Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Another Part of California

I recently had the chance to get out of suburbia and camp in the Owens Valley (Inyo County). To get there from here you take 5 to 14 to 395 and drive for a long time through the crunch of LA traffic, the audacious sprawl of Palmdale and Lancaster, and many hundreds of kilometers of desert bushes, Joshua Trees, and isolated clusters of houses until the ecosystem changes to pine forest.

Well, at least I was carpooling :) The trip did involve a massive amount of driving. But, like I said, it was a rural place and that's pretty much the only game in town out there. Certainly the only way we were going to carry all the crap we had with us (although I did see people carrying stuff on bikes and there is this thing called Eastern Sierra Transit). Apparently the largest nearby town was Mammoth Lakes, population 7,000 ish.

It is neat every once in a while to see a place that is less shaped by human hands than a city. It's also neat to think about how we take for granted things like flush toilets, plumbing that brings us drinkable water, the warmth that comes with indoor shelter, and the softness of sleeping on a bed as opposed to the ground. It's also neat to go to a place where phone and internet reception are harder to come by and just stare at trees, talk, hike around and think about things. I also don't want to minimize the fact that people who actually live there have to make a living from that land somehow.

It was a cause for reflection about my whole transportation philosophy. I'd say my regret is that we weren't in a more efficient vehicle, since we would have saved a ton of gasoline. It's also a good chance to remember that without population density, transit will probably be either crappy or nonexistent and most people will default to cars if they can afford them.

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