Archive for the ‘Natural Wonders’ Category

At 5 a.m. in the darkness, driving through farms, fields and fog, with the defroster blowing cold air on my frozen sock-covered hands, I headed up to the high country once again. With a shrinking bank account and a truck with 330,000 miles on it and various parts regularly falling off, I made my way across the Central Valley to ask for endorsement for protection of a big swath of the Sierra — in a place where politicians actually advocated logging in Yosemite after the Rim Fire.

My mission? To make a national monument between Yosemite and Sequoia, which runs from 12,000 to 1,000 feet and encompasses three major watersheds – the South Fork of the Merced, the Kings and the San Joaquin Rivers – and about a million forested acres.

It’s a big and grandiose plan, some say. Yes, it is.

But on I drove in my truck with no functioning heater in mid-winter. By the time I knocked on a business door in downtown Mariposa or Oakhurst or North Fork or Coarsegold to ask for an endorsement, my level of total discomfort would reach a crescendo. I don’t like sales. I don’t really even like to talk much.

Deep breath. Open door. The jingle of bells. The suspicious eyes surveying me and my clipboard. It was awkward. I’d talk, listen, and ask and repeat this scene hundreds of times, after hundreds of miles of driving. What am I looking for? Just a signature. But I got a lot more than that.

What I discovered in being honest and vulnerable to complete strangers is that most of them care about the environment and they care about the place they live, even in one of the most conservative districts in the state. Many signed on. Some were doubtful. A few were caustic. But mostly, they were kind.

Even at the Forest Service office…

I made an appointment with the supervisor of the entire Sierra National Forest, to discuss how he might (or might not) like to manage a national monument. He was polite. He is organized, and the man can run a public meeting with aplomb, a good person to be in charge. But the Forest Service generally doesn’t like monument designations, but I thought I would ask, anyway. He said he wouldn’t quit. Well, that’s a start.

Naturally, my truck broke down out front, right after our meeting, and the Forest Service staff provided the jump. I made it about one mile, and it failed again. Then, a gentleman helped push the truck off the highway and disappeared. Then, a police lady stood with me in the rain, until I could get a tow truck. Then the Pep Boys staff gave me a free oil change with an alternator replacement, and I went home, finally arriving around 9 p.m. (I can’t even begin to detail the wonders my mechanic has worked during this time.)

I used to drive up to the mountains and hike and sit silently under the trees, and not say much, and it made me feel wonderful, alive and content. But I had no idea that the people and the towns around my favorite place were so rich with life and goodness too. If anything, I’ve learned that political rhetoric can interfere with a real conversation between real people, working to do the right thing.

If ever there was a cause for hope for a better world, I found it in them. I am grateful for every business person, organization and individual who signed on last year, who gave me a chance or cup of coffee or a piece of chocolate, or just a word of encouragement.

I look forward to another year of getting to know you. Thank you very much, from my heart to yours.

Learn more about the Sierra National Monument Project. Like the Project here. Endorse.


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Cover No EdgeHumans have been around for 200,000 years, and we’ve been walking for most of it. We’re meant to do it. It’s only recently that we started sitting, and the results are predictably bad.

Time outside, particularly walking in a natural place,  improves the mind, body and spirit, which is basically the holy trinity of a healthy life and living. When we walk in the wilderness, we think more clearly, we develop stronger bodies, and we feel better about ourselves and all living things.

That’s the philosophy behind my hiking book, which I’ll officially launch on the first day of spring.  You’re invited to celebrate with me at Title Nine in Los Gatos at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 20.

In a nutshell, the 29 hikes described in the book cover select portions of the Southwest, largely California, but also southern Utah and northern Arizona. It’s taken me most of my life to find and appreciate these special places.

rock shadow embellishThus far, I’ve worked in Yosemite, Death Valley, the Grand Canyon and Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks. For 15 years, I’ve wandered the West, from the dewy forests of Olympic National Park to the southern deserts of New Mexico, and many places in between. This book is about the best places I’ve come to know, and how they’ve changed me and help me grow.

Read the official introduction. Listen to the accompanying playlist.  And go outside and enjoy this beautiful day.

When you get back, you can buy a copy here for $25 and plan your next adventure. (Please note: There may be a momentary delay in delivery. It’s not automated yet, so you’ll receive it directly from me.)

I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes.—e. e. cummings

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Van Halen

Van Halen Rocking!

Plato was right. Music lights up your entire brain. Scientists don’t know exactly why, but it has the power to heal, to unify and to get you moving. It soars right past your conscious and unconscious thinking.

In fact, it’s the only thing that actually overrides your brain’s natural pacing. If you want to run faster, turn up the tempo on your iPod playlist.

Humans and songbirds are the only creatures that automatically feel the beat of a song, according to Dr. Nina Kraus, a professor of Neurobiology and Physiology. The human heart synchronizes to music; the legs want to swing. “Our bodies are made to be moved by music and move to it,” she said.

People afflicted with severe neurological problems are known to suddenly reawaken when the right melody is played. They may not be able to speak, but they can sing. Our response to music is widely distributed throughout the brain, and as such, scientists are having difficulty measuring its specific effects.

tuneAccording to a Columbia University article,“It’s easy to have one part of the brain fall away, and you have some deficit and you say, ‘Oh, that part of the brain does that, right?’ ” said Dr. Petr Janata, a cognitive neuroscientist. “It’s much less satisfying to say ‘Okay, music is everywhere’—but that’s what we’re seeing.”

It’s everywhere.

Music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life.–Ludwig van Beethoven

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