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SPOUT | Rant, React, Chat, Blather

A Day at the Beach | Letters | Spout Extras

A Day at the Beach

One of my favorite summertime sensory landscapes always perplexes.

Here I am, jogging through the campground at California's Doheny State Beach on a sunny Independence Day weekend. The aroma of flame-charred burgers makes taste buds yearn. The scent of salt and seaweed mixed with Coppertone triggers the biochemistry of nostalgia.

In the distance, surfers sculpt a big southern swell while big extended families lounge in beach chairs and hammocks or yak lazily under pop-up awnings. Dogs bother seagulls. The thump of fists on volleyballs blends with the thud of horseshoes on sand. The eternal slosh of waves merges with the drone of portable generators.

It's that last, discordant note that discomfits my blissful appreciation of this all-American ritual. Why, I invariably wonder, do people come to the beach in RVs the size of Hearst Castle and fill their campsites with satellite dishes and wide-screen TVs complete with Wii? As one who has eco-sinned often, I can't afford to be judgmental. But I do want to offer my optimistic spin. America is in transition. Attitudes are changing. This issue of Sierra is packed with evidence to support this thesis: Just look at how colleges and universities are defeating the lazy notion that it's okay to power campuses with fuels that will make the future unlivable for today's students.

Doheny's campground, too, offers a window. For every jacked-up pickup hauling a fifth-wheel trailer jammed with ATVs, there are three simple tents flapping in the breeze. For every couch potato watching Baywatch reruns (or whatever), there are a dozen teens roughhousing in the waves, absorbing the transformative power of nature. Middle-aged men cast lures into the froth and reconnect with basic instincts. Children wobble along on bikes, in-line skates, and skateboards, many no doubt getting their first taste of personal freedom and self-powered mobility.

As I jog, the sand at Doheny is clean, but tar balls are stinking up the beaches of Alabama, and pelicans are smothering under blankets of oil in Louisiana. I have to believe that once those images sink in, most people who have experienced a day at the beach will think differently about the role of oil in their lives. And eventually such images do sink in. Even if you're watching them on a 42-inch flat-screen mounted on the wall of a 38-foot Winnebago. —Bob Sipchen, editor in chief


To Patricia who commented in the July/August "Spout": Originating in Africa hundreds of years ago, the banjo is used to play many kinds of music. A well-played banjo and country setting just go well together. Add a canoe trip and you've got something special.
Robert Stassinos
Santa Barbara, California

Your excellent magazine is entitled to a stupid statement now and then. Nevertheless, I can't let one pass. "Good Intentions" ("Grapple," July/August, page 21) ends with the statement "But anyone can ride a bike." Aside from those who don't have two legs and two arms, think about the weak, the elderly, and the inept.
Ken Deveney
Ashland, Oregon

Maybe I'm just an old guy, but when I started Sierra backpacking in the early '70s (using a then-high-tech aluminum frame pack), the rule of thumb was 35 pounds for a week, all food and two liters of gas included ("Lighten Up," July/August).

Tent? What tent? A tube tent, cord, and clothespins or sleeping under the stars is great. Air mattress? You kidding? A thin Ensolite pad sufficed. Rain pants? Try a rubberized rain poncho. I did use a down pack and jacket, Frostline kits courtesy of my mother and aunt. And maybe I'd bring a spare pair of socks. I did take a hardback copy of War and Peace one trip...
Bob Wieting
Simi Valley, California

I am appalled by your article "Islamic Environmentalism" ("Act," July/August). "It's almost as if you are walking in verses of the Koran." How ridiculous. Have you looked for inclusions about "nature"? Have you read "Sura 5" of the Koran concerning women? Or should I say the abominable treatment of women? This inclusion is a slap in the face of Sierra Club supporters, of which I am no more.
Sandra Hatfield
Via e-mail

When "Backcountry Locavore" (July/August) features small trout roasting on a willow twig gathered on-site, why does the illustration feature a cast-iron skillet with fish fillets and a garnish of lemons and herbs? No backpacker in his right mind would cart that skillet on a trip, and if you want lemon, a squeeze bottle of juice weighs no more than a real lemon and would service dozens of fish with leftovers to flavor your water as a bonus.
Thomas M. Hargrove
Shelton, Washington

"Grapple," July/August, page 19, citing Forbes, said that ExxonMobil paid no U.S. income tax in 2009. Forbes initially made that assertion but later retracted it. ExxonMobil spokesperson Alan Jeffers says the company has paid more than $500 million on its 2009 tax bill and may pay more when it files its tax return later this year. "Bulletin," page 74 , incorrectly stated the number of deer harvested by Iowa hunters in 2009. The correct figure is 136,504, according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

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Photos: iStockphoto/duckycards; iStockphoto/MightyIsland



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