This weekend I was able to witness first hand the effects of that brave local governmental decision, a matter on which many opinions existed and were noisily voiced on either side, to allow a fifty percent reopening of many of the San Juan Counties facilities after the four month hiatus caused by the horrors of the Covid-19 pandemic. My considerations are largely based on observations taken during my daily exercise regimen in Moran state park with its numerous camping pitches, opportunities for public exercise, leisure activities, swimming and picnicking as well as my own preference gentle and sedate pedestrian adventuring.
My Saturday excursion started in midafternoon, at an hour that I considered quite late enough to allow for an adequately representative sampling of effect. I admit that approaching the entrance archway my hackles were raised in both excitement and foreboding, joy that visitors might again experience the wonderous beauty that for me is an everyday bounty and a degree of concern that in the now exuberant freedom any thought of precautionary measures would dissolve as quick as ice in sunlight.
I had perhaps foolishly assumed that the fifty percent ruling was somehow connected to a desire to promote social distancing and was therefore expecting to see tents well-spaced, say perhaps in every other pitch site. My first indication that this was not going to be the case was lake side at mid-camp. Quite surprisingly each and every space adjacent to the lake was being fully utilized, from boat launch to viable furthest point, which meant that with the twenty first century campers need for additional provision tents and covered areas for picnicking what had on Friday been a wonderfully open and picturesque space was now little more than a tent city, and a rather run down suburb of the municipality at that. My heartfelt disappointment hidden behind a quickly affixed ‘welcome to Orcas’ smile I made my way nervously southwards towards end-camp.
After a short excursion through Camp Moran in a vain attempt to clear my mind and refocus positively I strolled into what can only be described as campsite hell. The edge of the lake was one continuous heaving mass of canvas, haphazardly strewn picnic tables, with of course attendant cars, bicycles, motorcycles, individuals and pets, a nightmare worthy of summer at its very worst, say Labor Day weekend.
I will in this instance ignore the cacophony of noise, something I admit I find increasingly difficult to do. Is it just me or has anyone else noticed that mankind’s volume control seems to be increasingly stuck on ‘way to loud’?
My mind is still having some difficulty melding fifty percent usage with the scenes I witnessed, excepting of course I am now wholly horrified and perturbed at how a return to one hundred percent will appear. I can only assume that the Mount Constitution campsites must have been thinly occupied if not empty, and that the Primitive cycle and hiker camp which has not seen a tent in over a year was included in any calculation to obtain allowable maximum park occupancy. Whatever the method used I categorically suggest may have met the letter of the requirements but in no way met the moral or intent. If the aim was to avoid the creation of possible hotspots, the result was decidedly lacking in foresight and effectiveness if not wholly counterproductive.
My Sunday excursion was again taken in the afternoon, this time to allow the departure of purely weekend visitors and therefore present maybe a kinder picture of how the new ‘new normal’ park occupancy might look, taste and feel.
Firstly let me congratulate the visitors whom were obliged to depart after but a short weekend break on the efficient and excellent manner of their cleanup efforts. I might be sometimes quick to ire but am equally fast to forgive and congratulate, so ladies, gentlemen, and offspring your attention to erasing your traces is very much appreciated. I am not one of the ‘all visitors are offspring of Satan’ brigade, I do appreciate and thank you for the monies you so kindly pour into our communities collective coffers, for the opportunities your regular visitations provide for employment of islanders, and for the excellent restaurants, bars and hotels you seasonal custom fosters for we lucky residents year round.
The reduction in canvas yardage has also happily disclosed a booking plan of sorts, pitches being a far more acceptable distance apart, and naturally with such thinning comes a reduction in avoidable chance interaction, and environmental disturbance.
(To be continued like a well beloved soap opera, I am certain!)