You know how it is… You assume all the things on your bucket list will be there forever. To be picked off when you have the time and opportunity to get around to them.
But sadly, sometimes this isn’t the case. And when something you’ve always wanted to see or experience is suddenly inaccessible, or even destroyed, it can come as quite a shock.
In May 2011, Rich, Sue and I met up with some friends in Las Vegas for their wedding. After the festivities, we left the happy couple behind and travelled west towards California. Our original plan had been to cross the Sierra Nevada Mountains via the Tioga Pass and so visit Yosemite National Park, a place I’d wanted to see since I first heard of it. Yet during the planning of the trip, to our surprise we discovered that the passes over the mountains are usually still blocked by snow in May.
As an aside, I’m sure I’m not the first person to perceive California as being all about sun, surf and wineries. But when you realise that Mount Whitney, the highest point in the Lower 48 States, is in the Sierra Nevada, it’s not that surprising that the passes are often affected by snow until well into June.
While it was disappointing to miss out on visiting Yosemite on that occasion, we did get to see loads of other cool stuff (Sandstorms & Thundersnow). Plus we consoled ourselves with the fact we’d just catch Yosemite the next time around. After all, it wasn’t like it was going anywhere, was it?
So it’s hard to believe that last September, as I was writing the original version of this blog, Yosemite was battling California’s terrifying Rim Fire. At that point, the blaze had already consumed around 350 square miles of wilderness, over a quarter of it within the northwest corner of the National Park. And even the famous Yosemite Valley, at the park’s heart, was filled with smoke and potentially under threat.
Fortunately, the majority of Yosemite was saved from the ravages of the Rim Fire by the heroic efforts of almost 5000 fire fighters. What’s more, less than three months earlier we’d finally ticked Yosemite off our bucket list.
Our Take Two at Yosemite, in 2013, was also during the month of May (Where Was Jaspa?). But on this occasion we came from the west, from San Francisco, which meant we had no mountains to cross. That being said, the passes were actually open by the time we visited last year, and we spent one wonderful day driving east over the Tioga Pass to Mono Lake, and then back west via the Sonora Pass.
But even that didn’t compare to descending into the famous valley oasis, to stand ant-like beneath the towering rock walls of El Capitan and Half Dome, not forgetting Yosemite Falls, the fifth highest waterfall in the world. It was truly breathtaking.
Taking a ‘glass-is-half-full’ view, in the long run the Yosemite ecosystem will ultimately benefit enormously from a conflagration as cleansing as the Rim Fire. It will have cleared away clogging undergrowth and have recycled unfathomable amounts of nutrients back into the soil.
But for those visitors who just wish to go and marvel at the beauty of Yosemite, parts of the view will be spoilt for decades to come. I count myself extremely lucky to have seen the park before such a devastating blaze. Sometimes that’s the way it goes.
On occasion, the force preventing us achieving the goals on our bucket list isn’t a natural one. In November 2010, Rich, Sue and I spent a wonderful day wandering the streets of Alexandria, Egypt, on our own. I doubt we’d have been able to do that just three months later, with the city in the grip of protests associated with the Egyptian Revolution.
Of course, there have been times when I’ve not managed to see something or visit somewhere before the unthinkable happened. I’ve been to New Orleans, but only after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.
I’ve also been to New York City, several times in fact, but I never got a chance to see the Twin Towers, although I have been the 9/11 Memorial.
For now, my point is this: You really never know when it might be too late, so get out there and start working on your own bucket list.
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