Turning 70 - A Right Of Passage

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Hello, My friends. I know it has been a while. I hope you'll read and forgive me for my absence.

My 70th

It was about to be my 70th birthday. There was a burning desire to do something epic. I just kind of threw out the idea of a rite of passage, figuring it was certainly a milestone to be honored. The implications of what I was presenting myself didn't then occur to me.

My wife Erin and I processed several ideas and came up with well, "let's hike and then climb Half Dome" This is a difficult hike, but beautiful. It fit the criteria of Epic, especially at my ripened age. We had, relatively recently, hiked this trail (The Mist Trail) until what we thought was halfway, to the top of Nevada falls. And although it was hard on us, we really enjoyed it. An absolutely beautiful place in Nature, and a great place to spend a 70th birthday celebration.

I've found that when I set things up like this, for myself, the universe provides me ample opportunity for greater experiences than I imagined. I'm open to that. I did not, however, realize what I was asking for, when I presented, "a rite of passage."

After the fact, I researched the rite of passage, because of the immensity of what I had just experienced. And I'm still in the process of experiencing it.

Supposedly there are three phases to a rite of passage. This phrase was coined by a French. Ethnographer Arnold van Gennep in his work: Les Rites de Passage. The terminology is now adopted into anthropology, literature and popular cultures.

These three phases are separation, transition, and incorporation. He called the transition part liminality. And it's moving from normally one group to another group. And then the process of that, in the transition stage, you're not part of either group. I have no clue what group was I coming from and what group was I moving toward.

I didn't even really think about that as I was setting this up, I just thought: "I'm turning 70 And I need to do something that is difficult to demonstrate to my clients and students that my lifestyle is applicable for a healthy and rich life experience,"

I got more than I bargained for.

The Ascent

The first eight-tenths of a mile is pretty nondescript, just a slight incline, paved and gently rises to the first artifact of the journey, a wooden bridge traversing the Merced River into which the Vernal Falls empties. It's really energizing to hear the water. The sun hasn't peered over the mountains yet, so everything's a little hazy. Our journey begins in earnest after the bridge. The road now transitions into a trail interspersed with rocks with the incline getting steeper for another piece of a mile.

The vernal fall staircase rises in front of us. It is not a normal staircase. These are giant steps of various heights, some of them as much as 24 inches in height, granite steps, and I have a picture as an example for a piece of it. Didn't get a lot of photos on this part because we're just focused on getting up these steps. I did bring sticks, and they were helpful. I'm glad that I brought them, Erin, my wife did not bring sticks but she's in much better shape than I am.

These steps go on for about a mile and then you get to where you can see Vernal falls. These falls are beautiful, as you can see in the picture, dynamic sheets of water crashing down the granite cliffs. The mist comes up as it crashes into the broken blocks and shards of granite below.

At the top of the falls, there is a brief respite, a few feet of flat and then there's a beautiful pond called the Emerald pond. It beckons me but there are warnings not to swim as an undertow would pull one right off the cliff into the falls.

We start another ascent into different kinds of a stairway and the rocks that go up between vernal and Nevada falls are not as organized. They're not quite as steep but they're less sure-footed as the rocks are not as square. It's another mile and a half of this climb. And this time Erin gets ahead of me as I paced myself while we climb.

The sun starts coming peeking over the mountains as we continue to climb, step after step, continuously going up. My legs feel it for sure. But I've done this part of the hike before so at least I know what I'm in for. The crashing waters of Nevada falls have been the soundtrack for a while. Now the falls come into view with a white mass rushing down the slope of the mountain like a hurried force of liquid thunder sliding down sheer granite. It's not a straight drop like Vernal Falls is but more angled. So the water comes slipping down past me into a gorge.

I'm surprised that it's as full as it is because in California we're in a drought. I didn't expect the falls to be as full as they were. I was really happy to see that.

As I finally reach the top of Nevada falls the legs get a little break because the trail is flat for about a mile. The path actually gets kind of sandy and it's that way up to Lake Merced which is the source of the Merced River. It's a body of water that collects the snow melt and the rain that seeps through the granite of the higher elevations until it gets here to this lake.

The woods around it are mostly pines with varied heights. It's not quite a forest, as the dominant landscape is the granite which is so incredibly amazing. This park was formed by a glacier that cut through that granite and made Yosemite Valley and sliced the mountain where we're going, Half Dome, to give its name. There are countless vast walls of sheer granite and the colors of hundreds of thousands of years of evolution etched in them throughout every step of the hike through the beauty of Nature's marvelous wonderland.

After the brief flats, the ascent continues on... and on,,, There are fewer pictures from this phase going up, because the focus is on putting one step in front of the next, with an occasional break for essential water. We brought 5 liters. At the time I thought it was overkill, it turned out to be just enough!

When I thought it must be close to the beginning of the sub dome, I passed a rare sign,

I choked back tears. I couldn't believe there were 2 more miles. I was fatigued. Doubt crept in.

No! I yelled at doubt and told it where to go, back to hell where destructive emotions breed to rob us of our joy and life. I imagined my upper body a sail and the breeze behind me started pushing me up the mountain. I smiled. My mindset training was being put to task, and it worked! I (almost) glided up the path until it disappeared onto pure granite. I'd made it to the base of the sub dome!

There was the peak in the not to distant horizon. I can do this!

Erin was waiting, she was a half hour ahead of me and she was just starting to worry when she saw my tired body and yellow shirt making my way up the sub dome.

We were nearly to the top of the world and the views were truly spectacular!

The reward is a brief rest, listening to the ranger go over the dangers of the final assent. The cables of Half Dome!

The Cables

Erin has a fear of heights and my arms, because I used hiking sticks to help me traverse the mountain, were very fatigued. Therefore, the cables looked to be even more challenging than we thought. But we were going to try.

The angle of ascent is 60 degrees on sheer granite. The cables are steel threads woven into a metal rope. 5-foot poles are drilled into the rock and the cable threads through them so you can grab one cable with each hand. If you don't wear rubberized gloves, they are slippery.

Those poles rise up at 6 feet intervals. With a 450-foot climb, there are 75 of them. We made it to number 6 before Erin said, "I can't do this," and we turned around and came down the left side, walking sideways.

At the bottom, a hiker told Erin she could do it and just needed rubber gloves, and she gave Erin her gloves. Another hiker gave me his. I had rubber gloves but had accidentally brought 2 right-handed gloves. We looked at each other, asking silently if we should try this again.

A man named Larry called out: "Let's go up in a group and encourage each other as we go!" We agreed and started up again. We'd go two or three poles then rest a few seconds. Repeat.

Sometimes folks would come down the left side, we'd go to the right. My arms were shaking. About halfway up I told Erin I was getting dizzy. Wrong thing to say. But Larry, bless his soul, calmed her and told her to go up and he'd stay with me.

I shortened my treks to one set of poles and rested a little longer. Larry kept talking about other things, to get my mind off my stressed body, I suppose. Then a second wind came into my body, refreshing it and I went up four sets of poles, and again, and again, and all of a sudden, I was there and Erin was beaming as she saw me come up, we had conquered Half Dome! I was by far the oldest person in the mountain that day and I got many congratulations. It was exhilarating!

We found a little cave to cool off in. We also ate some fruit and it was delicious!!

Now to go down. It looked downright scary, but gravity really helped and we walked sideways all the way and we figured we had done the most difficult part of the journey!

We stopped to eat some lunch at the summit of Sub Dome. We found a bristle cone pine that gave us some shade. I had dried salmon jerky, half an almond butter sandwich and lots of wonderful water! We were literally on cloud nine!

Except now we had to hike 8.5 miles back to the car! It seemed to take forever. Our calves were already sore from all the steps, going down was much more difficult than I thought!

The Descent

We left the sub dome at 2:30 in the afternoon and arrived at the car at 7:30. Each landmark going down seemed much further than it should have. I realized that our rite of passage was much more than getting to the top, it was completing everything that went with it.

We walked down together for the whole decline. That was really special. Erin is in great shape and quite a few years younger than I. Usually, she power walks way ahead of me and then walks back to check up. We had the same pace going down the entire trail. We talked about what an amazing adventure we just experienced, and took in the beauty of our surroundings. It made the difficult trek back rather delightful!

After arriving at the car, we still had a half-hour drive to the lodge we were staying at El Portal. There was a Pizza place on site and it closed at nine. We were hoping that we could get our order in. Those carbs sounded really good about now!

We made it back in time and I waited in line for about 20 minutes to order, as the lodge was pretty packed! We ate, bathed, and then we had a visitor. A rarely seen Ring-tailed cat.

A relative, but much smaller than its cousin the raccoon, this cute little creature doesn't usually show itself, but she was a messenger. You see we couldn't sleep, and after seeing our visitor, we knew we had to get back to our own furry family left at home -- our sweet 18-year-old kitty, Littlest, and our 3.5-year-old Lab, Ginger. We had a team taking care of them, but we knew we had to get home, so the journey wasn't yet complete.

We left El Portal about midnight and got home about 4:20AM...

I went around and came in the back door since we had given our front door keys to the folks taking care of our furry family. As I walked in, to my left I saw Littlest, our kitty, levitating above her lifeless body. She had just passed. I let Erin in the front door. There were a lot of tears shed that morning. We had a ceremony and buried her the next day.

Our shift had happened. We did our Rite of passage and our lives will never be the same.


I work with energy in my healing practice. At 70 now, I know my practice is changing. I will be focusing more on the energy bodies and less on the physical.

We experience life entirely through our senses. This journey we took led us to maximize that experience. Beyond the sensory world, there is more. We are more than our physical bodies.

It's my purpose now to fully explore that realm that I have been working on the edges of for some 30 years. It's time to dive in.

I know that many folks are skeptical of anything that cannot be seen and proven with the senses. Many others are conditioned by what they were taught and have no place for something so esoteric. That's OK. My work isn't for everyone. We all have to find our truest, deepest, narrowest niche in which to become experts. This will lead to success. Discovering that niche may not require you to go through a Rite of passage, However, I suggest you be certain that you are passionate about what you do put your energy into, or your work will fall by the wayside, discarded for lack of caring.

The tools are here, at WA. But the passion and mindset have to come from you. That cannot be bought or sold, only experienced.

Keep on thriving, my friends!

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Recent Comments


Like Frank said, blew me away. My husband is 73 (me, +6) and still actively driving propane tanker, which does involve a lot of physical work, but he would not be able to do this at all. Me, I would have to crawl up those stairs. We were, at 60, in excellent condition, But use it, or lose it.

You have taken wonderful photos. Those are moments in time captured forever. I want to find an easy hike with photo opportunities. However, mountain views can be awesome looking up. Right? Good work, Al-- and Erin.

P,S, The study of energies and light in physical healing is one of my passions. Best wishes in your future studies.

Thanks, Deelilah, for taking the time to read and comment on my journey.

Use it or lose it is my motto, so I keep challenging myself.

It's great you're active, you have a lot of life to live!

Keep exploring the energy realm, because it's who we truly are, energetic beings of light, temporarily occupying these fascinating organic vehicles.

Keep on thriving!


Wow! What an amazing story the way you tell it! You need to write books!
Also sorry to hear about your cat. I found my parrot of 25 yrs dead one morning and I was heart broken.
He knew about 50 words and could even wave good bye.
I had him stuffed and he's still with us sitting on a beautiful wooden perch that the taxidermist included for only $150.00.
I've never known anyone to do that with a cat🤔 and growing up and until a few yrs ago I have had many cats, they are very independent creatures.
That was an amazing journey you took and a big congrats woo hoo.
Accomplishing something that requires that much energy is a great moral booster way to go!!!

John, thanks so much for your kind words. I'm grateful that you walked the journey with me, and took the time to comment.

It was an epic journey, abd I'm happy I did it.

It was our cat's time. She was old abd I want to remember her in her youth, so stuffing not an option🤣

Keep on thriving, John!

Yes yikes maybe a bird but not a house cat too weird

That's for sure!

What an incredible adventure, Al! Happy 70th. I was totally mesmerizing by your spectacular photos and storyline as you went along, but so saddened to hear of Littlest's passing. And the mysterious ring-tailed cat! That was quite a right of passage, indeed. Life is so strange...and definitely so more than what we can see or feel. Thank you for sharing all this.


Thanks, Susan, fire taking the journey with me.

Yes, life is full of wonder. If we will focus on that rather than the negative, our lives will certainly be abundantly rich!

Our Little Girl😻 is free of pain nose.
Thanks for your sentiment.

Keep on thriving!


My Granddaughter got to make that hike this summer. She reported that it was beautiful to be there.
Congratulations on challenging yourself and completing the challenge. I think that when we celebrate the event and its completion we are building a strong base for ourselves for the future.
Enjoyed the share.

Thanks, Sami!
I'm glad your granddaughter got to enjoy the beautiful experience.

I appreciate you reading and walking through it with me. It certainly was a challenge!

Stay well and keep on thriving!


Wow, what a way to celebreate another year in the life.
Great travelogue, the pictures were breathtaking, thank you for sharing.

I had not thought of rhe compartments of the transition process. That makes so much sense.

Wonderful post, glad I stopped to catch up on some WA reading.

Happy Birthday, Al!


Thanks, Rudy!
I appreciate your time that it took to read my piece.

It was certainty an adventure.

Thanks again for stopping by and keep on thriving!!


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