28 September, 2016

On Big Sur

McWay Falls ©2016 Sibu Puthenveettil
It's difficult to believe, when you visit places such as Yosemite National Park or the Big Sur region, that your hands and footprints would leave behind any trace at all. When you pass through the clusters of centuries-old Redwoods, and turn a bend over a precipice overlooking the rough coast of churning blue-green water over beaten rock, you feel the sensation of detached observation. You're floating through the coastal highway, which meanders along the edge of the continent, disembodied, like a ghost. It seems untouchable in its sheer scale and solidity. Though you only have to smell the air for a moment to catch wind of the flames that had, and continue to, burn through the region. The Soberanes fire is, to a vistior like myself, the sight of a scorched landscape, darkened in some areas, and bare. It is the sight of rangers at roadside entrances signalling park and trail closures. But to those whose foundations are in Big Sur, it is the loss of homes, memories, and even life, as well as residual damage that extends to the very air they breathe. That so much could have occurred from a single unattended(illegal) campfire is mind-boggling. That a lapse in judgement or a lack thereof would have ramifications that last several months and affect an ancient region and all those who touch it, is frightening. So, what was done by a few now must be undone by several others, as testament to the blackened earth littered with signs of gratitude to the incredible firemen(and women) working to contain the flames. We're all, myself included, in such a hurry to experience and be a part of these natural privileges that sometimes we don't consider the implications of not leaving these wonderful places just as we found them. And so, our inherent awe and appreciation for these areas manifest in ways that are sometimes unwittingly detrimental to them. It's important then, to be mindful(easier said than done, I know) of the footprints we leave behind, whether it be campground maintenance or even restraining ourselves from crossing barriers to get just the right shot. But, just as the firefighters offer glimmers of solace to the people of Big Sur, so do pockets of seemingly untouched areas exist, such as McWay Falls here, the trail to which was closed. But perhaps that's for the best.

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