The older I get, thirty-three now, the more commitment stands out as an important element to happiness and success. Not coincidentally, the biggest commitment I’ve made, marrying my wife of six years, also happens to be the best part of my life.
Commitment gets us to the top of mountains, to the gym when it’s raining, to the resort during chain control, gets us enough cash for a bike or a big trip, and gets us out of guilt trips from friends who haven’t seen us out in months. It’s a good thing but it’s hard. Right now I’m trying to commit to this blog, something I wish I could have said years ago.
I have a hard time committing to meal prep of more than a few days, so of course I’m not fond of reserving campsites and wilderness permits in California. Unfortunately, camping in California is something a few people have heard about. Weather or wedding invitations be damned, some of the best adventures California has to offer require substantial foresight, planning and commitment just to get the permission.
I’m exceedingly bad at waking up six months ahead of a Friday in July to book reservations. Sometimes I haven’t gotten my shit together and it’s April by the time I start thinking about summer trips. One year I bought a bunch of $15 wilderness permits in a stray burst, to the point of double booking some weekends, and used only half of them. One year we got one of the most coveted campsites in the world, one of the two sites at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park in Big Sur, only to end up going to Hawaii for Christmas. No regrets, I’m just not organized for this kind of planning.
But that’s ok. I’m more inclined to stroll down to the bar to see free live music on a Tuesday than I am to wake up for Coachella presale. And I’d rather find a humble backcountry trail or BLM land away from the crowds than trying to do Half Dome from Happy Isles. Our best trips have been impromptu ones, sometimes daring ourselves to make it happen in the least likely of places. Two years in a row we spent the Fourth of July in Yosemite with no reservations, first outside of Tuolumne and the next year on the Pohono Trail. I got around the Whitney lottery by doing it on a whim in May before quotas kick in.
Creativity and inspiration are now things, not six months away. That there are still gorgeous alpine areas in California that have no quotas, no need for them, is ridiculously exciting to me and something to be prioritized over the blockbusters. The quality of the hiking, fishing and camping always tend to be better the less a place is used. So why sweat the long game?
This year though, I’m going to commit, to reservations, this blog and elsewhere, and think my life will be better for it. Worthy goals take planning and I have too many I’ve put off, goals the better prepared are ticking off gleefully. It’s a crowded state and despite overuse and underfunding, it’s a good thing that outdoor recreation is popular in our culture.
Recreation.gov just redid their website last year to function more like a hotel reservation page (though it still needs some work) and Yosemite is doing wilderness permit reservations online now. Sorting out your summer ahead of time has never been easier. So get planning and make sure you set your alarms extra early.