Sunday, December 21, 2008

Solstice hike

I did do some hiking this weekend. I should have gone for a hike on Saturday while the weather was nice. I wanted to, but with the holidays and some other activity garnering my time, I decided that I might attempt to get a hike in today (Sunday 12/21). The weather report was showing strong possibility of afternoon showers, but many times I still go out and hike early enough to get done before the rains get here. This strategy failed me today, so I got a little wet, but I’m always prepared for that. It didn’t rain hard at all, and I had tree cover and a rain jacket. Sometimes hiking in the wet is fun. It’s good for the senses.

I went to El Corte de Madera OSP. Usually a haven for bonsai-insane mountain bikers. The trails are multi-use, and I’ve seen them come charging down the steep, very rocky and rough Manzanita Trail, and Fir Trail, bounding over rocks, getting air, brakes squealing, tires skidding, groping for grip on the dust and dirt, and flying at speed, without a prayer of stopping if something was in the way. I’ve learned to be alert here. I was thinking there wouldn’t be many bikers with the weather being a threat, and I was almost right. I did encounter bikers even in the rain, but very friendly an affable were all of them. I didn’t see any other hikers. Really the majority of the cyclists are great folks just out for their brand of outdoor experience, but a few are the bonsai type.

It’s been colder lately as evidenced by the frosty vegetation, and few pines which had frozen sap dripping down the side of their trunks. The recent rains had conditioned the trails into a nice dust-free semi-hardpack type surface with very little mud. The lichens and mosses are really brilliant green hues right now. Somehow the moisture brings out much more color. Even some of the fall colors are still around in areas with lots of deciduous trees. Big Leaf Maples along the Steam Donkey Trail are still shedding yellow and reddish leaves. There is no level ground at El Corte. Every section has its own elevation gain and loss. This is what the fire fighters call “Billy-goat country”. The terrain is so complex it’s hard to remember from visit to visit which trails are up or down. You gotta’ love a workout. No long range views today, and cut the hike short because of the rain.

One trail note: The Giant Salamander Trail and the El Corte de Madera Creek Trail are both closed for restoration work until spring 2009.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Park Advocacy Day 2009

You Californians may remember last year there was a big push to reduce the State’s looming budget deficit by imposing an across the board cut in all State departmental budgets. When this push began, the State Parks Department had formulated a proposal for reducing their operating costs by closing 48 State parks, and eliminating life guards from 16 State beaches, and submitted it to the Governor. This plan was their best determined solution intended to keep the same funding in place for the remaining parks.

This was not the end of the story however. You may also remember that there was a great public outcry over this proposal which spawned a rallying of forces. It generated a groundswell of opposition from various naturalist and outdoor advocate groups, and spurred a letter writing campaign that populated electronic mail boxes in Sacramento. It also stimulated a lot of fresh thinking about exactly what the real importance and true value of our parks and wild spaces really consist of. Also about how the closure of parks would impact State and local revenues apart from the operating costs alone. Alternative solutions to closure were postulated and counter proposed, and after months of intense discussion, debate, and negotiation, eventually the State legislature relented on the closure plan. Click here to read the California State Parks Foundation 2008 talking points.

Most people don’t realize that it is possible to not only have better ideas than the government’s rather short sighted thinking, but also a voice through which to express those thoughts and ideas. In March of 2009 the California State Parks Foundation will sponsor their 7th annual Park Advocacy Day. This is a fantastic opportunity for anyone who believes they have some good positive input to join with others participating in meetings with actual policymakers in Sacramento to discuss important issues related to parks. You only need to register. Even if you cannot go, or don’t want to attend, you can still check out their website for ideas on how you can advocate for parks yourself, and to stay informed.