Karleen C. Chinen

I was planning to write about the passings late last year of two people whose lives had touched so many, but I decided to save that for another Dialogue for a subject more pressing.

Yesterday, I asked Keiri Kanbayashi — whose journey through the John Muir Trail contributing writer Alan Suemori captured so beautifully in our lead story — if he would sit with me this morning and help me select the photos to help illustrate his experience. I’d made an initial selection, but even that was 66 photos — and there was no way we could use that many photos. We needed to choose the best of the best of the best. No simple task when you consider the beautiful and unbelievable terrain that is the John Muir Trail.

I was editing Alan’s story as the U.S. Senate began holding confirmation hearings on Capitol Hill for several of President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees. I realized how much I take for granted our America the Beautiful. An Interior Secretary who does not hold dear natural jewels like the John Muir Trail could do some real and irreversible damage.

When I decided on the title for this story, “America the Beautiful,” I was thinking mainly about what our eyes see: breathtakingly beautiful mountains; unimaginable rock formations; peaceful lakes; snowcapped peaks in the middle of summer; colorful flowers that sprang to life in the middle of miles and miles of rock and dirt; tall, sturdy pine trees that seemed to have lived forever; small white rocks scattered about. Who had done this? The truth is no one had — they were acts of nature and they remain because the people who hike the John Muir Trail have a deep respect for nature and an equally deep commitment to protecting it through their actions.

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