Cover photo by Joseph J. Palka III
El Capitan by Full MoonDuring the day you'll see rock climbers, and at night you'll see their
flashlights strung across the face like erratic Christmas tree lights.
—Frommer's guide to Yosemite National Park
Touring the valley after dark from an open tram car, we view
Half Dome, North Dome, Clouds Rest, Royal Arches, Sentinel Rock—
all ghost pale by moonlight. The thready glint of Bridalveil Fall
mists to the valley floor to join the calm Merced of summer.
In the shadow of El Capitan we pause while our young ranger shares
his climber's love of Yosemite's fine granite, the strength of its sheer faces.
He has scaled this tower of rock more times than he now cares to count
(or tell his mother)—each climb a journey lasting days,
perhaps a week or more spent fastened to a monolith the height
of three Empire State Buildings. Shocked murmurs confess
both awe and curiosity. How many are there tonight?
With his flashlight, he calls his brethren from their rest
and the pilgrims answer, a dozen or more, in kind.
Like wise men, we peer upward, drawn to newfound stars
and find ourselves at worship in their cathedral, each light
an act of praise amid the grandeur.