California's Trinity Alps Wilderness

Show Summary - August 3, 2009


Sharon welcomed the listeners and talked about the importance of water in life and life in water. She said that it is imperative for everyone to realize the importance of water, to drink plenty of water and to carry water with them if they are unsure of a water source. Dehydration, or lack of water, is out of control in our world and causes or contributes to ailments from allergies to obesity.

Guest: Art Bernstein, MS

Art Bernstein, MS (Gold Hill, OR), writer and naturalist. "Forty Consecutive Summers Hiking in California's Trinity Alps Wilderness."

Frequent guest, naturalist, and author, Art Bernstein, talked about hiking in California's immense Trinity Alps Wilderness every summer for the past 40 summers. The Trinity Alps, at the far northern end of the state, constitutes the second largest (519,000 acres) legally designated Wilderness Area in California. Art has been hiking there annually since 1970.

Art explained that in the United States, a "Wilderness Area" is a legal entity officially designated and set aside by the U.S. Congress, much like a National Park. Unlike National Parks, Wilderness Areas have no roads and motorized vehicles and equipment are not allowed (which does not explain the immense iron and concrete footbridge Art and his wife encountered on their most recent hike - were the iron and concrete brought in on mules?).

Legal Wilderness differs from "de facto wilderness" in countries such as Nepal or Congo. Such areas may be vast, remote and unroaded but they are not always legally protected.

Art pointed out the paradox of administering agencies, such as the U.S. Forest Service, which must "sell" Wilderness Areas to the public in order to receive funds to maintain them. If a Wilderness has well developed and easily accessible trailheads, and excellently maintained trails, it will receive more use and the National Forest where it is located will get more money to maintain it. So even though the intended primary goal is preservation, there is no getting around the need to attract public use.

The most "popular" area of the Trinity Alps Wilderness is the rugged and spectacular Trinity Alps range, with its numerous alpine lakes, outstanding scenery and jagged peaks up to 9,000 feet elevation. The Scott Mountains, branching to the east, are also popular. The Salmon Mountains, radiating to the west, are seldom visited. The Salmon Mountains contains features such as Limestone Ridge, which if located in New Jersey would be a major National Park but which is totally lost amid the surrounding vastness. It also contains the upper New River, whose 10,000 acre valley has no trail access, and there is no telling how many bigfeet call it home.

Categories: Ecology and the environment; outdoor recreation; U.S. national parks, monuments, etc.; Art Bernstein; 2009