A Walk in the Woods
By Kimberly Kradel
Mirror Lake, Yosemite Valley, USA
Nothing I can say would do Yosemite justice. Even when I am there, I don’t like to talk much.
Instead I like to wander. Alone. Quietly alone. Along the paths at the eastern end of The Valley. Many of the trails that lead off of Happy Isles Loop Road go directly up into the mountains, some paths are paved. some not, but almost all are mid-to-difficult climbing trails. There is one trail that is an easy hike from Happy Isles, and that is the Mirror Lake Trail, one of my favorites. There are two parts to this trail – a fully paved road from the trailhead to the lake, easy to walk and easy to bike. The other part of this is a dirt hiking trail that runs parallel to the paved road, unseen, and that is the trail I prefer to take.
Walking the trails alone are a bit of a meditation. And the visual images I get from these nature walks are a meditation too. As I walk, through the trees, around the rocks, my thoughts run the gamut, from wondering about what kind of plants or trees that I’m looking at to contemplating age, both in years and in millennia, both mine and the path. Look at how the path twists and turns, or divides to go around a rock. Who takes the right side? Who takes the left? Why should such decisions have to be made when out in nature? Just go. The path leads forward, just keep walking. But every now and then I just stop and take a deeper look around me.
Once at the lake, vistas and reflections take on a meditative tone as well. It is late in the year, late autumn, so the water level is low. No winter snow or rains to fill it yet. Even so, I wait for ripples to settle. The ones made from children throwing stones into the lake. Watching the light and shadows change as the sun rises over Half Dome and begins to fill the valley with clear sunlight. No fires or smoke at this moment. Looking beyond what is in front of me to see into the depths of the forest. Waiting for people to move along so I can capture the image I really see in front of me.
It’s only recently that I have started to take my landscape photography seriously. Previously, I only used my camera as a note taking tool on my travels. My creativity played out elsewhere, with abstraction, paint and canvas and paper. Right before the pandemic I had set a project goal for myself, to record the beauty of the world before the changes we know are coming set in. Before our landscapes change irrevocably. But I want to record those images too. To see beauty in the chaos and the changes that are out of our control.