You know how it is… We all think that the things on our Bucket Lists will be there forever, to be picked off when we have the time or opportunity to get around to them.
But sadly, sometimes this isn’t the case. And when something we’ve always wanted to see or experience is suddenly inaccessible, or even destroyed, it can come as quite a shock.
In May 2011, we met up with some friends in Las Vegas for their wedding (something that had been on their Bucket List for years). 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, which was high on my Bucket List. Yet during the planning of the trip, we were surprised to discover 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 I realised that Mt Whitney, the highest point in the Lower 48, is in the Sierra Nevada, I was no longer surprised that the passes are often affected by snow until well into June.
And while it was disappointing to miss out on seeing Yosemite on that occasion, we consoled ourselves with the fact we’d just catch it the next time around. After all, it wasn’t like it was going anywhere, was it?
So it’s hard to believe that as I sit typing this blog, Yosemite is battling California’s terrifying Rim Fire. The blaze has already consumed around 350 square miles of wilderness, over a quarter of it within the northwest corner of the National Park. And since yesterday, even the famous Yosemite Valley at the park’s heart is filled with smoke and potentially under threat.
Yet I’m one of the lucky ones. Because less than three months ago I finally ticked Yosemite off my Bucket List.
For us, Take Two 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 this 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 clear away clogging undergrowth and recycle unfathomable amounts of nutrients back into the soil. But for those who just wish to go and marvel at the beauty of Yosemite, the view will be spoilt for decades to come.
Hopefully, the heroic efforts of almost 5000 fire fighters will save the Yosemite Valley itself from the ravages of the Rim Fire. In any case, I was extremely lucky to see Yosemite before such a devastating blaze. Sometimes that’s the way it goes.
On occasion, the force that prevents us achieving the goals on our Bucket Lists isn’t a natural one. In November 2010, I spent a wonderful day with Rich and Sue 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… but that’s a story for next time.
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. Right now!