Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “camp”

Yosemite Campground Hijinx

This past weekend, I once again had the privilege of staying for a few nights in Yosemite National Park, this time returning to Tuolumne Meadows after about a 20-year absence.

The weather didn’t cooperate as well as it could have, but the trip was still really great and well worth the drive. As is typical of the Sierra Nevada in summer, a pattern of afternoon clouds, showers, and sometimes thunderstorms repeated each day, almost like clockwork. If you’re headed that way, go prepared with extra tarps and rope or some other way of constructing a little shelter at your campsite.

The beauty of Tuolumne Meadows is distinct from that found in Yosemite Valley. The valley is more visually striking, spectacular, in fact. Tuolumne Meadows is a little more gentle in its forms, even with its huge, looming rock domes scattered across its forests and meadows. It’s almost as much of a rock-climber’s paradise as is the valley, but it offers much more than the valley for the (maybe casual) hiker that wants to avoid huge gains in elevation.

What I want to write about here, though, are the people.

The people you encounter in national parks are a selective sub-breed – for the most part. They’re friendly, honest, trusting, open, and often educated and intelligent. However, not all of them are always thoughtful or considerate of others.

Campgrounds in national parks and other places are starting to resemble the infield at a NASCAR race just a little bit. Everyone comes for the beauty and atmosphere of the park, but some also come to party. In addition, some people just don’t really think about how loud their voices are or how well they carry in the morning air.

As an example, we were caught between two neighboring campsites, one with nighttime partiers and the other with a group resembling early-morning roosters. As a result, we didn’t get much sleep.

Neither of these groups was made up of “bad” people. I talked to one of the partiers at length. He and most of his group were in their early twenties and visiting from Australia. He was a really nice guy and we had a great chat. My wife pulled me away and I forgot to work into the conversation that “quiet hours” started at 10 p.m.

I didn’t talk to the morning group, but they seemed like really nice people who may have been visiting from somewhere in Latin America (they all spoke Spanish the whole time) and they were incredibly enthusiastic about getting all that they could out of there visit to the park. They ranged in age from something like 5 to 50 and they left their campsite by 7 a.m. each day and returned late at night. They also appeared to be amazingly well organized, but at 6 a.m. they were shouting and laughing loudly and didn’t seem to notice the motionless campsites nearby.

These groups had one thing in common: a lack of consideration for the other campers near them. Is this getting more common, or do I just notice it more? I got more and more annoyed as I wondered if these people ever thought of anyone but themselves.

As I resentfully pulled my pillow over my head, a memory hit me. It was in this very campground, over 20 years ago, that the inconsiderate jerks… were me and my friends. We had arrived late at the camp, started a campfire and were talking and laughing very loudly, well into the night. A nearby camper came over and, somewhat angrily, asked us to pipe down. Of course, we responded to his anger defensively at first, but we knew he was right. We quieted down after having waited 10 minutes so as not to be directly following our “orders,” and we went to sleep.

In the back of my mind, as it is almost every time I criticize anyone, is the thought that I have done the same thing, committed the same offense, been just as inconsiderate, and made a total ass of myself… and maybe even worse than those currently annoying me.

I guess this is part of getting older. I want sleep more than I want to party. I love a good beer or three, but I want to drink them calmly and then I want to stay in bed past 7:30 a.m. if at all possible.

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

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Loser Hippies with Nothing to Say

I’ve been a part of several protests over the years, some with thousands of other people and some with only twenty or so. But I have to admit I don’t like it very much. I get tired of standing around the same real-estate, shouting the same slogans while holding a sign. So while I have been cheering the “occupy” protests on from my couch, I haven’t played much of a part and, like most, I have formed my own image of what these camps of protesters are probably like.

So, just a couple of days ago, I finally paid a visit to, “Occupy Oakland,” (basically an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street) taking place in Frank Ogawa Plaza which has been unofficially renamed, “Oscar Grant Plaza.” I knew, before my visit, that the media had played to the semi-conservative crowd in criticizing the occupy protests as being basically a bunch of disorganized hippies with nothing significant to say. I knew what the media were trying to accomplish and so I knew not to believe it. But I was still somewhat stunned by what I did see.

When I took a walk through the ad-hoc campground at Oscar Grant Plaza, I saw organization everywhere. There was an information center near the entrance with printed information and people to answer questions. Leaning up against the information center was a huge whiteboard with the day’s events listed. Then, as I moved into the camp, I saw the cooking operation – almost military in it’s efficiency if not its appearance. A saw people lined up in a civilized manner, waiting for their food, which had been donated by camp members and other well-wishers and some of it purchased with donations.

Then I spotted – not too far past the garbage and recycling center, the library. As you might imagine, the library did not contain the collected works of Shakespeare, but mostly political books and information. Outside the library, was the energy center. A guy was riding a stationary bicycle, rigged to a small generator that powered laptop computers and several other devices. There was a schedule of riders such that someone would always be pedalling and keeping the camp alive and connected. Next to the library was the supply tent. In front was a big chalkboard listing the items needed by the camp. Inside were the things that had been donated but not given out yet. There is no money exchanged in an of this. Have – give. Need – get.

Then I took a walk through the middle of the “residential” tent area. The path had been “paved” with wooden pallets so as not to turn to mud and leave the grass destroyed. Signs were posted along the way saying that quiet time began at midnight. Near the end of the pallet path was a first-aid booth. There was an EMT on hand and the booth was, at the moment, manned by a guy that had been trained as a back-country medic of some sort. The booth looked like a little drug store, with lots of bandages and the like. While I was standing there one of the supply guys came up with some pain-killers, Advil, Tylenol, etc., that had been donated.

As I was walking around I talked to a few people. They were not homeless. They could go home to their apartments or houses if they wanted to, but the chose to be here at Oscar Grant Plaza. This and the other qualities of the camp that I had observed led me to beleive that this was a movement – not just a protest, and certainly not a cool new fad. These people are in it for the long haul and that’s exactly what is needed. If they give in to the various pressures, the movement will accomplish nothing. The “establishment,” as it is known, has shown in no uncertain terms its anxiousness to ignore, dismiss, and even accuse this group. “They are the losers of society,” I have actually heard on the news.

Take a walk into an established “Occupy” camp. These people are anything but losers. They’re just not filled with the desire to win at any cost – even at the expense of their neighbors. Cooperation. Comeradery. Consensus. Companionship. I’d call these the goals of winners. I’d say that those are the foundations of a great community and a great way of life. Many have asked, “Will they be successful?” They already have. I’ll ask this: Will we all be successful?

 -Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

Tom also posts on thrustblog.blogspot.com

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