One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of since are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who see the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.
One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am - a reluctant enthusiast, a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land, it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much, I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this: you will outlive the bastards.
Over the Fourth of July holiday weekend my friend, his two friends (whom I now consider my friends), and I went car camping at River Ranch campground on the outskirts of the Stanislaus National Forest in California. Although the camping itself was more like tailgating at a football game due to the surplus of amenities (cots, chairs, three coolers, a standup grill, cheerleaders) and beer, the experience was valuable for many reasons, one of which is that through visiting a new place one gains familiarity with the surrounding environment, thus determining where to go when returning in the future (assuming it is a place worth returning to). Therefore, I now know that when I return to Stanislaus I shall venture far beyond the azure lakes that flank Route 108 and journey as far as time, resources, and energy permit into the Carson-Iceberg and Emigrant Wilderness. But that remains the subject for another blog post. Until then, what follows are pictures taken on the trip to Pinecrest and Beardsley Lake, as well to God’s Bath (aka God’s Glory Hole/God’s Bukkake).
Above the Central Valley and below the High Sierras of Tuolumne County lies a subalpine wonderland of rivers, canyons, forests, valleys, and lakes. Drive east from Twain Harte on the winding State Route 108 toward the Sonora Pass and enter Stanislaus National Forest. Just off the 108, Pinecrest Lake (elevation 5,600 ft.) is a popular summer holiday destination for hundreds of families who come from the out woodworks to enjoy the refreshing mountain air and water. If you seek peace and quiet, you’ll have to venture up from the lakeshore into the rocky pine slopes above the drone of motorboats and cackling crowds who should not be blamed for visiting the same lake at the same time. (California is the most populous state in the nation, and it’s wrong to scorn the similarly or like-minded minorities whom have successfully escaped their concrete and drywall cells and the technological torture of urban monotony to seek reprieve at a lake in the mountains, unless they came here to watch or participate in jet ski races, wet T-shirt contests, or hot dog eating competitions.)
In the cliffs and forests above the lake you will come across myriad animals that have fled the lake seeking refugee from the people and sound pollution. (In addition to the boat motors, the lake dissonance is augmented by car speakers blasting music and robotic female voices providing GPS directions for departing visitors.) The ospreys, flickers, and tanagers will nest farther from the lake as the human activity at the lake increases, but for how long they will able to continue their resettling and survival efforts is unknown, for the arboreal ecosystem upon which these birds rely is in a state of terminal downfall. When you go to Stanislaus National Forest, you can see dead and dying trees everywhere. They are dying by the millions. It is a frightening sight: desiccated pine trees, dried and brittle, ready to light-up like matchsticks, spreading across the forest like a rust-colored cancer. The implications are grave, and the reasons (drought, deforestation, pollution, development) for this massive die-off should be thoroughly contemplated and reflected upon by all Californians who care to act if we are to arrest this descent into an environmental holocaust. While walking through the forest above the lake, I wondered what it was like a there century ago, and what it will be like in a century from now.
In the streams trickling down the mountain ravines to Beardsley Lake in the summer live colonies of plants and insects such as spiders and ladybugs and water striders. On the upstream hike to God’s Bath dozens of butterflies were observed marching on the sand and fluttering above the riverbank. The lifespan of ladybugs and butterflies is less than a year, yet these insects have existed as respective species on Earth for over 50 million years. While the lifespan of individual spiders and butterflies may be considered short, as a species they have collectively stood the test of time. While there may be no purpose to life nor explanation for the existence of life, I tend to lean toward the school of thought which advocates that our species should follow in the path of the insects and try to make this game last as long as possible via achieving a homeostasis with the natural world. The reason for this may be as simple as the deduction that by embracing a healthy and balanced lifestyle, the greater the chances that humans and our posterity will live longer and enjoy the universe. But if we check out now that too is fine, for we’re not obligated to be here for any given length of time. What is disturbing about the current mode of operations is that our species seems to be taking many other species out in our march toward the precipice. The trees, insects, and birds (among myriad other creatures) have done nothing to deserve their participation in the diabolical demise of their habitat and the implosion of the natural world, but nonetheless have been thrust to edge of existence, threatened with extinction, and forcibly endowed with front-row seats to the grand finale of the greatest show on Earth. They are the victims of a worldwide ecocide, and it is our responsibility to do more to prevent their annihilation, for we the cause of it, and by saving them we would be saving ourselves. Indeed, saving them is the only way to save ourselves.
Wind turbines and freeways west of Livermore.