Save Our Lands

This was posted on the Pacific Crest Trailside Reader. Public Comments are being requested by July 10th to save these 22 monuments and 5 Marine National Monuments.  I have taken directly from the Reader’s May 31st post. PLEASE take a moment to make your comment.  I’ve made mine, stressing the importance of  needing space, not congestion of urban sprawl. And of course, how healing, inside and outside, these areas of nature are:

Pacific Crest Trailside Reader
VERY VERY IMPORTANT – all PCT users and lovers pay attention
Posted: 31 May 2017 10:00 AM PDT

The Department of Interior led by Ryan Zinke is reviewing 22 National Monuments and 5 Marine National Monuments, created or expended between the years 1996 – 2016. What is at risk? These Monuments may be reduced in size or eliminated all together. Three of the Monuments encompass stretches of the PCT – Sand to Snow National Monument (includes, among other features, Whitewater River), San Gabriel Mountains National Monument (includes, among other features, Mt. Baden-Powell), and Cascade Siskiyou National Monument (includes, among other features, Pilot Rock near Ashland, Oregon). There is a 60-day public comment period (ending July 10). It is critical that PCT users make their feelings known. You can do so by:

1) enter into your browser (or follow this link) http://www.regulations.gov

2) under the ‘What’s Trending’ column on the left side of the screen, you can double click on Review of Certain National Monuments Established Since 1996; Notice of Opportunity for Public Comment

3) click on “Comment Now”

4) make your comment

Here is what I wrote:  ( I am not sure who this author is…it was part of the post).

At the age of 62, I finished walking the Pacific Crest Trail. The Trail passes through three of the Monuments under review: Cascade Siskiyou, Sand to Snow, and San Gabriel Mountains. Just this past April I was again walking through the mountains of Southern California from the Mexican border to the San Jacintos, four years after first backpacking in these arid mountains. What is striking to me is just how aggressively development continues to push, push, push into these fragile desert landscapes. Horse ranches, greenhouses, homes, even housing developments and the associated roads, utility lines, and commercial establishments have sprung up where they did not exist even 4 years ago. Once development occurs, it is extremely difficult to undo it. The Sand and Snow and San Gabriel Mountains Monuments offer modest but critical protection from the sprawling reaches of Los Angeles and the Palm Springs/Palm Desert communities.

The landscape is extraordinarily vulnerable. The desert holds its scars for a very long time. You can see this impact as you walk near the Whitewater River in the Sand to Snow Monument. Or, from the top of Mt. Baden-Powell, in the San Bernardino Mountains Monument where the layer of pollution from the L.A. Basin often offers a palpable layer extending far to the southwest.

While not surrounded by massive population centers like the Sand to Snow and San Gabriel Mountains, the Cascade Siskiyou Monument is threatened by the rapidly growing Ashland-Medford communities of the Rogue River Valley. Homes are pushing their way farther and farther into the mountains around these communities. I believe that the Cascade Siskiyou Monument not only protect iconic features like Pilot Rock, but helps preserve the recreational opportunities for this region of southern Oregon.

I have lived on the North Coast of California just south of Redwood National Park for more than three decades. I think that the creation of Redwood National Park provides an object lesson when insufficient land is protected. The Park, in deference to local logging companies, initially limited much of the protection to a narrow strip of old growth redwood along Redwood Creek (named the ‘worm’ for its size and shape). Quickly we learned, as surrounding lands were aggressively logged and Redwood Creek clogged with sediment that we had to preserve the broader eco-system … not just a small patch of trees. By the time we learned that, the cost of buying back the watershed and its restoration was immense.

Do not give up these Monuments for short-term employment and temporary gain. I would love to walk some of these lands with you as I know that you agree with what I have seen and learned.

Weekly Photo Challenge – Dense

IMG_0560Near where Fern and Tahquitz Canyons meet, south of Palm Springs, July 2013. On the Pacific Crest Trail.

Sadly, roughly one month later, this lush green ocean of ferns would be but ash. The Mountain Fire broke out July 15th that year and by the time it was extinguished about two weeks later, it had consumed more than 27,000 square acres including these incredible plants. This portion of the trail remained closed from all human activities for several years because of it. It only recently reopened.

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Weekly Photo Challenge – Repurpose

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It was with mixed emotions when we walked through Tehachapi back in March 2015. The windmills scarred the mountains sides.

Yet those eyesores do serve us with valuable electricity we need. There is plenty of wind out there. And it makes sense to use it to our advantage.

…Sometimes it’s hard being an environmentalist.

As Long As You Are At Peace With Your Experience – aka: Hike Your Own Hike

The further away the stopping place on the trail is, the harder it is to get to. About two years ago it started to require more planning, more time off to hike. (A nine hour drive for a couple days isn’t worth it.) This also means more time between our major hikes. While we were doing at least two or three hikes a year when were hiking closer to home (Southern California), we’re now able to do only one. Our most recent big outing was our hike between Tuolumne Meadows and Taboose Pass.

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Clearly, we lose our hiking legs between our hikes. Not only do we need to readjust to the higher altitude, but also to the pains and blisters and sleeping on the ground. Bottom line, it makes us very slow at first. It’s really not until around day ten before we started feeling a better rhythm to our hiking mojo.

On this last trip, we found ourselves frequently comparing ourselves to our hikers. Many hikers we passed claimed, “I’m a fast hiker.” And indeed, everyone was faster than us. We noted though that in spite of their speed, we all usually ended up within a quarter to half mile of each other. Our response became, “We are slow, but we are steady.”

That said, there was a bit in us that wished we were a little faster. It would be nice to be done a little earlier in the day to just sit and watch the sky. One drawback of section hiking, while still trying to work and pay the mortgage, is that even though we are getting away from time obligations, time still rules us and we can’t lallygag too much to get back in time to go to work.

I’m not sure why we sometimes focused on our speed and compared ourselves to others on the trail. Was this the trail version of keeping up with the Joneses?

It is often said ‘Hike your own hike.” (HYOH) This phrase even came up between the two of us, as Lynn reminded me, again, to “Use your poles!” There are times I like to use the poles and there are times I don’t. And I fall either way. In talking about HYOH, I gently reminded Lynn that I read somewhere, in that definition, it included to use your poles as you wish.

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We started one day early to get over Selden Pass. I hadn’t finished my coffee in my water bottle yet. Anyone that knows me at all knows I am NOT a morning person. Never have been. There was a young man coming up behind us. I could hear him talking to Lynn first behind me. I couldn’t hear what was said but the young hiker sounded chipper. You know those kind of people (George..are you reading this?) that are ridiculously happy in the morning. They wake up that way, whistling, smiling, just too happy, if that is possible to be too happy. This guy was like that. As he passed me he said, “What’s shaking?” I couldn’t help but smile back as I replied, “This hill.”

He responded, “As long as you have that smile on your face!” And he scampered off. By now, Lynn had caught up to hear this and he rolled his eyes. “Good grief!”

We called him the Happy Hiker.

We finally got to the top of Selden Pass. In spite of an elevation of 10,910 feet, it wasn’t that hard of a pass considering other challenging passes like Glen, Forrester or Mather. It was less than a four mile hike to the top. Marie Lake sits to the north side. This lake was just beautiful, and large. It seemed to just keep going and going. Unbelievably clear water. It makes you realize how pristine and virginal these waters are with so little population comparatively near these waters. The view from Selden Pass was of even more lakes. Heart Lake, named so because of the shape was the first lake we saw. Smaller and it’s hard to see the shape from the top. Sallie Keyes Lake is close by which is where we stopped for lunch.

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At the top, we took a pause to take in the scenery. Leaning his back against a large boulder, facing north was Happy Hiker. He gave me a Hang Loose hand sign and had in his other hand, what I am sure of, was a tightly rolled joint he then proceeded to light. As he did he smiled again and said “ As long as you are at peace with your own experience.”

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Words of wisdom from the Happy Hiker that, timely, set the tone for the rest of the hike. Who cares if we’re slow, fast, stop early or hike on to darkness? This was better than HYOH which can sound confrontational at times. Good advice for trail and non-trail, alike.

Weekly Photo Challenge – Ambience

fullsizeoutput_3e1eThis week’s photo challenge – Ambience – serves me two ways: it gives me a chance to show off a few pictures, and it helps me find a new perspective on our last hike in the Sierra Nevada.Trail Lead ImageWe hear these names, like Devil’s Post Pile, Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite. Great authors and poets, legends of the wilderness and ground-breaking photographers have walked these very paths. They each infused the forest with mystery and texture that only time has hatched.fullsizeoutput_3e20We would encounter five major passes: first going north from Mammoth, we approached Donohue Pass. Then, coming back south from Mammoth, we first encountered Silver Pass, then Selden and the Muir. And then, finally, Mather Pass – the beast of them all. We knew these names well before our hike. These are often the areas hikers speak about when they speak about hiking, at least those we’ve met. And we have been anxious and excited to finally be in arguably some of the most pristine wilderness still existing in the Continental United States.Version 2The aura of the trail in this section is embracing. It is both quiet and loud. It allows you to wallow quietly in its meditation but then wakes you with a jolt with babbling water or wild birds squawking and chirping all around. This wilderness carries its own ambience sometimes with memorizing effects. It’s no wonder so many before us have enjoyed these miles.img_4886These are hallowed grounds, travelled by thousands of hikers over centuries. When we summited Muir Pass and approached the famous Muir Hut, I could almost feel a pulling bringing me closer. I climbed the few steps into the hut. It was cold and dark. The air was thin and smelled like wet clay. There were a few other hikers there already, all sitting along the stone bench outlining the diameter of the hut, excepting the sealed off fireplace. I put my palm against the stone wall. It seemed to vibrate like a purr. I sat on the bumpy stone bench. I could feel the cold stone chilling me.img_3274

img_3273We look forward to our next trip in June. We’ll be taking off from our last northern most trailhead at Tuolumne. We will be meeting up our our daughter who will be attempting a thru-hike with the class of 2017. I think we keep this blog up because we enjoy sharing the spectacular experience of hiking the PCT. To be able to share this together with our daughter will be a thrill.