selfie(ish) nation

rocky ridge
Before the fire: At the top of the Soberanes/Rocky Ridge loop in Garrapata State Park

Last night I dreamed I was in Big Sur, and the fire that’s been burning for more than two weeks (in waking life) was closing in. I could see big plumes of smoke just over the hills and hear the crackle of burning brush. It was terrifying.

When I woke up this morning, I found out Big Sur was placed under mandatory evacuation at 3:15AM, from the lighthouse to the canyon between Nepenthe and Deetjen’s. Rumor is they’re going to close Highway 1 at Bixby Bridge today.

When the fire first started and we learned the point of origin was just off the Soberanes Canyon trail, one of the busiest trails in the area, we immediately knew the cause. Tourists. I recently wrote in this blog about the issues Big Sur is having with tourists. They flock to the area by the carload, stopping at points along the way to grab a selfie. You can see them as you drive down the coast–dozens of people at every major turnout with their backs to some of the most spectacular scenery in the country, their eyes focused on a view they find much more precious: themselves. They leave their trash in the turnouts, run across the highway without looking, park like assholes and treat this untamed land like it’s disposable.

Last week, the official cause of the fire was released. It was an illegal, unattended campfire in Soberanes Canyon. This area is part of Garrapata State Park, and there’s no camping–and certainly no campfires–allowed. Not that it matters to selfie nation. Selfie nation feels entitled to do whatever it takes to get the best image of themselves for a few fleeting likes on Instagram or Facebook. If that means going a bit off a trail to build a fire near a waterfall and then leaving that fire to burn out by itself, so what.

Only this fire didn’t burn out by itself. It’s burned more than 55,000 acres (about 86 square miles), destroyed nearly 60 homes and led to one death. It’s caused all parks in Big Sur to close, impacted the livelihoods of businesses/employees who count on all those tourist dollars at the busiest time of the year and jacked the air quality for all of us.

I hope Big Sur makes it through okay and the losses don’t keep piling up, all because of  selfie(ish) people who thought the rules didn’t apply to them. At least they can’t post the awesome picture I’m sure they took of themselves around that fire. For selfie nation, that’s almost as bad as jail time.

“If I don’t post a picture of it, it didn’t happen.” The new version of, “I think, therefore I am.”

For more about the fire, including lots of dramatic images, Big Sur Kate’s blog has the latest. She reports things before the media does. It’s 9AM here, and still nothing from local media about this evacuation.

8 thoughts on “selfie(ish) nation

  1. You have been in my thoughts. I hope the best for you and your family and all the residents of the area.

  2. Crystal, if I could just send you all some of the rains we had this Spring, that fire might be out. It is so crazy that we have such different weather patterns in the same country…but, it is a pretty big country. And the “selfieish” people are everywhere, sadly. So much for evolution (my concept of evolution is that we get better…HA!).

    1. It would be nice if we could share, Harry. I’d send you guys some of the cool weather we have during the summer in exchange for a bit of that rain. You can keep the flying cockroaches, however. I think my blood pressure’s gone down a few points now that I don’t have to dodge those things at night.

      And maybe we’re evolving to something better and this is just our awkward teenage years. One can hope.

  3. What is wrong with people? Do they know who?

    This was a good excuse to say hi! I’ve been meaning to write forever. What’s new? It is going to be 101 today. I’m sick of it.

    I miss you!



    1. Hi! I miss you, too. I’m sorry about that 101–I saw there was a heat advisory, and a trickle of sweat rolled down my back in solidarity.

      They don’t know who started the fire, I don’t think. Lots of people coming and going on this trail all day, so I don’t know if they’ll ever figure it out. Whoever they are, I hope they know the damage they’ve caused/are causing and have to live with it the rest of their shitty lives.

  4. We get selfie(ish) tourists in the East, too – but they don’t cause anywhere near the damage that they do in dry or fragile places. Crushes the soul a little bit, but we have big charity clean-ups.

    What’s amazing is that many people who claim to care about the environment, use string bags, bike to work, are totally OCD about recycling, are exactly the same people who think trashing a small corner of chaparral is no big deal, “it’ll recover.” Complete disconnect, or maybe motivated reasoning. Probably motivated reasoning, leaving only footprints takes effort.

    Good to hear things are OK in The Grove!

    1. Things are great in The Grove! And you’ve really hit on something–it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to find out the people who started the fire are rabid vegan recyclers (nothing with a face!) who opine about how much they love nature. But you don’t get social media points for leaving no trace, so why bother. In fact, let’s have us a little fire here to complete our Walden Weekend in Big Sur. This is going to look so great as my Facebook cover shot!

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