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July 2013, vol 9, no 2

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J. Zimmerman

Miles Three and Fourteen

Mile Three

For half my life, I've climbed this trail from the valley floor to the rim at Upper Yosemite Falls. Sometimes in back-melting sun, sometimes in cloud-shade. Sometimes with friends or a lover, sometimes alone. Today, in thickening drizzle, I'm solo. Instead of the usual companionable swarm of families ascending and descending on this glacial-valley wall, almost no one appears as I creep up the rocky zigzags. There's less oxygen this year, and the trail has steepened.

climbing granite
as if time will not end
and another step
will always appear
beneath my foot in the mist

Mile Fourteen

The drizzle strengthens as I begin my cautious descent of the last three miles. Dampness lubricates the quartz grit, making a slick layer between my boots and the tilted granite steps. Five hundred feet below, a dark-haired youth runs up the steps as if he were on a flat trail at sea level. In a minute he reaches me and sprints past without eye contact. After ten more minutes, he's apparently summited and he returns from above, running downhill soundlessly, leaping the steps while I dodder on. In his slipstream, I stumble for a second time in this long day.

a little blood
where my elbow strikes
the granite steps –
no grandchildren in sight
to tell me to stop hiking