Friday, February 2, 2018

Jetting Away to California

You know what I haven't done in a long time... blogged!

Yikes, the last post was almost two-months ago. Despite the lack of content on here lately, daily website traffic to my travel blog is still on the rise, therefore here's a much appreciated, continued thanks to all of you. It's fun seeing what stories have been the most-read, day after day. Some of my posts about Iceland alone, have been getting hundreds of pageviews each week, please go check out that wonderful island but respect it and tread lightly. Tis' the season to go to the land of the ice and snow?

Life's been busy with a huge archiving project at the publishing company that required a hefty amount of overtime, thrown in with other freelance writing and photography, ski trips and sticking to a dedicated workout schedule where I'm either rock climbing and/or swimming a ton of laps, five nights. Oh, and attempt to have a social life too. But I'm excited to finally do some travel writing (because it's one of my favorite things to do and I actually do get a little tired writing about cars all the time), so, here it is from seat 27F on board Southwest Airlines.

Right now I'm on a plane heading to California for a work trip to shoot some photos of a big model car show in Santa Clara for the magazine. I learned in this 4-degree freezing cold morning, that it's a bit hard to haul a 50lb, hardshell plastic case filled with camera equipment, my Gregory Baltoro 65L backpacking pack (with my camping gear in it), a carry-on duffel bag and camera/laptop backpack, all by yourself. Especially when you haven't had more than one mug of coffee. Fun fact, did you know that if you have media credentials, you don't have to pay for overweight baggage on Southwest? Win.

Once that show wraps-up, I'll be packing up all my photo gear and driving out to Pinnacles National Park to spend three days hiking, camping and exploring. Truthfully, Pinnacles has been a park I've been really yearning to check out. Every single photo I see of it makes my jaw drop in awestruck. It just looks like such a fascinating place and I've been intrigued by its draw for years now.

Side note- the driftless part of the state (Wisconsin) is crazy cool and surreal from almost 20,000 feet on a clear frigid February day as this Boeing 737-800 makes its way to Denver for a two-hour layover.

Back to Pinnacles. Everyone I've enthusiastically told about this national park responds with a confused "Huh? What's that? I've never heard of it." That's because it's the newest national park in the National Park Service system. Pinnacles was one of the first established national monuments under conservation godfather Teddy Roosevelt's effort to set aside massive parts of land for protective status.

About five years ago under President Obama, who I can't applaud enough for his eager, generous efforts to follow in the footsteps of sir Roosevelt, Pinnacles was upgraded to a National Park! With our joke of a horrendous, embarrassing new administration in the White House and laughing-stock of a Department of the Interior secretary, the wannabe-cowboy Ryan Zinke; we most likely won't see any new national monuments or parks created for a sad, long time. Because well, drilling in and selling-off already-established protected federal land seems to be the thing to do to make America great again. Meanwhile Chile just established 10 million acres of land to be protected as a national park thanks to a collaboration between the Chilean government and a couple of generous American philanthropists. Think about that for a hot sec.

What makes Pinnacles special, apart from its puzzling, rugged beautiful craggy landscapes begging to be discovered- is its dedication to researching and protecting the largest bird in the United States: the California Condor. True fact, I love birds and know quite a bit about them. Once on the dangerous path of extinction (in 1983 there were only 22 documented condors in existence worldwide), these big vultures with 10-ft wingspans have thankfully made a rapid comeback. They're fascinating animals and I'm stoked to see these flying giants in-person for the first time.

When I return to Wisconsin next Wednesday, I'll draft-up a whole blog post dedicated to this stunning national park. That is, after spending all day Thursday down at the Chicago International Auto Show media day covering and reporting on it for Bring on the new cars, sport coats and dress shoes, reuniting with other fellow automotive journalist friends, and the joys of a press pass.

Stay tuned and cheers,