We endeavored to traverse the weald, and arrived in a region of isolation and unspoiled beauty, gratefully basking in seemingly ethereal splendor. Once among the lodgepole pine in the seclusion of ancient valleys, we reveled in the permanence of raw nature. It was a foreign sight, that of no intrusion of mankind, that from which a hand of verdancy embraced and enraptured all. This was a land with no falsehood or pretense, at once fragile and savage and powerful, with a visage that harked back to its upheaval and its sulfuric origins.
The picturesque landscapes afforded serenity, but also provided innumerable coverts which thwarted our attempts to observe the native species. It was not all futile, as we did witness myriad pronghorn, as well as chipmunks, ground squirrels, bald eagles, bighorn sheep, bison, grouse, an elk, a rabbit, a moose, and a bear – and possibly wolves. But none of these was as readily discernible as the native deer, which had become so accustomed to the visits of man that they were oft nearly underfoot. Naturally, these animals were ensconced in a variety of flora sorely unlike any from whence we came.
The harsh inclinations of the weather forbade us from prolonged reveries, but all is not lost. The visions of natural beauty will forever be ingrained within us, for us to conjure when the world apportions more than we can stand. Taken in its entirety, we were given a glimpse of God’s creation as it was intended, and that unadulterated view was intrinsically invaluable.
Today, we embarked on a journey of over 4,000 miles to visit some of the last remaining glaciers which were once prevalent in North America. Our excursion encompasses many diverse ecosystems and altitudes; on Saturday, I was below sea-level, and by tonight we’ll be over a mile above it. We are crossing the plains at present, impressed by the expansive and largely uninhabited region known as “Kansas.”
Rest assured, there will be reports of the flora and fauna present in Wyoming and Montana.
River otters may be cuter than beavers – that is of little debate. But in nature, function trumps form – and I have yet to see a river otter in person. Fortunately, from my recent time spent observing beavers in the wild, I can say that the traditional understanding of these large aquatic rodents is rather correct; id est, they are industrious lumberjacks with dull senses and portly physiques. But they do take time for recreation, and their speckled hides create dazzling shapes as they glide through the water.
The beaver is commended for being a familial creature, and for paying such regard to the state of its abode. Still, the potential environmental deterioration at the incisors of this beast is plainly evident. They enjoy felling trees for nutritional, decorative, and protective purposes, and they despise the sound of running water (I posit this is their main motivation for creating dams). They do provide some good entertainment though (videos are 720P, so go full-screen):
My beaver background comes from Red Dead Redemption, where the beasts lumber aimlessly near the shores and provide ample opportunity for skinning. I could have taken so many pelts this weekend…
We accomplished a lot today. We ventured into North Carolina and rafted down some class three and class four rapids for about five miles. We saw some beautiful Smoky Mountain scenery, and some waterfalls. But that doesn’t matter.
Today, I finally got what I had been waiting for ever since I started deciding to have something to wait for. I saw not one, not two, not even three of these things. In fact, I saw six of them. Davy Crockett’s prey: the American black bear.
I couldn’t find any out west, but these guys were just ambling around in the valley, presumably searching for picnic baskets. First there was one solo bear, then three at once, then two more individual bears. All were pretty sweet, but none were mauling children or balancing on unicycles. Still, there was something undoubtedly moving about seeing the elusive creatures in their native habitat, free from the tyranny of hunters’ whims.
I just wish I could have stood between a mother and her cub, if only for one second, just to see that look on her face. You know the one.
A couple of weeks ago, I returned from an epic trek out west. So far, all I’ve mentioned is that it came to a fitting end. Now you’ll know the rest of the story.
Here’s a quick, bulleted overview of the fantasticality* that ensued:
A friend and I set out in my car for three national parks (Grand Canyon, Sequoia, Yosemite) on a Saturday morning.
The trip was a little over 4,000 miles – 4,106 miles, to be exact. In total, we were driving for about 2 days and 17 hours (not counting some time spent driving around parks, etc.).
We hiked around the three parks for somewhere between 28-32 miles, including hikes to the bottom of the Grand Canyon (and back up) and to the top of the largest waterfall in the United States, Yosemite Falls (and back down).
We had to use bear-proof lockers because black bears were “highly active” in both Sequoia and Yosemite, but we never saw an actual bear.
In the same day, we saw lush green forests in low-60 degree weather, as well as snowy mountainsides and low-30 degree weather.
We witnessed two sunsets at the Grand Canyon and a sunrise above a California orange grove.
We stayed in a haunted hotel in Flagstaff, AZ.
We saw the world’s largest single organism by volume (a giant sequoia named General Sherman that was over 2200 years old).
We walked on the strip in Las Vegas, went through a casino, and promptly left.
We drove over the Hoover Dam (at night).
Basically, we lived life and experienced some of the best that nature has to offer without putting ourselves in a position where we could have easily died. That’s not to say that we didn’t take any risks, but overall it was a leisurely (though sometimes grueling) escape from the stresses of being an unemployed college graduate.
More pictures can be found in the nature gallery; of course, I took several hundred and only one out of every 35 or so turned out decent. Some interesting things that I discovered during the course of the trip are that the Grand Canyon actually has some cell phone reception at the very bottom, depending on where you are. More impressive is that the top of Yosemite Falls (in fact, nearly all of Yosemite National Park, as far as I could tell) has cell phone coverage. at&t is doing that aspect of its job, at least.
There’s a lot of beauty out there that people are missing every day. I think the government should give incentives to people that would persuade everyone to visit these places more often. We’d need more preserved land due to the increased traffic, but I believe it would make America a much better place if people just got away every now and then to see God’s creation. Being dwarfed by giant sequoias and redwoods, or just peering over into a mile-deep canyon, can have a profound effect on a person’s outlook on life.
I would definitely recommend that everyone visit Sequoia and the Grand Canyon, even if just once. Yosemite, on the other hand, is forgettable, but they all do a great job of preserving our nation’s idyllic heritage and offering respite for those who have become entangled in the urban jungle.
It’s kind of funny, really: you drive for over 3000 miles without incident, and then run into problems only a few hours from your final destination. Perhaps it’s not all your fault. There are many things to blame it on: the government thinking it reasonable to require the use of public roads instead of allowing driving on the median; the destructive agricultural techniques leading to harsh and desolate conditions; emissions and environmental-poisoning put forth by China and India, altering our weather patterns; Texas refusing to allocate the money needed to adequately maintain their roads; your own refusal to allocate the money needed to adequately maintain your tires. And lastly, let’s not forget the rotation of the earth, whose steadfast refusal to decelerate gives rise to increased darkness and, thereby, less opportunity for evaporation.*
So perhaps it’s mostly your fault. You couldn’t control your vehicle on a slick road and ended up spinning onto an exit ramp, taking out a little bit of state property in your wake. But one must question the motive for any fiscal reprimand in such a situation. After all, what is the purpose of a citation if not to deter reckless behavior in the future? Given that this is the case, should the same goal not be accomplished through the very results of the actions which led to the citation (namely, the frustration, hardship, and financial obligations inherent in repairing the damage to the vehicle, and the very real risk of permanent bodily injury)? You’re much more likely to slow down with slick tires and wet lanes when you’ve been through such a situation, and the issuance of a citation does nothing to further that.
I guess that ticket will do nothing but pay for the state to fix the stupid sign that “you” hit. I hope the contractors bleed them dry.
*Other blame-worthy causes which deserve honorable mention include, but are not limited to: the consistency of vulcanized rubber, the heat-retention properties of asphalt, the relentless scheduling of truckers on highly-frequented routes, the inability of auto makers to finally come out with a completely robotic and computerized transportation system, hydrogen bonds, El Niño, and North Korea.
And yes, it makes me feel better about the situation to write in the far-removed and oft-condescending second person.
I don’t like to rehash what’s already been stated (actually, I don’t care), but there’s still a frontier out there, and I long for it. I can almost taste the sweet nectar of its grapevines, hear the evocative roaring of the friendly grizzly bear, and smell the body odor of nearby campers. Yes, the west is out there, and I’m not the only one longing for it. Call it manifest destiny, or call it a boredom-induced stupor, but whatever it is, I’m helpless to resist Nature’s seductive siren-song.
So I’m going forth, and don’t expect me to return on any side less than the flip side. I’ll be back once I’ve opened the Pandora’s box marked “liveliness,” and no sooner. In the meantime, I expect my fellow authors to hold down the fort in my stead. I’m nearing my Rubicon, and once it’s crossed, there’s no going back.
Expect a surprise sometime next week. Let’s just say, I’m prepared to give the masses what they’ve been yearning for.