Our disappearing paths


I bought this coffee mug in 2016 at the Glacier Point gift shop in Yosemite National Park to add to my collection of mug memories. My son and I were on day three of our summer trip to California. Printed on it is a quote from naturalist John Muir.

“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.”

It was the perfect senitiment to capture this adventure of ours through central California. We’ve hiked a lot of paths together over the years, and more than a few of them have been dirt.


We’d just eaten lunch overlooking Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, and the rest of the famed Yosemite Valley. Can’t say that we’d ever enjoyed a lunch vista quite as breathtaking. We ate tuna and crackers snack packs, normally just a mundane trail boost of protein and calories. In this rarified air, it felt like fine dining. I still vividly remember the overwhelming feeling of contentment.


The quote from John Muir has slowly faded from the mug, the victim of too many trips through the dishwasher. I was initially disappointed when I saw the printing begin to degrade, until I understood the hidden, if unintended, message in the diseappearing type.

If we’ve traveled responsibly, we’ve left only temporary traces that disappear, footprints erased by wind, rain, and those that follow them. The evidence of our travel fades with time until only those vibrant moments remain in our minds, hearts, and collective memory. There is a humble beauty in that notion.

When I sip my coffee from the rim above Muir’s fading words, I recollect that moment in time. My son’s satisfied smile. The blue sky. The sound of the breeze through such universal majesty. I collect it again in my heart and mind and bring it back to life.