INSIDEBAYAREA.COM: January 14, 2016
It’s not easy being 100. The sheer number of well wishers can be — well — overwhelming. That’s undoubtedly what we’ll see with our national parks as they turn 100 in 2016. Luckily, a slick new publication can help you navigate the best of California’s national parks, trails, monuments, seashores and historic sites. It’s the full-color, 128-page magazine put out by San Francisco’s Bay Area Travel Writers (batw.org).
This group of well-respected travel writers, photographers, broadcasters and bloggers has compiled stories from world-famous sites like Yosemite and Hearst Castle to lesser-known gems like Little Petroglyph Canyon, Filoli Estate and the John Muir Trail. A total of 46 articles and almost 200 photos is designed to inspire readers to create their own National Park Service adventures. Below are snippets of my stories, sans the remarkable photos that are featured in the publication.
Yosemite: John Muir often wrote about evenings in Yosemite and “the stillness of the soul beyond twilight.” But in all his reflections, he never expounded on the joys of eating carpenter ants. We were about to break new ground.
Under cover of darkness, with only the moon and a lantern to light our path, we followed our guide from the Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite into the nearby Sierra National Forest. The air was so still we could hear water trickling through the arid creek bed and the faint rustling of dry leaves and needles on the forest floor.
All around us were nature’s sweet surprises. We nibbled on miner’s lettuce and fiddlehead ferns and pine bark. And ants ….
Channel Islands: Buffalo, eagles and wolves. You expect to see these in our national parks. Garibaldis — not so much. Yet, the waters off the Channel Islands were teeming with the curious creatures my son thought were clown fish in “Finding Nemo.” Like a giant aquarium, fish darted through the kelp as we bobbed on the surface above.
Kayaking off the Channel Islands connects you with nature like no other activity on earth. Despite the mainland’s dense population, (10 million people live less than 90 minutes away by boat) this string of five islands is one of the most remote destinations in our national park system. On Anacapa, Santa Rosa, San Miguel, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz, you can be alone. Unless you call a belching sea lion company ….
Alcatraz: For 1.3 million tourists a year, Alcatraz is an adventure. For Bob Luke, it’s hell. “There’s no good memories,” says the man who spent five years (1954-59) incarcerated on “the Rock.” “The only good memory was the day I left.”
Luke and fellow inmate Bill Baker attend reunions on Alcatraz, along with several guards and a smattering of kids who grew up on the island. Tourists booking trips on reunion days hear firsthand tales about one of the world’s most infamous prisons. Guard George DeVincenzi (1950-57) says he was aware of the danger from the first day he reported for duty and a haircut ….
Pacific Crest Trail: Drakesbad Guest Ranch proudly proclaims its locale as 1,348 miles from Mexico and 1,410 miles from Canada. That puts it smack in the middle of the Pacific Crest Trail and a respite for hikers making the arduous three-country trek. Or not.
With an aversion to long hikes, my daughter and I had no plans to tackle the famed PCT. We were perfectly content living vicariously through the eyes of the dusty travelers coming in for a hot meal and a bed. Besides, our trail mix was down to its last nut.
Read the rest of these stories along with tales from dozens of your favorite BATW travel journalists in California’s national parks, monuments, trails, seashores and historic sites. For a limited time, you can download a free copy at www.batw.org/publications.