All my life I have carried this crazy image of my poor mother whimpering, while hugging granite wall during a climb up the railed, stair stepped path to the summit of a great mountain. I don’t know exactly how old I am in this scene, but I venture to say I was about ten years of age when this memory was firmly implanted into my brain. I later learned that the “mountain” in my memory is called Moro Rock; at an elevation of 6,725 feet the rock sits in Sequoia National Park located to the east of California’s Central Valley near Visalia off Highway 198. In recent years I have become known for dangling my feet over the edge of high altitude rocks, waterfalls, cliffs and railings. So naturally, I’ve wanted to see, nay, conquer this rock on my mother’s behalf.
So off I went on my weekend adventure, driving to meet one of my favorite cousins at the Holiday Inn where I would leave my car and hop into her vehicle for a day of hiking. Its amazing what we can find in our own backyard if we just slow down enough to look. I prayed aloud, “Oh, please let me see a bear today.”
After a quick stop at the visitor’s center for maps, ideas and directions we headed to first see the Giant Forest. The Rock mocked me as I got my first glimpse of it in 40 plus years!
We made it to the Congress Trail that starts at the magnificent General Sherman tree (the biggest tree in the world!) and proceeds on in a 2 mile loop winding near the giants known as the General Lee, the McKinley, and the President trees as well as the groupings known as the House and the Senate. The size of these giants is incredible and so hard to describe! They don’t even fit in a picture!
After spending a few hours exploring, we decided to head over to Moro Rock for the face off. We hopped on the shuttle which conveniently saved our feet from having to march another two miles. Incredibly, we were dropped off at the base of the 350 step stairway to the top of the Rock.
Up we went…breathing like we were running a marathon and snapping pictures all the way. I turned a corner to realize the very ledge I saw in my dreams. It was exactly where my mom froze and my young hopes of summiting the Rock froze right along with her. I recall my father peeling my mom’s hands off the granite and gently guiding us down the steps until she could feel safe on the flat ground. I felt cheated at not being able to get to the top.
I yelled to my cousin, “Quick, take my picture! This is how I remember my mom doing it.” We blocked traffic as we laughed and exchanged barbs about being Mexican and laughing too loudly. We feigned worry that Mr. Trump would ask us to leave the Rock and the Country as punishment.
Onward and upward we went. Facing the west, we stopped for air, and to take in the view of Generals Highway, Hanging Rock and of course the valley.
To the east we could see the Eastern Sierras of the Great Western Divide. This short trek did not disappoint.
All of a sudden, there we were, at the top. I scrambled to get my victory photo and whispered to myself into the wind, “This is for you mom.”
Eventually we returned to the trailhead and eventually said goodbye to Sentinel Tree located near the Museum building, bought some souvenirs and headed back to the valley.
As cousins are apt to do, we chatted in an animated fashion as we descended the curvy road, periodically reading signs warning us to save our brakes. As we rounded a bend, I saw a shadow in the shrubs adjacent the road.
“Look, LOOK!,” I gasped, “that looks like a bear!”
“No!” she gasped.
I said, “Hurry, turn around!”
She drove to the nearest turnout, made a u-turn and headed back up the hill. Sure enough, my wish had come true. There before us, was a hungry black bear absentmindedly eating berries while I happily clicked away with my camera.
We made it to the valley floor, grabbed a bite to eat at a small little bakery / grocery store /restaurant in Farmersville. We ate until we couldn’t “breaf”and then my cousin dropped me off at the Visalia Holiday Inn. I looked forward to peace, quiet and alone time. My long day of adventure had finally caught up with me. I hugged some trees, conquered a Rock, shot a bear and now, sweet rest was my reward.
It wasn’t until about a week later, when I finally decided to put my duffle bag away, did I notice a small box. I opened it to find a replica of the Geographic Names System marker for Moro Rock. My cousin must have snuck it into my bag when I wasn’t looking. It brought tears to my eyes. She knows I have one for Half Dome and Mt. Whitney both places I forced myself to gird my loins to conquer. I treated myself to those souvenirs as earned badges of courage.
This was different though. The Moro Rock marker, to me, represents our little trek as family, on behalf of family. This marker represents the efforts and successes of generations past, present and future. I can’t have expected any different from her. She always encourages me, no matter the challenge.
I couldn’t love her more.
Thanks for being my friends!