Updated: Nov 12, 2020
“Inspiration, move me brightly. Light the song with sense and color;
Hold away despair, more than this I will not ask.
Faced with mysteries dark and vast, statements just seem vain at last.
Some rise, some fall, some climb, to get to....”
--Jerome Garcia, Robert Hunter
SurvivingBreastCancer.org founder and executive director Laura Carfang, myself, and best friend for life Braydon Germain recently experienced the most wondrous, inspirational vacation imaginable.
Allow me to start this narrative at a point that seems so very long ago. Laura was diagnosed with breast cancer some 18+ months before this expedition @ the tender age of 34. Prior to that she and I (her most willing caregiver) would run up monthly to NH, from our base in Boston, MA to experience the wonder of the White Mountains. We would camp, hike, bicycle, swim, and marvel at the natural spectacle that surrounded us. Occasionally we would trek out to the Great Southwest to do the same at National Parks in Colorado, Utah, and Arizona. However, after she was diagnosed with breast cancer we were forced to scale back these activities to accommodate chemo infusions, surgery, more chemo, radiation, and finally, and most recently hormonal therapies and night sweats and more.
Throughout her journey we would philosophically reminisce about how much we missed the enjoyment of participating in and getting back to nature. So we set a goal to once again head out to the wilderness to experience nature at her finest.
We scheduled a date and place, July, 2018, Yosemite National Park, and invited our dear friend, Braydon Germain, to accompany us.
Braydon, a young recording engineer in a famous LA studio, was up for the challenge. We informed him that our itinerary was to fly to LA, visit some old friends from NH who moved out that way (another cancer survivor), travel northeast 6 hours to Yosemite, explore for 8-10 days, then head over to San Francisco to finish up with a multi-day stay there before hosting a survivingbreastcancer.org meet and greet with our partners Driver.XYZ. If he so desired, we’d pick him up in LA and take him along for as much of the two-week vacation that he could tolerate. His response was “I’m in it for the entirety.” So off we went.
Yosemite is right up there with some of the most must-see destinations in the world. It occupies John Muir’s “range of light” in the Sierras. It is a land of incredible diversity and features elevations that range from 2,000 to 13,000 feet above sea level. There are several groves of giant sequoias, the largest, and among the oldest living things on this beautiful earth.
The magnificence of the mountains, valleys, rivers and lakes remind one of the Book of Genesis. El Capitan is beyond remarkable, Yosemite Falls is gigantic and the uniqueness of Half Dome is striking. Seeing all of this in person leaves you totally inspired.
"I knew Yosemite was going to be spectacular, but nothing could have prepared me for the breadth of impactful moments it gave me. The scenery we experienced allowed me to tap into my childhood wonder, and the challenges I faced on my Half Dome hike unveiled deep layers of my subconscious mind. I will always look back at my time in Yosemite and how the Sierras turned my close friends into family."
And it is exactly the experience of that inspiration that was so transformative. For 8 days we hiked, swam in the ice-cold Merced and Tuolumne Rivers, dove into Cathedral Lakes, camped along the rivers and cooked 4 star meals, including freshly caught brook trout, over a raging, hot fire.
“Only by going alone in silence, without baggage, can one truly get into the heart of the wilderness. All other travel is mere dust and hotels and baggage and chatter.”
It was as if the Three Musketeers came to life in one of the most remarkable parks known to mankind. After dinner we’d clean up and then sit by the fire, waxing philosophic about life, music, literature, etc. The discussions were lively, entertaining and even businesslike on occasion. Of course, the focus would turn to survivingbreastcancer.org and how to build up the non-profit to be able to positively impact as many survivors and caregivers lives as possible.
Following our stay at Yosemite we drove through California’s fertile plains and navigated our way to the picturesque Big Sur. This fantastic and rugged stretch of California coastline is stunning and reminds one of the Beats authors Kerouac and Brautigan coming to terms with life’s demons by confronting their internal struggles, ghosts and various states of consciousness.
Through our time together we had this feeling of being in the presence of something vast or beyond human scale. Meditating on the beach, sleeping under the stars, hiking along the coast, diving into the icy Pacific, our togetherness transcended our current understanding of things. This truly electrifying experience, positively impacted our lives in measurable ways.
It taught us to live in the moment.
It inspired us to be better;
To delve into our consciousness;
To strive for excellence;
To be at peace with who and what we are.
The impact of experiencing such inspiration has vast potential to lift one’s spirits, improve health, and assist you with your developing mindfulness.
Intentionally pursuing it will change your life for the better.
Use the power of positivity to solidify your place in the world.
“Ere dawn had kissed the level valley floor / He climbed to summits through the sleeping wood / By the inerrant guide of forest lore, / And found companionship in solitude / He feared no beast and by no beast was feared / And none was startled when his shape appeared.”
-- Excerpted from the poem, “With Muir in Yosemite,” Robert Underwood Johnson