Texas Hill Country
October 12, 2020
Yosemite can be cold in October, due to the altitude. And as you're probably aware, California is in a major drought.
On the way into the park, I saw the brighest, most vivid rainbow I can remember. It didn't come out well on camera.
The forecast for the day was in the 50s and rain, all day. No one in my family is from somewhere cold. So this was intimidating to us. My cousins and I were resolved to hike up to the falls from the valley floor, but a contingent from the generation above us wanted to hike to the falls from somewhere else. They'd have to hike twice as far, but with no climbing. Their plan was to start extra early, so they cold meet us at the top. But the morning of, it was already raining, and they called it off. My cousins and I were in it alone. This was our hike!
When we started up, it wasn't raining yet, and we had only made it up a few switchbacks before everyone stopped and stripped off their jackets. By the time we covered the steep 3.5 miles to the top, all of us were sweating hard. It had rained a little bit off and on, but never more than a sprinkle. It usually felt good!
On the way up, we got a good look at the falls. You had to squint to barely see a trickle at the very top. Below that, it disappeared. But I was glad there was any water at all. I was worried we'd have to dump the ashes on a rock and just leave it there.
There were a lot of people at the top, taking their time with the view. We slinked off alone, considering what we were doing was technically illegal, and found the trickle of water above the plunge into the valley below. There was a large V-shaped divot, where you could tell the water normally was, with maybe a foot of water flowing down the middle. We found a spot where it made a little cascade, so at least Doug would be put in some kind of waterfall. None of us said much. We all got a handful and left him in his favorite place.
It had been raining while we spread the ashes, but almost as soon as we were done, it came down - hard. All of us piled our layers back on and headed down to the sound of thunder, worried we'd get caught in a violent storm. The trail had become a veritable river, and one of my cousins stumbled five times. It sucked.
When we got to the point that we could see the waterfall again, we changed our minds. Almost by magic, the waterfall was flowing again. It hadn't been there before, but once we added Doug, the waterfall appeared. That made the rain worth it.
I got the last shower when we got back to our cabin, meaning I got no hot water. But some dry clothes and some microwaved leftovers and I felt great again. Wouldn't that have been nice on the Appalachian Trail! Everyone in the family kept asking us how the hike went, and our standard response was, "We'll tell you later." We waited until the whole family was gathered for the informal memorial that night, and my oldest cousin did the honors of telling the story.
My uncle Doug was, as many members of the family have said, "One of the good ones." A universally liked man that will be missed. I was never particularly close to Doug growing up, since we lived several states away, but he still managed to have a large influence. He was the one who introduced me to guitar, backpacking, and Google. As a result, to him I owe a lot of my songwriting, a few of my adventures, and the best job I've ever had. Dedicating my Appalachian Trail hike to him was the right thing to do. If I ever do the Pacific Crest Trail, and I'd like to, that'll be for him as well. This was his place.