Takeaways From A Yosemite Retreat For Women Fighting Cancer
by Nicole Frati, Lasting Adventures guide
“We are so thankful you are here.”
Those were the first words that came out of Laura’s mouth as I walked up to her and nine other smiling women for the start of our Yosemite hiking adventure. Laura is the organizer of a support group for women battling cancer. This was her tenth retreat in Yosemite, and her third with Lasting Adventures.
I knew I’d be spending the day with cancer survivors when I was assigned to lead this trip—some in remission and some fully recovered. I’d quickly learn that one woman, Bonnie, had been fighting cancer for more than twenty years, and another, Linda, battled through a heart transplant. I felt excited and prepared to connect with such powerful women going into the experience.
What I wasn’t prepared for was how inspiring this group of ladies would be.
These women had spunk. They were happy, chatty, funny, and interested in all that we had to share with them about Yosemite National Park. Between the lot there were nurses, teachers, drivers, dentists, volunteers, mothers, and wives. Each had her own story for how she found this group of supporters, and each had her own reason for being part of our Yosemite retreat.
We took our time conquering the 1.5-mile uphill trail to Sentinel Dome, chatting and getting to know each other along the way. At the base Carol and Bonnie hesitated, unsure how they felt about going for the summit. The granite trail up the dome’s side is a bit exposed and pretty steep with uneven terrain, an intimidating few hundred yards. We didn’t rush, but instead sat and ate lunch while the rest of the ladies climbed up. After enjoying some food and water, Carol and Bonnie were up for the challenge!
We started with small goals. I told the ladies, “Let’s just try to make it to that flat spot right there,” pointing maybe 15 feet above us.
We focused on these short sections of rock, making wide switchbacks so we didn’t have to make too big or too steep of steps. Then suddenly, we were on top!
Carol and Bonnie couldn’t believe it. Another woman in the group, Pat, ran up to celebrate with us.
We moved along with an encouraged pace after Sentinel Dome, and it didn’t take long for me to realize the power of our group’s energy. These women had a trail presence unlike any group I’ve experienced before. Few people passed us without saying hello. We met one family along the way with a young son who was two years cancer free, and they hiked with us for two miles, sharing our stoke.
At one point along the way, my co-guide Lucie yelled to me, “Nicole, look how many people we have!” I turned around to see seven or eight extra people hiking with our group.
I thought they may have wanted us to step aside so they could walk at a faster pace, but I quickly realized that these people didn’t want us to step aside at all; they wanted to walk with us.
They wanted to add to the support, love and spirit that our group inspired. They wanted to be a part of something bigger. Before I knew it, my eyes were filled with tears. Part of me was sad because of the pain and fear these beautiful new friends of mine had to endure. At the same time I was overjoyed to simply have the chance to spend time with them; to soak up their energy, stories, and laughter, and to be a part of such a special day.
The Women Conquering Cancer Retreat in Yosemite marks the third year of our special partnership with women battling and/or overcoming cancer. Lasting Adventures provides this yearly experience free of any charge for this special group. This cause holds a special place in our hearts as our founder, Scott Gehrman, was inspired to create the Lasting Adventures nonprofit program in large part due to his own mother’s struggle with cancer. It was in Yosemite that she found healing and a greater passion for the outdoors that was instilled in Scott, and further spreading that passion is the primary mission of our program.