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Spring Awakening in Stanislaus National Forest

gay couple in the mountains

Cabin in the woods

Honey, believe me when I tell you that I lived a legitimate 21st century Laura Ingalls Wilder experience in the Stanislaus National Forest. Alex and I were offered a chance to escape San Francisco for a weekend of truly off the grid, cabin in the woods realness. Fortunately for us no zombies were involved, but we were completely disconnected. No phone signal. Electricity was generated via solar panels. Heat was produced from a wood burning fireplace. Water was pumped from the nearby river. Y'all we were pioneers.

Okay, maybe we weren't Lewis & Clark, but Stanislaus National Forest is a jewel of the Sierra Nevadas. Just north of Yosemite National Park, Stanislaus covers 1,403.3 sq mi and is chock full of recreational fun stuffs. Also at just over 4 hours from San Francisco, this precious forest is easily accessible. However be mindful which season you intend to visit, because much of the parks road systems are closed in the winter due to snow.

Cabin in the woods, Stanislaus National Forest
German Shepherd next to river in Stanislaus National Forest

River days

Stanislaus National Forest earned its namesake from the Stanislaus River which flows through its core. Overall the entire national forest contains a whopping 78 lakes, and 811 miles (1,305.2 km) of rivers and streams. If you're anything like Apollo these are the focus areas, particularly on a warm spring day and luckily for us our quaint little cabin backed right up to the Stanislaus River. Make no mistake the water was chilly, but for a gaggle of thirsty queens it was perfect for our mid-afternoon soirée.

Whether your intent is to fish, float or simply wade in this gorgeous river always remember to prepare ahead of time. In our bag the number #1 item for a river day is always sunscreen. Your skin is vital and you'll thank yourself 20 years from now. However, don't just grab any generic half-used hibernated bottle from under your bathroom sink. Remember not only is the Stanislaus River an essential source of drinking water, but it's also critical to the surrounding ecosystem. Nasty sunscreens applied to our bodies can wreck havoc to this fragile environment when mixed together.

Here's a handful of environmentally friendly sunscreens that will keep your skin beautiful and the environment happy:

Stanislaus river flows through the valley
Gays pose in the sierra mountains
Gays pose in Stanislaus National Forest

Hike for days

Stanislaus National Forest has over 1,100 miles (1,770.3 km) of non-motorized trails. With that amount of distance you could literally hike for days. We stayed relatively close by the cabin for the weekend and only gently explored the neighboring trails Kennedy Meadows and Columns of the Giants. While tennis shoes will suffice for short day hikes, I would recommend some serious hiking boots for anything longer (i.e. Salomon Quest 4D Mens/Womens or Merrell Moab 2 Mens/Womens).

Much like other areas of California Stanislaus National Forest has been hit by its fair share of wildfires. The most recent scar was left by The Donnell Fire in 2018. The destruction of a forest is super sad. Many of the trees are scorched, fallen, or completely naked, leaving the mountainside to bear the brunt of the sun's rays. Yet through the destruction there's this miraculous rejuvenation of shrubs, grasses, and baby trees rising from the ashes and debris. Life does in deed go on.

Forest fire recovery
Hiking in the Sierra Nevada, Stanislaus National Forest

Solace in the mountains

Can we look at the dumpster fire known as 2020 through the same lens? Almost 200,000 people have died from the coronavirus. Millions of people are left unemployed. Headlines of black individuals being killed at the hands of the state. Historic wildfires in Washington, Oregon, and California putting climate change on full display. Y'all, it's been a trip.

Nonetheless we will persevere. Our dumpster fire may burn for a while, but eventually it too will burn out. Will we get scorched? Probably. Will we rise from the fallen debris? Undoubtably. Our generation will forever remember this moment in time and will be better for having experienced it.

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