Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Portrait of a closed California State Park

On Memorial Day, I hiked at Castle Crags State Park in Northern California. The park was one of those slated for closure in July, but the sector superintendent had to close early due to lack of funds. He let go nine seasonal employees (one of whom had been there for 12 years), and build a gate where none had been before

As you can see from the pictures in the collage below, closed gates don't keep people out.

The couple on the left drove down from Oregon. The father and daughter team on the right were on their way to Tahoe where she was starting an internship to model earthquakes. The four in the lower right were up from Red Bluff, and the couple in khaki moved from France to San Francisco three years and joined the California State Parks Foundation. The girl watching a caterpillar crawl across her hand was one of six kids in a large family that hiked to Castle Dome with a 2,200-foot elevation gain.

We found the district supervising ranger, C. Brett Mizeur, emptying trash and refilling toilet paper at the only pit toilet open in a park that covers 5,000 acres, and is surrounded by 14, 000 more. He is leaving it open as a courtesy. He threw the garbage bags into his truck, which he would drive back to Burney Falls.

"I always tell my wife, if I win the Mega Million lottery I'm gonna save Castle Crags," said Mizeur, the only peace officer in the entire wilderness area other than sheriffs and the California Highway Patrol.

I heart California State Parks!

With its wide trails designed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933, its blooming dogwood, inspiring towers, and sweet-smelling pines, the park instantly became one of my top five hikes.