Sunday, September 25, 2005

Day 19 - Can't be naughty with nature

Day 19 of the Never-Ending Story (without all the kids’ stuff) from sunny Oakhurst, Calif., at the edge of America’s national park, Yosemite. Yes, Yellowstone was the first official national park to be commissioned, followed by Sequoia National Park, just down the state here in California.
But, as my lovely wife noted, Yosemite is the seminal American national park, and judging from the thousands in the park, many Americans (and Europeans) agree. Traffic was as jammed as anything in Los Angeles and it often resembled a Saturday shopping mall crowd. People were parking single-file on the edge of two-lane roads, which, believe me, had no shoulders. Run off these roads and you take a 4,000-foot fall. Driving these twisting, winding strips of asphalt can make you as queasy as being in FEMA (or helped by FEMA).
What can one say about such magnificence? You’ve got millions of acres of sequoias (the same tree family as coastal redwoods but which cannot be grown below 5,000 feet and in need of ample sunlight), pine trees (reaching so high they almost blot out the sun), huge mountains that invite climbers with more adventure and courage than sense to scale, waterfalls, rock formations and the true smell of pine freshness at every turn. Where else can you sit in the parking lot outside the visitors center and see a flock of does just walk past people in the daylight? Or hear a bag of fresh potato chips explode because of the falling air pressure as you ascend into the high mountains?
We drove (slowly mind you) to the spectacular Glacier Point and view mountain ranges in the Sierra Nevadas formed millions of years ago by glaciers. The view is unbelievable; this wordsmith cannot do justice and despite snapping off scores of photos, no picture captures the natural beauty.
To anyone wishing to visit Yosemite, know this: can’t be seen in one day. Or two or three or four days. Can’t be done, sorry. First, it takes 87 miles to make most of the traffic loop and you average less than 30 miles per hour. It takes a long time to go by car.
Second, like most national parks, Yosemite is a hiker’s paradise. You need to see many of the best sights on foot. And that takes time.
Third, there are many other things to see in the region – award-winning wineries, old-time logger railroad trains, excellent inns and bed-and-breakfasts, a golf course at historic Wawoma constructed in 1917, and many affordable hotels (including this Best Western which resembles a lodge).
So I asked Jodie this classic “what if?” question. If gasoline in the United States went to $5 per gallon, and there was a shortage declared among oil producers, AND suddenly geologists within the confines of Yosemite National Park discovered the largest pool of crude oil, would you permit drilling in this vestige of perfect nature?
She, being the wonderful liberal that I adore, said, “Hell, no! Drive a better car.”
Bless her! I kinda agree. But the answer clearly would define a person’s politics and views of life, nature and lifestyle. Conservatives like Rush Limbaugh would choose drilling. Rush once said, “When I see a tree, I see furniture or a baseball bat.” What a pity that SO many people would agree with that point of view – sacrificing natural resources for an expendable fuel.
If we destroy what Mother Nature creates, it can never come back. When a species of animal is made extinct, that’s a hole we create in the natural order of things. I don’t care what you call it – evolution, intelligent design (excuse me but how intelligent is a mosquito?) or abracadabra. Humans have no right to arbitrarily decide what species lives or dies.
And the same goes for other natural creations, like Yosemite or Saguaro National Park or the Grand Tetons or any place you can name in this country. I wish there was a perfect method of horizontal drilling to go to Fresno and work a pipe into a park so Jed Clampett can shoot at some food and out of the ground would come some bubblin’ crude. But it doesn’t work that way. If it did, we would have sucked the Saudis dry and made them worry about the price of gas instead of us.
No, we cannot have set aside enough national park land. We need to preserve as much perfection in terms of beauty for our children, their children and their children’s children’s children (thank to the Moody Blues for that one).
Meanwhile, I think I’ll go out on my Best Western balcony and look at the stars in a moonlit night, with temperatures at 55 degrees.
Eat your hearts out. I’m enjoying it while I can until I return home to the sweatbox known as North Texas.

No comments: