The traffic piled up as the car with the red and white plates motored along at a blazing 20 miles per hour. The driver appeared oblivious to the fact he was driving 20 miles per hour below the speed limit. But I’m sure for him or her, driving a winding mountain road in Colorado did seem pretty scary.
Riding the chairlift today, I noticed quite a few snowboarders and an occasional skier digging themselves out of tree wells. I also observed a bunch of skiers snowplowing through mogul fields. Unfamiliar with the terrain, out of town skiers often find themselves in these kinds of predicaments. Neither of these particular incidents surprised me — it is, after all, Martin Luther King’s Day weekend.
Working for national parks and ski resorts, I’ve worked quite a few holiday weekends. Reflecting upon my experiences, I’ve noticed a certain pattern to these visitors and the things they do. You see, the visitors that visit resorts or parks during holiday weekends seem to be different than the people you encounter on a regular weekend. They tend to be the “this is the one time a year I’m going skiing” person. Or the, “this is the only time I’m visiting a national park” person. Wholly unfamiliar with the environment, they can often find themselves in big trouble.
Perhaps one of the oddest things I saw working at a ski resort was while skiing an expert mogul run. This particular run had a gate you had to go through with a very bright yellow sign saying: “Warning! (Double black diamond). This terrain is for experts only.”
Yet, halfway down the run, I spied a father and son sliding on their butts, skis in their hands. Sliding in the troughs between the giant humps of snow, they looked like they were engaged in a slide down a mountain stream filled with boulders. Wanting to be of help, I gently asked:
“Are you okay? Is something wrong with your skis?”
“Oh no, we’re okay. We just accidentally took this trail. We didn’t know there was another way to go until it was too late.”
He grinned like this was all one big, happy adventure.
That tale pales in comparison to working at Sequoia National Park during Labor Day weekend. Stationed at The General Sherman Tree to answer questions for visitors, I spied a woman carrying something green and bushy towards the parking lot. In Sequoia, a very showy shrub called manzanita with a glossy red bark grows underneath the sequoia trees. This woman had apparently dug up a manzanita bush and was carrying it to her car.
“In national parks, you are not allowed to take anything natural with you. You can’t take that manzanita with you.”
“No ma’am, you’ll have to leave that with me.”
Her face belied her disappointment as she begrudgingly handed over the bush, dirt crumbling off the root ball that clung to its roots.
Though it may mean taking extra time off of work, I choose to enjoy my favorite places in nature without all the craziness. So, the place you’ll most likely find me during a holiday weekend is home, far away from all the crowds and shenanigans.