Last week I backpacked in Yosemite for 5 days with dear family friends. It was glorious beyond imagination. We went off-trail to Nelson Lake for 2 nights and then Cathedral Lake for another 2. The weather was perfect, and it felt like we had the whole park to ourselves.

Moving my body day after day, feeling a unity with nature in its most awesome form, I don’t even mind the sleepless nights. (By the way, the shooting stars at 5am are amazing!)

During one of the days, we decided to hike up to a peak of an unnamed mountain by Nelson Lake. It was there that I learned all about the dangers of scree.

Scree flowing down the mountain

Scree is what happens to granite after years of erosion. Scree can be pebble sized, but larger rocks are often in the mix (talus) which can also cause quite a bit of trouble.

To the inexperienced hiker, hiking on scree can seem at first no different than walking up a sand dune or gravel mound. For every 2 steps forward, you slide one back. One of my experienced hiker companions laughed at me as I plunged upward, huffing and puffing. She, being a wise hiker, was focused on finding more secure footholds in the nearby terrain, conserving her energy.

I was in a rush. Why? My ego wanted to keep up with the younger guys. I didn’t want to have to think about every step I took. I just wanted to GO!

And then I put my foot on a larger rock in the middle of scree, thinking that it would hold my weight. It didn’t. It didn’t slide very far, thankfully, but it was enough to scare me into a slower, more mindful climb.

My Lesson no. 1

Be cautious with concepts that may seem solid, but are only based on the slippery slopes of delusion.

Eventually we made it up to the peak (the view!!!). Lunch at 10,000 feet is absolutely spectacular.

look at that stack of rock! Amazing.

We had hoped to have an easy descent down the backside of the mountain, but were stopped by impassible cliffs. We had no option but to return the way we came (this was not a pleasant option for anyone).

Now, going down a slope of pure scree is actually kind of fun, as long as you don’t mind shoes filled with tiny pebbles. You just slide down heel first and let gravity do its work. Whee!!

My Lesson #2

Don’t be surprised to bring home a bit of what I spend the day knee deep in.

But alas, no such luck for us. We had to descend was a mixture of solid granite slabs, loose rock, and scree.

That meant every footstep had to be considered.


If there is one thing I really don’t like doing (shocking!!) it is putting my concentration on every step of the way.

Did I mention it was hot? It was.

Did I mention that we were disappointed not to have reached the peak that we had hoped for?

This is when it got scary. Scree on top of solid granite, going downhill.

Guidance for inexperienced hikers: “Nose over toes.” If I kept my hips hinged (sticking my butt out behind me) I could keep my weight balanced over my feet so they wouldn’t slip out from under me.

My Lesson #3

Before anything tricky, find balance.

It was after falling twice (!!) on my butt and dislodging rocks that went tumbling down the hill that I had to seriously rethink every step.

My Lesson #4

Sometimes I just have to go super slow in life. It’s no fun at all, but it’s better than injury.

I also learned how to yell “ROCK!” when you send one rolling down the mountain. They pick up speed FAST, and people below need the heads up to get out of the way. Thankfully, by the grace of God, no humans were harmed by my sloppy descent.

photo credit: Sitabai Betts

My Lesson #5

When I make a mistake, immediately own it.

One of our crew also fell and dislocated a finger. So grateful that he had the support from the others to make it down safely (he made it through the whole week and even climbed another peak).

Eventually we made it back to solid granite, which felt like heaven.

My lesson #6

I walk with such joy when I’m on the granite slabs of Truth.

my favorite place to play

Exhausted mentally and physically, we made it back to camp for tea, swimming, another amazing meal, and a stunning sunset below.

time lapse of sunset – we hiked to the top!

There was much more to this trip that opened my heart, filled me with strength, and refueled my inspiration, but I will let the pictures do the talking.

6 Lessons from Falling on the Scree of Life

11 thoughts on “6 Lessons from Falling on the Scree of Life

  • August 16, 2020 at 7:14 am

    Beautiful adventure & great read.
    Thanks, David!

  • August 16, 2020 at 8:27 am

    Love the picture of dad and daughter. And love all the lessons nature taught you.
    blessings great soul.

  • August 16, 2020 at 10:12 am

    Oh, what a wonderful adventure! Thank you for this wash of pure Nature and her constant lessons!

  • August 16, 2020 at 11:50 am

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful trip! I feel like I was there with you without the scree in my shoes.

  • August 16, 2020 at 3:26 pm

    Lovely, David! And quite the adventure as well!

  • August 16, 2020 at 3:35 pm

    Thanks for sharing your adventure and valuable lessons with us! Everything really is about yoga! šŸ˜‰

  • August 19, 2020 at 7:52 am

    Wonderful, the John Muir Trail and Yosemite Sierra nature!
    Such spaciousness and light! What a delight!

  • August 20, 2020 at 9:43 pm

    Oh, I LOVE that time lapse video of sunset, I am suddenly there again!

    Another life lesson the mountains teach me each and every time:
    “The challenging peaks of life can seem so high, so far and insurmountable. With a song in my heart, God by my side, one step at a time (sometimes sliding back nearly as much as going forward), stopping often for new perspective, I get there every time. Climb every mountain!”

    Love ya, David! ~Sitabai

  • August 26, 2020 at 11:05 am

    What a day. Wonderfully told. I’m reminded of stupid things I’ve done in my youth – jumping in a mountain slope of snow and literally creating and riding an avalanche. Running into a dangerous area of massive talus in New Mexico and being warned off by a park ranger with a lot more brains than I had. Lesson: “You can only do the best you know how.” – Paramhansa Yogananda

  • August 26, 2020 at 12:41 pm

    Wonderful story and amazing picture! My favorite lesson;

    My Lesson #5

    When I make a mistake, immediately own it.

    Oh, isn’t that the way to avoid so many hassles and feuds in life! And last;


    I walk with such joy when Iā€™m on the granite slabs of Truth.


    Thank you David, you’ve inspired us all to find that truth that is revealed in all of nature!

  • August 29, 2020 at 12:06 pm

    Dear David, Thanks so much for this blog and your previous one about hiking with your daughter. I feel refreshed after reading this, like I too got to experience Yosemite again. I hope you will keep blogging, when you feel the urge!


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