By: Will Heaps
I genuinely love my job. This could seem weird to some people that know me well. I am an introvert by nature and if I could afford it, I would live, travel, and adventure alone. I would spend my days alone in the wilderness and spend my nights alone in a sleeping bag under the stars. My fear of the dark is nothing compared to the peace I get in solitude. I recharge when I spend time alone, in silence, or in nature. I find energy in being quiet and meditating or reading a book. Those characteristics are not usually what you would expect someone in my position to have. You would expect someone that spends all of their time around new people to be an individual that likes going out and socializing, but I think being okay in my own headspace is what makes me good at what I do as a guide.
Over the past few years I have spent a lot of time in Yosemite. I have walked the same trails over and over. I have told the same stories about John Muir and walked through the same timeline, covering the creation of the mountains, the native peoples, and the pioneers. I have the names and dates memorized and I can tell you exactly where to look to see the evidence of it all. Before I really understood what it meant to be an introvert, I spent all my energy thinking I was the one that had to bring the excitement to the table. I had to pretend to be overly enthused about everything. My boss has been here for 20 years and he still loves coming out on the trail. I wanted to be like him, so I pretended I was as in love with it as I was the first time I saw Yosemite. I hate to admit it, but I was actually growing bored of what I was experiencing. People spend their entire lives with items like Yosemite on their bucket lists and I get to live here, and yet I was getting bored. It really got me down that I wasn’t appreciating everything like I used to.
Then it all changed.
I realized something that made me not only a better guide, but a better person. Just because I see Yosemite almost every day does not mean it is less spectacular. Just because I walk the same trails doesn’t mean hiking has become less enjoyable for me. Just because I tell the same stories does not mean they are less inspiring. I realized that each client I get is in the same position I was in when I drove into the park for the first time in April of 2015. I came up highway 41 from Fresno. I began bouncing in my seat when I signs for the Sierra National Forest. I was grinning like a little kid as I handed my National Parks Passport and National Parks Pass to the ranger at the entry gate. Then, unable to control my emotions, I cried as I saw Half Dome for the first time. I pulled into the Tunnel View parking lot and I wept. I wept! Tears rolled down my face. I am not a big wall climber and I hadn’t put Yosemite on my bucket list and yet I was crying.
When I feel like I am getting “bored” I hold onto that feeling of excitement. Some people drive to an office building they hate each day for work. I get to say hello to Half Dome. Some people spend time with people that don’t appreciate their hard work. I work with clients that are paying for me to spend the day with them. Many people spend years saving for that one outdoor vacation. I backpack for months at a time and get paid to do it. Granted it is work, so other responsibilities are implied, but I’m still hiking. I am sharing my real passion with the people that come to Yosemite. So now, instead of lamenting that I am on the Mist Trail yet again, I remember how amazing it was the first time I ran up and down those steps for fun and realize it is still just as amazing to walk through the mist that shoots up the canyon wall from Vernal Fall. Each time I stand on Half Dome I take in the view with fresh eyes because I have clients that are seeing it for the first time. All I have to do is look at them and you can see the awe. You can see the excitement and that gets me pumped up!
Basically, I am bored no more, because the people are different every week and their energy reminds me of how wonderful it was for me the first time. The enjoyment my clients get from what I can share with them takes me back to those wonderful memories.
So what I have to say is, thank you. Thank you for booking with us. Thank you for bringing that excitement back into the trip. Each day hike and each backpacking trip inspires me to see Yosemite as if it were the first time. I appreciate what I see because I am able to share it with you. The work I do isn’t for me, I have my days off to be alone and read, but the work I do is for you. I share those same facts with you because it will add to your experience and it reminds me of how much has happened in this beautiful park. I walk the same trails because I know what makes them the best and am able to give you a better experience than even I had when I first arrived. I get to relive the joy I felt on my first visit and if it wasn’t for your enthusiasm and your energy, I would not get to have that experience. Thank you for coming to Yosemite.