Jackson.  Home.  Friends.  Calling it quits [again] on a love that cannot be willed into working.  Tears… always.  Empty.

Too many jobs.  Worn down.  Good thing?  Yes.

Throwing up.  All night.  Why?  Because this is a bad year.

Finding joy.  Finding light.  Getting excited?  Whoa… slow down.

Ear ache.  Ear infection.  What am I, nine years old?

More sickness.  Scared.

I was ready for it to all be over.  But this time it was different than that way I wanted it to all be over that last week in Sydney.  I’m calling it my bad year… hopefully my worst… and I’m moving on.  But there had to be something to symbolize the end.  Something big.

So I ran a marathon.  In Fresno.  Where this all began.

marathon.

the finish.

I hardly told anyone.  I didn’t tell my closest friends.  This had to be something I did by myself.  For myself.

It was hard.  Rightfully so.

I had a mix of songs throughout the year to listen to.  The songs started in Yosemite and ended with two weeks ago.  It was powerful.  You’re laughing at me, but I don’t care.

A mile for every two weeks.  Running.  Reflecting.  Hurting.

Mile 6, thinking, “Really?  I have TWENTY more miles?  What the hell am I doing?”

Mile 17, the stitch.  My right side, all the way down.  Thinking, “Oh god.  Please let this stop.  I’m never going to make it.”

Mile 20, my ankle failing me.  Thinking, “I want to cry.  I can’t.  I have to keep going.  I want this to be over.”

Men older than my dead grandfather passing me.  Women in metallic wigs passing me.  Me thinking, “Well, this is just embarrassing.”

Finishing.  Time: 4:57.  Slow.  I could care less.

My family there.  Cheering me on.  My sister, my biggest fan.  Yelling so loud, smiling so big.  So proud.  On both ends.

I’ve never been happier.

Finished.

I am done.

I’m glad to be back.

Thank you for everything.

All of you.