Why I recite Gary Snyder on my favorite fall hikes in Yosemite

Perhaps because “For All” remains a favorite of mine by Gary Snyder, I tend to associate his work with autumn (Ah to be alive/on a mid-September morn/fording a stream…). Although upon further consideration, this affinity doesn’t make total sense, because when I was lucky enough to meet him and hear him read in Yosemite, it was winter. But winter in Yosemite Valley is sort of like autumn in the rest of the world as the landscape is usually brown and yellow and the temperatures above freezing. Except for last year with above-average snow covering the Valley in an unusual white blanket. Hmm..

So perhaps I don’t have a very good reason to find myself reciting “I pledge allegiance to the soil/of Turtle Island/and to the beings who thereon dwell/one ecosystem/in diversity/under the sun/With joyful interpretation for all” and his other verses more frequently once the leaves change color, but the music of one of my “hero” poets is welcome any time of year.

In celebration of the impending autumn—a sublime season in Yosemite—and in honor of a poet a cherish (any season of the year) below are photos of some of my favorite fall hikes coupled with the words of Snyder, which seem to echo from the earth.

Mt. Conness

Mt. Conness from Maul Lake, October 2005

“Range after range of mountains
Year after year after year
I am still in love.”


Budd Lake 

Budd Lake, November 2005 

“Above, back there, the snowfields
Rocked between granite ribs
Turn spongy in the summer sun.”
 Mono and Parker Passes

 Mono Pass and Summit Lake, October 2005

To climb these coming crests
One word to you, to
You and your children:                                                                                                                      
Stay together
learn the flowers
go light


 Taft Point

Boulder on Taft Point, November 2005

“empty sky
molding to fit the shape of what the ice left”
Dana Plateau
Mt Dana and the Dana Plateau, November 2009
“Sierra Nevada
could lift the heart so high
fault block uplift”


Yosemite Valley

El Capitan, November 2008

“Buttresses cracked,
Sheared, leaning, 
Friction only, ready to fall,
All of the high ridge
An assembly of accidents
Defying a few more minutes”
Gaylor Lakes

 Gaylor Lake, July 2007

“--the wideness, the
foolish loving spaces

full of heart.”


 Conness Lakes

Conness Lake, September 2006

“Mist rising—streams falling—
snow melting—
rocks weathering
us descending.
Clark’s Nutcracker hollering
A day to be alive and wandering through.”