Lucy D’Mot is a clerical worker during the week, but on weekends she is on a mission. D’Mot hits the road in her 1996 Toyota Corolla with her foster dog Roxy in a quest to visit every one of the 70 California state parks on the initial closure list. Then she blogs about it.
The California state parks funding plight is coming to a head July 1, when state officials plan to close those parks without agreements in place with non-profits, local officials, or the national park service to take over operations.
Before all that happens, this self-described amateur photographer and blogger has taken it upon herself to spotlight places many Californians know little to nothing about. She’s logged well over 5,000 miles and at last count 47 state parks. Her last park was the Benicia State Recreation Area, where she said she saw a coyote, two peregrine falcons and lots of red-winged blackbirds.
More people should visit the state parks, she says.
Q: Who are you? What is the broader context within which you took on this challenge?
D’Mot: I have a clerical job, data entry. I live in Pollock Pines, California, which is on Highway 50, east of Placerville. The environment has always been my bent, politically and socially, and I’ve done a little bit of wildlife rescue locally, worked with local organizations and things like that. So I haven’t been an activist in a huge way, but it’s always been my leaning.
I’m an amateur blogger and photographer. I enjoy them both immensely. I had not blogged until a couple of years ago. I’ve been doing photography as a hobby off and on over the years. I’m never happier then when I’m just strolling around the world with a camera.
Q: How did this all begin?
D’Mot: It was on July 4th. I was just sitting on my porch in the morning, with my laptop and my coffee as usual. And I read an article about a fellow named Alden Olmsted. His father was John Olmsted, who was instrumental in developing a number of the Northern California state parks which are on the closure list. Alden was going to all the state parks with these five gallon white buckets, hoping people would put a dollar in them.
And I was reading the article and my gut reaction was, “Wow, I sure would like to give a few dollars to every park.” But my budget won’t allow that. So I thought, “Hmm… I wonder if I could go visit all seventy of them?” So, I put my money where my mouth is about how great California is.
And honestly, I was feeling a little bit patriotic, it being July 4th, having just heard about the Arab Spring. Horrific living conditions in other parts of the world are always in our face, and I felt, “Wow! How did I get not to live in one of those awful places?” As a combination of all of that, I spent a couple of days making a list of the parks, and seeing if it was really doable. And then I just decided to go for it.
Q: What have you discovered?
D’Mot: The Antelope Valley Indian Museum. It’s this odd Swiss chalet, but it’s an Indian
museum built by this fellow in the earlier part of the 20th century who was a set designer and also an Indian artifact enthusiast at a time when you could collect the stuff. And it’s just fascinating. And beautiful. And weird. And it’s in the middle of the desert with Joshua trees around it, and the chalet is built around rocks. And it’s going to stay open.
Q: Please tell me the highlights and surprises.
D’Mot: I find myself getting really wrapped up in wherever I am. But a few do stand out: One is Castle Crags, north of Redding. It’s a relatively short, moderately strenuous hike, but the scenery is amazing, like a mini-Yosemite.
Garapata State Park, south of Carmel was the most beautiful. I was just down there a few weeks ago. Everything on the sand dunes and on the cliffs was in full bloom. It was gorgeous, just gorgeous.
At Saddleback Butte, which is out in the desert, you get to the top and you expect this gorgeous panoramic view. And it’s smoggy. I found myself a little bit bummed about that. But that’s the reality.
Q: How has your journey affected you?
D’Mot: I found I really love hiking alone, or with a friend who is not very talkative. And the birds are always the birds and I love the birds. I always feel very at ease, and calm and
Candlestick Point, off the 49ers NFL stadium in southeastern San Francisco, is a place “to exercise, fish, and just enjoy the experience of ‘getting away from it all,'” writes D’Mot.
peaceful when I’m at these parks. And I like learning things. I read – if it’s a historical park – I read every little thing they’ve got typed up at every little stop. I can’t describe it really. Especially when I’m walking, I feel like maybe I missed my calling earlier in life, to be a little more out in the outdoors.
Q: How will you know if you have succeeded? What kind of change do you wish to bring about?
D’Mot: My goals have never been really, strongly political. If the state really is in crisis then everyone does really have to cut back. At the same time, not knowing a lot about the inner workings of the state budget, in fact really knowing nothing about that, I do go to some of the parks and think, “And closing this is going to help how?”
I want to make people aware of what is out there for us now and what we’re losing. I know that at least a few people have gone to state parks as a result of it, and that’s my biggest thing that I try to encourage people to do. I’ve been to so many, and there’s only a handful of cars in the parking lot. We have to show that we really want them, if we want to fight to keep them open. Go to the parks!