01 Aug Setting Sail: Packing in the Parks, The NPS Centennial, and saying Farewell to California
Just now, just by typing “…saying Farewell to California” caused my eyes to swell up a little and that lump in my throat feeling to happen. So it’s hard to believe that when my Supervisor, Ranger Lucien Sonder, asked me a month ago how I felt about joining a bunch of youth groups and their staff on a backpacking trip through the breathtaking Marin Headlands, I felt some hesitation. The hesitation a mix of fear, anxiety, and thoughts of logistical quandaries about having enough time to find a place in Chicago for grad school in the Fall, packing up, and moving. Having never really leaving Oakland for too long of a period played into these feelings. Long ago, when I was first called to the mountains to do trail work in Yosemite, before I even knew about John Muir, or knew of the majesty that is Yosemite Valley, or how refreshing crisp mountain air feels like entering my lungs first thing in the morning , I first held this hesitation… Growing up in an urban landscape never having the privilege or luxury of camping or traveling much has instilled in me this fear of the unknown. Needs were all too often immediate and necessary, we couldn’t think about going out to the middle of nowhere and sleeping on the dirt under the stars. On some level it just didn’t make sense, or simply was never even a thought that crossed anyone’s mind. In a way, this deepened my roots in Oakland, I saw it as home. My mom left the Sonoran Desert when she was only 14 and never looked back. Our family was an island unto itself since we didnt have much extended family to visit so we just stuck to ourselves because thats all we had. The pull of urgency was just too great. This familiar pull again was met with a friendly push. In part I didn’t want to leave my wife for a few days, given that she’s staying in California for grad school so we don’t have much time together left. But she felt that I should go, that it would be a great experience that I shouldn’t miss out on. And right (per usual) she was. So as John Muir once said, “The Mountains are calling and I must go.” The event, known as Packing the Parks, was put together by dedicated folks at the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy to celebrate the National Park Service Centennial. Two teams of 50 hikers each, one starting in Pacifica, CA (the South Team) and the other starting at Stinson Beach (the North Team) would hike for three days towards Crissy Field in San Francisco and converge for the last mile and hike together to end at Crissy Field Center to celebrate. I was on the North Team and I saw this as my California Farewell Tour. Starting at the beach and walking up golden grass covered sun drenched foothills dotted with mighty oak trees then cresting at amazing vistas of the Pacific Ocean, followed by hikes through ancient Redwoods and chaparral blanketed valleys and ending with walking across the Golden Gate Bridge: I was soaking in the best of classic California landscapes in 3 days, 29 miles.