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Contributed by Len McKenzie, YAAS
Bill King never met a mountain he didn’t like. Like John Muir, who urged life’s travelers to “climb the mountains and get their good tidings,” the Mariposa resident has been drawn to exploring the outdoors since childhood.
In 2016 Bill’s passion for outdoor adventure sparked the idea of a solo backpacking trip across the Sierra Nevada. Looking eastward across the Sierra foothills from the UC Merced Vernal Pool and Grasslands Reserve, he hatched the idea that someone could literally step off an urban campus in the Central Valley and hike across the foothills, into the mountains and over the Sierra into the desert and beyond—an idea that was irresistible to this inveterate explorer.
Using photographs, diary entries and his thoughts about a changing landscape, Bill invites local residents to experience his trek vicariously in a slide presentation, “Mono to Merced (M2M): A Valley-to-Valley Trans-Sierra Backpack,” at the Yosemite Area Audubon Society’s monthly program Thursday, February 8, beginning at 7 p.m. at the Mariposa Methodist Church parish hall on 6th Street in downtown Mariposa.
Taking 21 days, Bill’s journey covered about 160 miles, with the high point at about 10,500 feet and the low at 200 feet, much of it through Yosemite National Park. The route traversed several terrain types—high desert, subalpine forest and montane meadows, temperate forest, oak woodland and grasslands. Temperatures ranged between freezing and 100 degrees F.
Bill grew up in Temple City, just outside Los Angeles, at a time when smog cloaked the sky, and he remembers the day a winter storm carried off the smog and revealed snow-capped Mt.Wilson. The mountain became his backyard where he and his brothers explored abandoned mines and old tourist camps and could walk in the footsteps of bears, deer and bighorn sheep.
Bill met his future wife, Margarita, at UCLA and, coincidentally, earned a bachelor’s degree in geography with an emphasis in ecology. Bill’s education and passion for the outdoors led him to a variety of federal positions working outdoors in the deserts, plateaus and forests of Montana, Idaho and California, including a few summers in the Yosemite Resources Management Division in the mid-1980s. He’s been an urban planner for most of his career, managing how people use land and resources in the communities in which they live, including Pasadena, Boise, Mariposa and Merced.
Bill and Margarita chose to raise their family in Mariposa and moved here just in time for the flood of 1997. Their children, Gaby, Jon and Erik, are all adults now and live in the Pacific Northwest.
In 2012, a near-fatal car crash brought Bill to an intersection in his professional path. Bill traded City Council chambers for high-mountain meadows, electing to share his passion for the outdoors and urban planning with others by connecting people with nature, and nature to communities, through his new business venture, Yosemite Excursions. When he’s not out hiking or guiding, Bill volunteers with the Mariposa County Search and Rescue Team, the Boys and Girls Club of Merced, and as a board member of the Upper Merced River Watershed Council.
Like all YAAS programs, Bill’s presentation is open and free to the public, although donations to defray program costs and to support the chapter’s local activities are welcome.
Call (209) 742-5579 for more information about the program or visit www.yosemiteaudubon.org.
YAAS will also offer, in partnership with the Sierra Foothill Conservancy (www.sierrafoothill.org), its monthly field trip on Saturday, February 17, to the Stockton Creek Reservoir in Mariposa. The hike will start at 9 a.m. at the Stockton Creek Preserve trailhead on Highway 140 about a half mile north of Mariposa. Contact email@example.com or visit www.yosemiteaudubon.org to for more detailed information about the trip.
The mission of the National Audubon Society, the namesake of noted 19th-century naturalist and bird painter John James Audubon; its state affiliate, Audubon California; and local chapters such as the Yosemite Area Audubon Society is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biological diversity.