Tag Archives: technology

What Would John Muir Think of Yosemite Now? Part 1

16 Jul

Anyone who has ever visited Yosemite Valley in Yosemite National Park knows how crowded and potentially dangerous it can be during peak tourism season. Today I am starting a series of essays chronicling my personal experiences in Yosemite National Park as they relate to the iconic naturalist and conservationist, John Muir.

Most of you probably are cognizant of who Muir was and what he represented, and you probably already know that he was literally the person responsible for putting this classic park on the map.  Often times I wonder what he would think about Yosemite in its current state; a place much different from the one he knew and loved. This especially pertains to Yosemite Valley, the thoroughfare and commercial hub of the park, and for that matter, just about any park. After recently viewing a fine art photograph of the area, I was inspired to begin these essays, which are for everyone, whether you’ve been there once, never visited, or know it like the back of your hand.

Most visitors to Yosemite enter either through the South or West entrances. Both can be accessed from the California city of Fresno. Both entrances are fairly similar in scenery and length…In terms of this essay, either one of these entrances could apply.

For many, the City of Fresno represents the gateway to Yosemite National Park. Unfortunately, you normally can’t see the mountains from there because the area is so hazy. I imagine it’s probably a combination of the pesticides and chemicals used on the farms in the area along with the California smog that seems to permeate everywhere. The journey to the park begins here, past the fruit and vegetable stands of the rural surroundings. Eventually the city gives way to the Sierra’s rolling foothills. Slowly, subtly, and steadily you begin to climb, passing small towns along the way. The trees get bigger and the road gets steeper as you venture further into the mountains. Soon, you are in a full-fledged, unmistakable mountain forest with rushing streams and larger than life-sized trees.  After several more miles of driving you round another blind, sharp turn and out of the corner of your eye you catch the glistening highlight of a whitewater of gushing steam. What the heck..you think…its worth a couple of minutes of your time and pull off to check it out.

Immediately it’s the sound that catches your attention. This stream is no joke. As a matter of fact, its more like a rushing torrent and upon closer inspection, you realize that one false slip into that and its certain death. You also realize that the stop was well worth your time.

As you continue up the mountain your natural appetite for scenery magnifies as the journey continues. After a short time, you reach the park entrance, a nondescript area in the forest where they take your money, give you a brochure, and let you in. The idyllic drive continues and you eventually you start to descend weaving your way down the mountain towards the valley below. Soon you begin to catch glimpses of what you’ve been longing for all along. As you continue your descent, the views get better and better.

After going through a tunnel, the scene completely unfolds before your very eyes. Massive waterfalls, monolithic towers of granite, sweeping vistas, and an absolutely pristine river meandering through a tranquil meadow surrounded by trees literally takes your breath away. God willing, it’s only a matter of minutes now before you enter this fairytale landscape. The road continues downward and soon you reach an intersection…

It is now onto the valley and its record-breaking spectacles of nature. All at once, the traffic picks up significantly. You notice this curiosity immediately at your first stop, the elegant Bridalveil Falls. Here the whipping, free-flowing, waters of Yosemite Creek gracefully plunge over 600 feet to the valley floor, making it one of the largest waterfalls in the park. The mist is everywhere and the rainbow it creates is a pleasant, natural surprise. The sound is unmistakable, like an oversized snake hissing and beckoning in the distance.

Never mind the scenery though, it’s the traffic that gets your attention first. The parking lot is packed with people running around as busy as bees. Meanwhile there are vehicles coming and going, pulling out, pulling in, backing up, turning and parking. This all reminds you of some sort of strange mating ritual of man and machine here on the concrete and black top, with a gargantuan waterfall as a backdrop. They act like they are the only ones there. Oblivious to any kind of danger, they walk out in front of moving vehicles while shouting and yelling to their friends and family.

Suddenly, you find yourself making a hasty exit from the oversized parking lot of craziness thinking you’ll catch the next one instead.

To be continued………….

How to Watch TV in the Wilderness

7 May

Today, our discussion involves one other potentially important item of business while vacationing in our National Parks – television programming. Now, I don’t watch a lot of TV, but I do enjoy sports. And occasionally, when I am on the road, there is a sporting event that I’d like to catch. So one could say I have a lot of experience in this subject matter.

Let me give you a quick story to illustrate this post. At the end of last summer, I found myself in Capitol Reef National Park hiking and photographing on the weekend leading up to Labor Day. Coincidentally, it was also the start of the college football season. Because I was camping in the park I ended up missing the first game of the season, Boise State v Oregon. It turns out Boise State won the game, which wasn’t that great, but you might remember Oregon’s star running back, Legarrette Blount ended up sucker punching onr of Boise State’s players after the game, and long story short, and a melee ensued.

That was on a Thursday night and on Friday my fiancée and I were trying to figure out where to watch the Ohio State (my alma mater) game on Saturday. It was their first game of the season against Navy. We didn’t want to get a hotel room in Hanksville and we thought maybe we could watch it at a bar or restaurant. Our initial plans were to head up to American Fork Basin just south of Salt Lake City spend Friday night in the wilderness and then stay in a hotel room Saturday and Sunday in Salt Lake.

The problem was the Ohio State game started at 12pm EST on Saturday. There was just no possible way to make it work. We didn’t have time. We thought maybe we could spend an extra night in Capitol Reef and stop somewhere on the way to Salt Lake City, but for those who haven’t been to Capitol Reef – it’s literally in the middle of nowhere. And there just isn’t much between it and the two hundred and some miles to Salt Lake. Also, between either backpacking and or driving we figured there was no way to drive to Salt Lake by 10am and find a place that was open with ESPN. I mean, this isn’t New York City, it’s Mormon country. In the end, we ended up driving to Salt Lake on Friday and getting a hotel room Friday and Saturday night instead of Saturday and Sunday. It worked out well, because the game was very exciting and Ohio State won 31 – 27.  That’s what this post is all about – how to watch TV in the wilderness.

 However, this isn’t all about sports though…it can apply to whatever it is on television that you are interested in watching. What’s the best way to go about doing this when you can’t get any TV reception in the park even at a hotel? Well, I am going to list out some comprehensive guidelines to understand. Follow these and your won’t miss your favorite show or sports broadcast while on vacation in the parks.     

1)      The amenities at every park hotel are different. For instance, in Death Valley NP you can get cable television at the hotels, while in Yellowstone NP there are no televisions at all.

 2)      Don’t assume the hotel you are staying at has the channel you want to watch. Call them and find out! I’ve been burned on more than one occasion because of this.

 3)      Make sure you know the dates ahead of time. This applies to the time of the show or event, and where you’ll be staying on that date.

 4)      If you are staying at a campground inside the park – plan on driving to the nearest town to watch your show. There are some notable exceptions to this rule – make sure you call the park and find out if there is anywhere in that area to watch TV.

 5)      Be fully aware of which time zone you are in. When traveling around the Southwest between Nevada, Arizona, and Utah this can be particularly confusing.

 6)      If possible, try to stay in a hotel the night you really want to watch television. This takes a lot of planning, but it usually worth it in the long run. It’s also the best tip I can offer and it works great for sports. Because many sports, like football, get played on the weekends, we usually stay in hotels then and in campgrounds or the backcountry during the week. This is best of both worlds because the parks are much more popular during the weekends, especially the campgrounds, and it’s the perfect time for some peace and quiet in a hotel.

 7)       Have an equal amount of planning, preparation, and flexibility. Unforseen circumstances can easily come up and its good not be locked into too tight a schedule. For example, road construction, natural disasters like forest fires, or even a flat tire or a bystander in need of some help. Always err on the side of caution when planning commute times and activities.  In my opinion, it is good to tentatively plan out most of your trip, but be mentally prepared for change if necessary.

 Hopefully you’ve picked up some good tips from this list and we will continue with the list theme on my next post when I talk about the 10 best parks for summer travel in the lower 48. We’ll see you then. God Bless!

Planning Ahead to Ensure the Best Time Possible

3 May

Today we are going to discuss another important nuance in planning your exciting vacation to America’s Greatest Idea, our national parks. Here’s the concept: make sure you plan appropriately for contact with the outside world because things work a little differently inside our  parks. Allow me to show you what I mean in mathematical terms: no televisions + no cell phone coverage + no Internet = no contact with the outside world.

Now, it isn’t that extreme in all the places, all the time. Of course, there are some areas where communications are similar to our everyday lives, but at some point in time, you will deal with this potential issue one way or another. So let’s examine how to prepare and addresss this situation.

Mentally, this is how I recommend you approach it: embellish, embrace, and love it! It is an absolutely wonderful thing. No longer will you worry about work, bank accounts, stocks, news, sports, family, business partners, etc. And the best part about it is there are no excuses, you can’t help it if you don’t get cell phone reception and you need to drive forty plus miles just to make a phone call.  It really is an essential part of getting away from it all and refocusing your priorities. All you need to do is just change your voicemail before you leave and you are good-to-go.

Hopefully I’ve sold you (if you weren’t already so) on this idea of the power of not having power, so to speak. However, there are times when these technologies are vitally important and it can take appropriate planning and knowledge to utilize this to your advantage while vacationing. Let’s go over a few scenarios where you may need access to technology at a specific point in time and how to plan for it in advance.

  • Reaching out to loved ones on an important birthday, event, or holiday. In all of these circumstances, it’s always best to plan ahead. Try to know exactly where you are staying and on what dates and attempt to verify ahead of time whether the place has cell phone coverage. Remember, even if there is no cell phone coverage  you may be able to find a pay phone to use. So bring some pre-paid calling cards with you. Otherwise, bring along lots of extra cash because you’ll need it for that expensive, long distance, pay phone call.

 

  • Attending church services. Most of the major national parks do have some  limited theological services in the summer time available to visitors. These are usually run by young adults and normally pertain to the Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, and LDS denominations of faith. Again, planning is your best bet so make sure that you’ll be close to the area where the services are taking place. Remember, some of the parks are huge and you could have a considerable drive if you don’t know where you’ll be and where you need to go. So don’t cut corners or you could pay for it later, take the time to study maps and estimate mileage and drive times.

I am feeling a little under the weather today, so we’ll stop for now and I’ll finish up this thread later in the week as we continue examine more scenarios and talk about even more solutions. Until then, have an awesome week and God bless you.

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