Fill in the Blank

Dear ______,

It’s me! I made it! El Dorado, the City of Gold, the Yosemite of ___! I’m so excited to be here, and you’re totally right! This really is the Yosemite of ___. The beautiful valleys; the majestic towering walls of perfect white granite; the clear, cool ___ River meandering its way peacefully through the meadows below… what a paradise! Yep, the livin’s good here in ___. Well, except for the ___s.

The ___s are like nothing in Yosemite. They come in swarms at the most inopportune time, constantly annoying and distracting you in the middle of some important task. Passing a knot, cruxing out on some flared doll’s butt of a crack thirty feet above terrible pro, taking the rope out of your ATC, you know. Makes you wish you had a fly swatter! There are so many of them it’s ridiculous; and they inevitably find their way onto the best lines during the best weather. Aargh!

Come to think of it, the weather’s a little different, too. Well, it’s no Yosemite Valley, you know what I mean? I mean, sometimes it will just rain and rain and rain for days on end. Nine days of rain I counted! And then, when the sun DOES come out, you get FRIED! ___ and I forgot sunscreen of course; and there’s no conveniently located Village store where you can buy some, of course; so we’re basically dying here, of course. ___’s neck is scabbed from burns, and my nose feels like it’s going to fall off. And it’s so F-ing hot! No High Sierra, I’ll tell you that much. Even in the jungle on the approaches where it’s nice and shady, the heat and humidity has you sweating like it’s Apocalypse Now.

That’s another thing, too. The Jungle approaches! Oh my god. If I take one more bamboo-skewer laden death trap step on these crazy, dangerous, jungle bushwhack fifth-class-tree-climbing-army-crawling-mud-wallowing so-called “Trails”, I think I’ll hurl. It’s no John Muir Trail, that’s for sure.

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And then you get to the base, and you’re totally exhausted; and you look up and the cracks all flare back to these closed unprotected water grooves that look like a doll’s butt; and you’re all loaded down with wire brushes, and heavy tag lines, and gardening gloves to clean the vegetation, and five different varieties of offset widgets to try and protect the unprotectable; and everywhere you want to get a jam there’s mud or dirt or moss or bushes and you’re way above your last shitty pro and there’s a ___biting your leg and you’re foots slipping on that dirt and you’re wire brush is all prickly in your chalk bag and you start to think, “Hmm, the Rostrum really wouldn’t be such a bad place to be right now.”

So I guess it really isn’t so much like Yosemite here. But you know, in a weird way, that’s part of what makes it like Yosemite in the end. All the differences combine to create this unique experience, this wild place and time that rivals what I imagine it must have been like to be in the Valley in the Goldren Age. It’s unique here. Special. Small. You get to know every climber in the valley while you’re here. You sit around soggy camp fires and share your stories, hate the ___s together, and revel in the glories. You come down off the route you’re opening at 10 PM, and the sun is just setting. You’re dehydrated, disheveled, dirty, and damn-near defeated by the hours of climbing, cleaning and cursing. But you feel like Royal Robbins or Warren Harding, and the cuts and dirt in your hands stay with you as souvenirs and mementos of the work you’ve done on untouched stone. Nothing’s easy here in ___. You gotta work for it, gotta earn it. I guess that’s why I like it. Nothing’s a gimme, nothing a sure bet.

___ isn’t Yosemite Now, it’s Yosemite Then. That fact actually puts ___ at a tough crossroads right now. You see, the land here is not exactly protected. It’s actually owned by some rich fat-cat in ___, who purportedly purchased the land for mining, or hydro-electric purposes. A lot of people are sort of nervous about his intentions. So basically, the more climbers, trekkers, and outdoors enthusiasts we get down here to see this beautiful place, the better chance we’ll have of being able to protect it. There’s no doubt, ___ could use all the friends it can get. The problem is, the more friends that ___ makes, the more endangered the Spirit of ___ becomes. That special unique feeling you get from being here, in the thick of it, opening routes in the Golden Age of ___! The last thing you want to do is turn this place into another Yosemite Valley, you know? Teeming with tourists, covered with cars, grappling with way more garbage and consumption than the place can handle. I don’t know what to do! What’s worse? Should we keep it secret, or keep it safe? Is there any way to do both?

Of course, maybe I’m all wrong. Maybe I’m totally backwards on the whole thing. Perhaps the Spirit of ___ is always secret, always safe, because it lives within the hearts, minds, and souls of adventurers, explorers and wanderers everywhere. The pioneers of Yosemite found it within by fathoming the vertical realm in a way never before dreamed of. Now, in ___, we find it through the exploration of somewhere new, remote, a little more inaccessible. We run into new obstacles here, new challenges to overcome; whereas the challenges of old in Yosemite have largely been thwarted by new technology, improved technique, and the repetition of bold routes by masses.

As the pioneers of ___ we get the distinct and awesome privilege of first dibs. We put in the work, time, and effort, and in my mind we get the biggest reward. But part of the human experience is to share. There must be no ownership of the majestic. We have the responsibility as pioneers to share what we love with the people we love. And if we really DO love it, to try to protect it the best we can from destruction and corruption by selfish interests. Nor can you expect or hope to share the place only with those whom you love. For your loved ones have other loved ones, and their loved ones have others still, and so on and so forth, and if you continue on down the line you will find that love spreads out from you like wild fire, touching every being and corner of the globe. Everyone and everything is loved. Everyone and everything is holy. Everyone and everything is Yosemite, and ___.

And everything changes. I think for me that is the hardest, but most crucial, thing to accept. Of course, not all changes are equal. We can’t freeze ___ in time any more than we could the Golden Age of Yosemite. But we damn-well can keep it from getting dammed; smoke and gas and concrete and re-bar, and chugging engines churning up the soil, spilling their refuse into the clear waters of the ___ river, turning crystal clear blue to murky brown lifelessness. I see that change as an inarguable travesty, and a disastrous loss for the entire planet. I’d rather see the slow change characteristic of our National Parks back home, and the throng of REI catalog tourists that visits them – that bizarre diffusion of wilderness and amusement park – any day.

In the end, Yosemite’s really not that bad. Yeah, the cars, the road, the roar. The people, the tour buses, the village store. I know. But if you sit in El Cap Meadow, and look up and up and up forever and ever, and your jaw doesn’t drop a little, and our heart doesn’t fly a little, then you may not really be alive. Don’t get me wrong. It’s no ___. But still, it’s not bad. Not bad at all. At least a hell of a lot better than a gravel pit.

Ah well, sorry to get all preachy there. I don’t know, this place just kinda does that to me… Anyway, I gotta run! ___ and I are about to go send our route! It’s totally sick. Definitely the Rostrum of ___! Enjoy the mother country! See you soon!

Your Friend,

___

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