The Idiots Guide to the Universe It's a big weird world, best to be snarky!

30May/110

The Idiocy I Saw at Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is, to put it simply, awesome. It is an area so beautiful that it essentially inspired our National Park system. I went went with my family to Yosemite National Park for a bit of site seeing and backpacking for Memorial Day Weekend 2011. My kids saw things that blew their minds. They have seen waterfalls before on other trips, but there are few waterfalls that can be quite as awe inspiring as the falls in Yosemite during the Spring season. There are few places where in their daily lives where they come around a corner and come face to face with a mule dear, grazing from a tree.

My desire to hit up Yosemite started months ago. I have discovered that visiting locations like this are like a recharge, or a hitting of the reset button for me. The day to day stresses of life just simply melt away in a place like Yosemite. I could sit here and wax philosophically about it, but a far better man than I has put it into better words than I could ever hope to do. I will let John Muir do the waxing for me.

"Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life." — from Our National Parks (1901)

"We are now in the mountains and they are in us, kindling enthusiasm, making every nerve quiver, filling every pore and cell of us. Our flesh-and-bone tabernacle seems transparent as glass to the beauty about us, as if truly an inseparable part of it, thrilling with the air and trees, streams and rocks, in the waves of the sun,—a part of all nature, neither old nor young, sick nor well, but immortal." — from My First Summer in the Sierra (1911)

The restorative capability of nature is something that I have been the recipient of on several occasions, and find myself needing it far more often as time goes on. So when after a week of delayed and cancelled flights, I found myself on a plane from Sacramento, CA to Ontario, CA looking out the window towards the East. I was able to see, at a distance but still clearly the three icons of Yosemite seen above. El Capitan, Half-Dome, and Bridal Veil Falls. The need was brought to life, and it needed to be quenched. So the family and I made plans to do a quick weekend turn around trip to Yosemite. My wife and kids had never been, and I had not been in several years. It certainly didn't hurt that the falls were flowing more than they have in quite some time.

After seeking a little solitude by getting away from the considerable crowds in Yosemite Valley by hitting a few of the trails we decided to hit a few of the more frequently visited locations in Yosemite Valley on Sunday. Our first stop was Bridal Veil falls. Now this is an easy few minute paved walk up to an excellent vantage point. In this short distance you will experience a weather change caused by the increased moisture from the falls, and ultimately if you continue to the top you be soaked by the spray from the falls. Both of my kids picked this moment as one of their highlights of the trip. After making our ascent, I saw something that just shook me to my core.

A Disgusting Person

What did I see? I saw the muppet you see on the left. You have to understand, here I was immediately after the high of standing at the base of Bridal Veil Falls, discussing the experience with my 10 year old son. During which I watch this man take a lit cigarette butt and toss it off of a walking bridge into the waters of Bridal Veil Creek.

Okay sure, you may be thinking that doesn't sound so bad. First off, I know that people throw the cigarette butts pretty much wherever they want, that doesn't make it okay. But the fact that this worthless waste of space would just toss that butt as if he had no regard for the sheer beauty that surrounded him is not just shocking, it is criminal. Litterally. Littering is illegal. Having smoked before myself, I know of the challenges there can sometimes be in finding an ash tray. So what, that doesn't excuse this muppet.

So did I say anything to him? I really really wanted to. The words were on the tip of my toungue. Every fiber of my being wanted to say loudly enough to create a scene "Sir I think it is disgusting that you are so selfish and stupid that you think it is okay to just toss your cigarette butt down into the water, much less anywhere." But I had both my sons standing right next to me, and my wife's voice which always admonishes me for creating confrontation in situations like this.

So instead I snapped a picture of him, and decided on the spot that I would do what I am doing right now. I would call him on it, and call for his public humiliation. So I am here-by saying it. To whoever it is in the photo, "you sir are a foul individual, I sincerely hope that you never are able to smoke without someone sticking around to ensure that your butt ends up in a proper receptacle for as long as you live. I hope that one decision changes your life forever."

So here is my  little Internet campaign. On top of this blog post I am also publishing the following two photos. Please take these photos, and publish them on twitter, publish them far and wide. Encourage others to retweet the image. Put these images on your facebook page and encourage others to share the image with their friends.

The National Parks were created for the enjoyment of the world, so this guy owes the planet an apology.  So my call for public scorn stays active until I hear that this guy has gone to Yosemite and donated 2 full days of his time picking up trash. Surely there will be photographic or video evidence of this. At that time I will edit this posting to say that the campaign is ended. I will also write a blog post about his redemption. Until then, he remains deserving of public scorn. So publish these photos far and wide.

 


27Apr/110

The Madness of Being Indoors

Me at Mastadon Peak - Joshua Tree National Park

I am developing a severe case of wanderlust. I usually have a slight case of wanderlust at any given time. Who doesn't want to get out and hit the road? But this spring it is much worse than ever for me. This probably has something to do with the fact that I took a rare Spring season vacation. During this vacation I headed to Colorado. On the way back to my home in Southern California I stopped in Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks. After spending a period of time hiking in both parks I had quickly surmised that they were each worth a longer visit which included some back country hiking. For those that are uninitiated, the front country is the part of a National Park that most tourists see, the short trail to a waterfall from a crowded parking lot is a good example. The back county consists of miles of trails where the only items available to you are those things you carry in with you (and carry out, all of it.)

I have also found myself becoming more and more interested in some of the longer "thru-hike" trails like the Pacific Crest Trail, The Appalachian Trail and the John Muir Trail. The idea of spending a month, or several months hiking one of these trails appeals to something in me. It's like a primal calling that is going unfulfilled. See there are responsibilities. I have a wife (whom I adore and am extremely lucky to have) and three kids, two pre-teens and a toddler, that are the joy of my existence. These people require more than my love, they require food and shelter, which my 6AM-6PM job provides. Don't get me wrong, I actually enjoy most of what I do for a living, but damn if I wouldn't enjoy hiking from Yosemite to Mt. Whitney over a period of a month.

Now the two older kids are getting into being outdoors. Both of them being excellent soccer players, they are in fantastic shape. So the last couple of multiple mile hikes I have taken them on didn't even phase them. My old body moaned and groaned about it. Taking the two year old on a day hike is pretty much the limit. I have one of the excellent Kelty carriers for him. But as with any two year old, after a few hours in the backpack, he is ready to do anything else. This usually means walking. Now I am thrilled that he wants to get down and walk the trail. But his pace is quite a bit slower than the rest of us. His idea of where we should be going is always diametrically opposed to mine. I think we should stay on the trail and follow it to the logical conclusion. He thinks we should walk over to that cool looking rock, try to pick up that big rock, then sit on the big rock, followed by standing on the big rock, standing on the big rock is a must. Once we can stand on the big rock, we absolutely most jump off of it, and we must jump off of it not once, but several times. Now I consider myself a good father, and I want my kids to learn to enjoy the outdoors and I think that allowing them to engage with the outdoors is the best way for my kids to develop a love for being in the outdoors. So the last thing I want to do is drag the two year old off the rock and force him to hike the trail 'my way.'

But see now you've forgotten, I have pre-teens, a boy and a girl. So things are a bit different for them. I do have one rule, cellphones/ipods etc. are not for the trail. You can bring them for emergency, but they remain unused unless there is an emergency. So now I have two very vocal people making a logical argument that we should move on, as the trail goes "that way' and all of this standing around is 'boring.'  I try suggesting that they enjoy jumping off of the rock, the two year old seems to be enjoying this activity. They both look at me as if I have suggested that they reach into my armpits and extract something unpleasant to put on a sandwich.

The wife of course has an excellent approach to all of this, 'can you all be quiet, you are making too much noise.'

So while a hike with the family is something that I would do every single day if I could, the distance traveled would be something akin to getting just as far as where everyone else is. When I hike I want to get way from everyone else. In order to do that, we have to split the family up. This past weekend, I took the pre-teens to Joshua Tree National Park. We did a nice day-long loop hike that included a 75ft. rock climb to a peak. The wife stayed home with the two-year old where I presume he spent the day climbing onto, and jumping off of, various items around the house. He of course did this quietly, for the wife's sake.

My Daughter at Mastadon Peak

During this Joshua Tree hike I got to do several things I never get to do with my kids. First, I saw what my daughter looks like without those white buds with wires attached to them sticking out of her ear, I was really happy to discover that those weren't permanently embedded in her body. I also discovered that her hands could do something other than not touch a soccer ball (the hands aren't supposed to touch the ball in soccer, remember) send an inordinate number of text messages over a cellular network, or sit firmly on her hips in a pose that demonstrates to me just how 'out of touch' and 'lame' I am. Her hands did things like dangle loosely at her side, occasionally coming up to make a gesture which was meant to illustrate an important point she was talking about. That was the big thing, she talked to me. We talked about boys (turns out we are pretty dumb as a gender) her friends (like her father she prefers a smaller number of tight knit friends to being the social butterfly) and the fact that (much to my disappointment) she will not be continuing her musical classes next year. I also saw a confidence in her that I had not seen before.

Now, the boy talked to me too. His hands could do a lot of things that didn't involve a video game controller manipulating some fantastic creature into doing some form of destruction on another creature. He also overcame a fear. That 75ft rock climb up to the top was not a technical climb, most of it consisting of a simple scramble. But when you are afraid of heights, it can seem debilitating. For him, this was the case. But a bit of logic was able to get through to him. I am really glad I didn't go with my first approach to try to encourage him up the rocks. I am not sure that telling him "If Lego Indiana Jones needs to climb up to the top, is he afraid?" would have cut it in this situation. Sure I would have been speaking his language, but the content was lacking any substance (much like that video game.) So I went with the approach of "You walked all those miles to get all the way up here, are you going to let a little bit of fear keep you from going the last 75 feet?" His fear was quickly squashed under a puff of logic and he scrambled to the top.

So a balance can be found. While I can't abandon everything and go on a multi-month hike, I have talked to my two older kids about taking our first multiple day hike together, and they are in. So now I am driving myself crazy thinking about it. I want to go now. While I know it would not offer the same life altering experience that a 6 month hike from the Mexican border to the Canadian border would provide, I know that it will deepen my relationship with my kids. That's the kind of life changing activity I can really get into. I haven't decided where we are going yet. We may do the San Bernardino Mountain section of the Pacific Crest Trail, or we may do a portion of the John Muir Trail. I just don't know yet. But to give you an idea to how much I have been thinking about this, here is what I am taking with me:

My Pack - Osprey Aether

 

I have decided on Osprey for all of our packs. We already have an Osprey Aura for Sarah's pack. Steven will be wearing an Osprey Sprint Jib. My pack will be the voluminous Osprey Aether. I chose Osprey because of their reputation of quality. I have also owned the Aura 50 that Sarah will be using for a while. It is an excellent pack.

As far as out lodging goes it will be the REI Half Dome 4 tent. This tent is lightweight, easy to setup, and will keep the rain out if necessary. Why a 4 man tent instead of a 3 man tent. Because it is a well know fact that if you need to sleep 3 people you really need a four person tent. If you want to sleep 2 people, a three person tent will be needed. Another reason for the REI Half-Dome is the reliability of the tent. Reading reviews online says that people have had great experiences.

Cooking will be handled by the Soto OD-1R. This stove has a micro-regulator that insures that the flame stays constant, even in wind. So as  pots and pans go, I haven't settled that yet. I also have yet to do my research on a water filtration system.

The plan is to cover 10-15 miles a day. That means that over 5 days we could easily cover 75 or more miles.

So what about this madness, well I am thinking about this hiking trip constantly. I need to get it scheduled for my own sanity.

 

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