Sequoia, unspoiled National Park made up of house sized chunks of granite, trees so wide and tall they make your brain hurt, and trails that wind through the heart of a forest fit for Ewoks and Onodrim. It, also, served as my home for four gloriously splendid days of solitude with nary a bar to be seen on my phone. In other words, the name Sequoia must stand for “Perfection”.
The photo above shows our equally glorious campsite at the Lodgepole Campground. Perched above a bend in the Kaweah River, the views were ridiculous. Even with only 10% of the River’s usual water present, it seemed a slap in the face to Mother Earth that this little slice of camp ground only costs $20 a night to stay at. It is truly smack dab in the middle of Sequoia’s naturey goodness. So, as you can imagine, it was PACKED with campers. It was like every REI on the West Coast, and a few Costco camping sections too, had been emptied into 190+ sites. And, people!! Lord there were SO many people! Friendly folks and kids from every walk of life and every corner of the country had gotten together to get outside and do some hiking amongst the trees…..! Woo, right?? Actually…. only a small handful went hiking… like a really smalllllll, less than 10 people passed on the trails, handful of people were hiking. Yea, only about 9 people were hiking on stunning, manicured trails that meander through a wilderness preserve. So sad.
Let me explain. Over 190+ campsites full of people (not including other campgrounds and hotels in the park) packed up the car, rented the campsite, took time off from work, drove mile after mile to get to the entrance to Sequoia, paid another $20 just to drive another hour up a crazy road, pitched a tent, got out campchairs, and then, from what we experienced, sat in them for the rest of their stay. What in the world?? How did all those people not take advantage of the unreal beauty of the park? The unspoiled splendor of a walk in the forest? The chance to encounter wildlife in the actual wild???? Are your campchairs like a barcalounger and you just can’t get out of it????? Is it that the word “Hiking” sounds like it’s going to be a day full of hard exercise? Maybe we should change it to “walking while wearing a backpack”?
Ok, ok, I might be being a little dramatic, people were at the “Sites” in Sequoia. As in, at the sites that the parks awesome shuttle service dropped people at the foot of. Like Moro Rock, and it’s incredible staircase, The General Sherman Tree, the visitors center ect…. we saw lots of people taking advantage of the ultra comfortable to experience points of interest. But, as far as the trails went, they were empty. Some of the trails are even paved. Yes, PAVED! The Congress Trail is paved loop and EXTREMELY easy to wander around. It was really sad, we only encountered one other family on it. The Alta Trail, which we took for about 5 of it’s 13 mile length, that was tougher had 3 people on it. Only 2 people on the trail from the Giant Forrest Museum to Moro Rock, and two separate guys from Moro Rock back along the trails to Lodgepole campground…. I guess on the bright side, we did get to experience about a billion dollars in views all alone?
Here is a nice little staggering quote from Bill Bryson in A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail “For 93 percent of all trips outside the home, for whatever distance or whatever purpose, Americans now get in a car. On average, the total walking of an American these days – that’s walking of all types: from car to office, from office to car, around the supermarket and shopping malls – adds up to 1.4 miles a week…That’s ridiculous.” I couldn’t agree more, what the heck are we doing sitting so much?? Is it that we all are so connected electronically that instead of experiencing the wild IN the wild, we can safely encounter it on our phone with out ever having to leave our jammies or our campchairs? I can totally understand reading about Sequoia from the comfort of your home, you are doing it now. But when you have expended so much time and energy to get to the Park itself… you are there in the place you have read about… um…. don’t you actually want to SEE the trees up close and touchy feely personal. I, mean really, they will let you hug as many as you like! They don’t mind, and the trees seem to like it! :)
At the end of our stay, I came to a scary thought… what would possibly be a reason for the Forest Service to maintain these trails that so few people are actually using? Why spend the money to keep the trails up, why keep cutting paths, why keep replanting? If we stop using them, or, more to the point, if we don’t START using them…. If they stop maintaining them because no one is using them… They will be lost for good. The Herculean effort, not to mention the cost, to rebuild just wouldn’t happen again. We HAVE to start doing better. We can not be the society that stops experiencing the Earth in it’s live state and instead experiences it in static photos on a screen.
So, this is my challenge to you, GET OUTSIDE when you are outside! Enjoy it. We are SO lucky and blessed to live in a place where we still put a priority on keeping places pristine and full of wonder. Don’t let it get lost to a memory chip that shows our grandchildren how it used to be before we stopped caring. Wander, breath, adventure. These are the things that are real and important.
“Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson