July is National Park and Recreation Month

July 7, 2014

   The great thing about living in Cambria is you need no directions to one of the greatest national parks on earth. Take 46 east, veer left on 41. About 3 ½ hours later you arrive at the south gate to Yosemite.

   Yosemite has been a cherished place for family vacations since I was a kid, and last year I backpacked there for the first time. It wasn’t a long expedition by any means, just far enough out from the valley to camp for a couple of nights. But I saw the park in a different way and it was just incredible. It reminded me of what truly special places our parks are and why we need to preserve them.

Here's a view of Yosemite landmarks, looking north from the trail near Buena Vista Lake. The dome on the left is Half Dome. The pointy dark one is Mt. Starr King.
   It was all wilderness once from Manhattan Island to Iowa to SLO County. By the late 1800s people like John Muir started putting 2 and 2 together, realizing that uncontrolled growth threatened our wild lands. In 1864 President Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant (which just celebrated it’s 150th anniversary). And in 1890 Yosemite, except for its famous valley, became a national park – Yellowstone was the world’s first national park 18 years earlier.
   But Yosemite Valley was still in the hands of California. Thanks to John Muir he tirelessly lobbied to put the valley under the authority of the park which happened by 1916 and helped lead the way to a U.S. national park system. Here’s a short history for further reading.

   July is Park and Recreation Month in the United States, and we’re reminded to appreciate and support our public spaces from city parks to national ones. Remember the scare a few years ago when California contemplated selling off some park land to private developers? It makes me appreciate what a treasure the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve is in Cambria. Just down the coast, the Pismo Preserve is a vital open space that needs support if it is to become reality this summer. Another treasure on the central coast.

   The ranch in Cambria brings so much joy for it’s wonderful views of the ocean, fresh air and the wild flowers, birds and other animals that live there. But also, the ranch is so key to the fitness of many Cambrians whether it’s to walk, run or take a short bike ride. As I see it, getting outside is one of the essentials of personal fitness. Sure, you can walk on a treadmill or ride a stationary bike, and that’s all fine, but you actually work a little harder outside than you do indoors. But even more, being outdoors is more inspiring. Don’t believe me? Here’s just one of a number of studies on the matter.

   So, this year the theme for Park and Recreation Month is “Out is In.” Get outside and in a park. The sponsor, the National Recreation and Park Association, is giving away daily prizes for photos of people’s activities in parks posted to Instagram or Twitter (@NRPA_News) using the hashtag #JulyOUTisIN!

   This year I'm looking forward to backpacking Yosemite again on a different trail and next year I plan to see more than 10 national parks over the summer I've never been to like the Grand Canyon, Zion and Great Sands. We'll do some day hikes, bike rides, and an overnight backpack or two... and plenty of chillaxing!