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  • Sonya Leigh Anderson

Half Dome

Half Dome Sunrise

(Photo credit to Kiana Anderson –

Half Dome was their dream, but I was the one to win the lottery.

The first time we visited Yosemite, Grant was ten. It was the first leg of our God of Wonders tour, Kyle’s sabbatical “splash,” a whole month of summer travel and exploration. Those were the days when little boys seemed big, no more need for naps and diapers, and we were ready to get after life. A hike up Half Dome. Kyle and Grant researched and dreamed about their Great Adventure. And when the big day came father and son awoke before dawn, CamelBaks and trail mix, and a big little boy in his floppy brimmed hat.

They almost made it. The eight-mile hike to the cable climb, side-by-side with another family whose daughter was twelve. Inspiration enough for an already determined boy to keep climbing. He gave it his all, but in the end it was Dad and son both, resigning, deciding, it would be too much, the risk too great. Eight miles back down to the valley, the sun nearly setting, a mom counting minutes, searching faces, happy relief at their return. And I could hear it then in my husband’s voice as he told the story – pride in a journey, but a dream left undone.

Fourteen years later we’re booking flights and crossing our fingers, taking our chances at receiving passes good for one of the days we’ll be there for the climb. It’s Kyle and Grant and Kiana and me, and in the end it’s my name on the permit, irony’s humor, all of us knowing Mom won’t need the ticket for that final ascent.

It was grueling and glorious. Every vista a breathtaking view, and right from the start I’m – Oh my goodness, this is so amazing! Until I realize my family’s making sport of my repetition, and I remind them of how in Revelation the saints repeat themselves, too.

A picture’s worth a thousand words, and Kiana’s got both. A backpack heavy with professional camera, and plenty of good conversation to pass the time. We catch our breath for photos ops, press pause on chatter for steeper climbs, and by midmorning my competitive daughter-in-law stops wondering out loud if she’s going to make it, and starts talking instead about the cable climb.

And then it’s Kyle asking me one more time if I’m sure I won’t try it, and me getting just a bit heated saying I’ve made my decision, and it’s always like this. This love-hate relationship I seem to have with God’s creation, where everything beautiful has a dark side. Images by day of breathtaking heights, water spilling brilliant over mountain’s edge. Images by night of freefalling terror, strangled by fear on a mountain ledge. Later I’ll pray hard before sleeping, taking thoughts captive and pleading with God.

And then God gives us Anne. A sweet young gal who’s hiking solo, the guys saying she looks like that twelve-year-old girl all grown up. I believe in miracles just enough to risk asking. Have you ever been to Half Dome before? And she tells us no, and says she’d love to summit, but entered the lottery with no luck. And it’s a miracle after all, and I’m near to bursting. We have an extra. You can have my spot! I tell her about how I never intended to climb those cables, how I found this fabulous place just off the trail a mile or so back, perfect for hammock. I’ll finish my hike just before those switchbacks, head down the mountain with a book in my pack.

So it’s Anne joining my family for the final challenge, and it’s me hiking solo a ways back down the mountain, Kiana making a valiant effort, choosing wisely to forgo the cables, father and son reaching summit together. And a picture worth a thousand words.


Photo taken by Anne 🙂

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