Yosemite National Park

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Yep. Climbed this.

Awe inspiring experience. Just like the time I saw Obama eat a Chicago-style hot dog in one bite with both his hands tied behind his back.

The big bummer about Yosemite is you only get to see 5% of the park! The other 95% is “designated wilderness” to “protect the wildlife.”

Please, I saw all the trees. There’s plenty to go around. There’s got to be more than a million trees out there. That’s enough.

I saw my first bear at Yosemite. Well, actually, it was 2 bears. And you know what? I’m just sick of them. Give me another mammal, like a snake. I’d take a king cobra over a bear any day, but apparently the park ranger said there aren’t king cobras in Yosemite because they can’t handle it. Like, the environment is inhospitable.

Well. Let me tell you something Mr. Park Ranger: nothing, NOTHING… Listen to me! Nothing is impossible if you close your eyes and use your imagination.

The highest elevation in the park is 13,114 ft, which, I think we were at 12,000 ft but I don’t know about 13,114 ft. It’s one of the highest places I’ve ever been. Up there with Yellowstone National Park. I was literally on top of the world.

Being up that elevation, it’s windy sometimes and silent sometimes. My favorite biomes are tundra and desert. It feels like freedom.

 

Disney California Adventure

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I always try to ride every ride in the park in one day. Oh me!

This California themed park is one of the best amusement parks in the world. So it’s a pretty big deal. One thing I was struck by was how small it is compared to Disneyland. Another thing I was struck by is a lightning bolt. I’m fine now, but I have these secret powers…

My favorite ride was the ferris wheel that looks over the whole park. My mom, brother and I all got in the car for the ferris wheel and right as the lock clicked shut and we started moving up to the top of the wheel, I remembered: I’m terrified of heights.

“Aaaah! Jesus take the wheel!” I screamed, grasping onto the window bars and shaking the car back and forth.

“Sit down,” my mom said, “you’re freaking everyone out.”

I did what my mommy said and sat back down. That’s when I slowly turned my head and looked outside at the view as we reached the summit.

You could see the whole park. I whispered under my breath, “Jesus fuck.”

Opened in 2001, this part is relatively new. Let’s see, as of this writing it’s 2018, meaning, the park is 167 years old!!! Wow that seems so young.

 

Disneyland

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Look. Dreams…

This theme park, based on the empire Walt Disney built on our childhood dreams, opened in 1955. And there are 1950s touches in its architecture, but mostly it looks like it was built yesterday. It’s so… clean. And everyone seems so happy to be there. Even the people that work there. What kind of wild west is this?

Walt Disney came up with the idea after visiting amusement parks with his daughters in the 1930s and 1940s.

How great would it be if your dad ripped off the idea of having an amusement park and then made you an amusement park of your own? I want a new dad and I want my dad to be that dad. What I’m saying is I want Walt Disney to crawl out of his grave, get an electric shock and some bolts in his neck and come back alive, and then be my dad. Is that so difficult? I could always use my secret powers…

My favorite thrill ride in Disneyland is the Star Tours Star Wars ride. It’s a really fast rollercoaster where you’re basically in the dark the entire time. I bet it goes upside down. It was hard to tell.

After Star Tours, I bought a shirt that was Chewbacca’s head in gold print with a caption saying, “Roooaaarrgghh!” or something like that. You know, the Chewbacca sound.

My favorite attraction in Disneyland is the Disney princess castle. It’s actually quite small on the inside but big on the outside. Does that make any sense?

I like it there because it’s like magic coming to life. All those memories of when I was a little kid and dressed up as a Disney princess with some bedsheets came to life. It’s like you find out the cartoon castle exists in real life. It struck a nostalgic chord in me. It was a nice feeling, nostalgia. That probably sums up my entire experience at Disneyland.

 

Redwood National and State Parks

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Big deal.

My friend, Mathias and I road-tripped from Seattle to Redwood National Park and about halfway through it got dark and we missed a gorgeous/terrifying drive through valleys, gorges, and some wild rock formations. Oh and also cliffs. Flying off a cliff is actually my biggest fear. This time I’m serious.

We arrived at our campground at 10pm, which, if you’ve ever been awake at 10pm, it’s pretty dark outside. Somehow we managed to set up our tent and air mattress and dummy using only flashlights to guide us.

Oh, what’s with the dummy? Well, I’m street smart. I don’t like to get robbed. So what I do is when I leave the campground for any reason, I leave my dummy behind. I make him look like he’s doing normal camping stuff. For example, I’ll position him so he’s grilling some burgers. Maybe he’s in the tent sleeping. Most of the time he’s sitting watching our fire for us while we go see the sights for the day and night.

We walked to the bathroom to brush our teeth before going to sleep. “Where the fuck are we?” I asked Mathias. “I can’t see shit.”

“Shannon, look down.”

I looked down and noticed a tree root. I showed my flashlight along the root and ran into a giant redwood tree that towered over the campground like the Lord Himself.

This massive plant gave me a spiritual, holy feeling. I think that’s what “awe” means. I mean, if this thing came to life, it could easily crush me. Good thing a tree isn’t alive. [EDIT: I was just informed trees are alive after all.]

We saw a sign in the distance. We walked up to it. “Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park Campground.” 

I broke the silence. “Who the fuck is Jedediah Smith?”

“I don’t know,” Mathias said. “L-let’s get out of here!!” We ran to the tent.

In the tent we looked up on my iPhone who Jedediah Smith was. We laughed our asses off because it turns out he was this “explorer” who had a really interesting history behind him.

For one, he fought off a bear mauling that ended with his ear and part of his scalp completely ripped off. He had it sewn back together and like, it’s not like they had hospitals around then or medical care beyond, “Here’s a piece of bark to bite down on for a little bit while I cut off your leg. Yes, I understand your ear and head being torn off are the problem but, well, we should cut off your leg too.”

Secondly, he cut down a huge percentage of the Redwoods because he said God sent him on a mission to settle there.

I imagine that conversation went something like this:

GOD: Jedediah… Jedediah…

JEDEDIAH: Y-yes, Lord?

GOD: Jedediah… I want you to cut down 90% of my redwoods…

JEDEDIAH: B-but Lord, I–

GOD: Jedediah…

JEDEDIAH: Yes, Lord?

GOD: Do it.

 

Getty Center

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Nice job. Whoever built this.

My mom and I went to the Getty Center and we got there with a rental car, where we sat in totally stopped L.A. traffic for a long time. I’m not sure how long. Maybe days?

When we arrived we took a funicular, a cart thing that took us up a giant hill to the museum. Fun!

My first impression of the museum was that it looked… surreal and weird. The museum on the outside is a piece of art. The gardens are a piece of art. And the overlook of the city of Los Angeles below us was also a piece of art, with its Hollywood sign and towering city skyline.

But let me tell you about the real art. The collection is pre-20th century European art, meaning paintings, drawings, and sculptures, etc. There was also American and Asian art but it was mostly from the 19th and 20th centuries. It was boss.

The Getty Center exhibits Vincent Van Gogh’s famous painting Irises. “Oh boy, I gotta see this,” I thought.

I really relate to Van Gogh. I read his biography. Well, the first couple pages.

He was plagued by psychotic depression and manic episodes, along with paranoid delusions, leaving some experts to conclude he may have had bipolar and schizophrenia.

Fascinating!

His brother was also an artist and would tell him to not paint with such thick paint and hard brushstrokes. His brother probably said something like, “Van Gogh, you’ve got to paint right. Paint like everyone else.”

When Van Gogh’s art first came out, some art critics said they didn’t like his work because of the different way of creating and expressing creatively.

Guess who has egg on their face now.

 


 

The end? Nope. One more story.

Mathias and I were camping at this one campground, where there was a lake full of fish and frogs.

We climbed over the boulders to get a better view of the lake, every few minutes saying to each other, “You know how this was all made? Glacial till.” It’s funny the third time and the seventh time but not really more than that. What is glacial till anyway? Science doesn’t know.

That night Mathias was preparing and grilling our food, probably something like chili or a paella. He usually did the preparing, cooking, and cleaning. I had the important job though: entertaining.

What’s more important than entertainment? Food? Water? Oxygen? Get real.

That’s when I got a spooky idea. I turned slowly to Mathias.

“What if when we go to sleep a bear or a cougar walks into our campsite and we don’t even know it because we’re asleep?”

He turned slowly toward me again. “A b-b-bear?? You’re scaring me, Shannon. Please stop. Please stop telling me scary stories about bears and cougars. I’m so scared I could just die. Please take good care of all my electronics.”

Then I slowly turned toward Mathias and said, “Don’t worry, Mathias. I’ll get your Ken doll out of the car and you can cuddle the doll until you’re not scared anymore.”

“Thank you, Shannon,” he responded.

I gave him a pat on the back, “Anytime, little bud. Anytime.”

 

Literally signing off,

Shannon O’Brien