By John P. DeGrazio
"One more push," I said. There's always one more. As I pulled my body up the last section of cable, I basked in the warm glow of my accomplishment. I made it! The breathtaking summit of Half Dome was everything I imagined, and more. It was a magical place with a feeling I never wanted to end. The next question was, "How can I stay here forever?" That was a decade ago. My name is John P. DeGrazio, and I moved my family to California two years later. I founded YExplore Yosemite Adventures in 2006 and serve as lead adventure guide. We bring travelers on custom hikes, backpack trips, and photo workshops throughout Yosemite National Park.
As a kid growing up in the shadows of New York City, my dream was always to one day live in the Big City. I realized that dream a couple of years after college, and since I love to eat, I fully embraced its restaurant culture. I figured I'd share this because good food is such an important part of my life. My philosophy on hiking is simple, I hike so I can continue to eat whatever I want. My favorite Nature's Bakery fig bar flavor is Vanilla Raspberry.
Right before I moved to NYC, I took a trip that forever changed my life. My friends and I traveled cross country in search of America's best baseball parks and national parks. The funny thing about the trip is we lost our desire for baseball parks after we entered Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. It was my first national park, wildlife encounter, and pseudo rock climb all rolled into one. I was immediately hooked on all three.
As time passed, my interest in watching sports waned as my passion for the outdoors took control of my life. I wanted to climb every mountain. Mt. Rainier in Washington was my first 14,000 foot peak and the catalyst for my own personal dedication to fitness. Each year brought a new adventure, and although we didn't visit Yosemite on our initial trip, it was central to our return to California.
Moving to the Sierra Nevada is the best decision I ever made. It is a place I excitedly call home, and I am proud to raise my two daughters here. I consider it the best playground any kid could ever imagine. I spend my time hiking, biking, and backpacking everywhere throughout my 40,000 square mile backyard. Since moving here, I have also taken up the sport of rock climbing which provides an indescribable adrenaline rush. I have been on a big wall, but I like to stick with the traditional climbs like Cathedral Peak and the Snake Dike on Half Dome, which was my 100th time on that summit. That reminds me, I need to end this post so I can prepare for another hike tomorrow. I look forward to sharing many more adventures and promise another update soon.