What Remains

For the past 148 years, Yosemite’s Lyell Glacier has taught us about the Earth — how it was created, where it was going, and now, how it might end.

On a cool September morning in 2014, among lodgepole pines under blue mountain sky, Greg Stock shouldered a backpack full of camping gear and scientific equipment. Boyishly slender and athletic at 45, Stock is a climber, caver, and serious reader of books about mountaineering and the natural world. He holds the enviable job title of Yosemite National Park Geologist and mostly loves the work, especially the part he was bound for that day — the study of Yosemite’s last two glaciers.

Stock and several companions started their walk in Tuolumne Meadows, the high-country jewel of Yosemite and everything that I would ever wish to find in the pastures of heaven — many square miles of grass and wildflowers surrounded by white granite domes that reflect sunshine like polished glass. Stock followed the John Muir Trail south out of those meadows into an immense U-shaped gorge called Lyell Canyon, 8 miles long and 3,000 feet deep, carved out of granite by long-vanished glaciers during dozens of ice ages. Evergreens dot the sloped walls of Lyell Canyon — straight lodgepoles down low, bent whitebarks up high.

Read the full story at California Sunday Magazine