“Historic marker, 500 feet.” You know the feeling, right? No matter what it is, you sort of have to stop. It’s almost as if, since someone was thoughtful enough to mark it, you owe it to yourself to reward their efforts with at least a brief stop. Maybe it doesn’t always feel rewarding. Maybe it’s actually not that interesting. But still, if somebody thought to put a plaque or a marker there, there’s just something about it that’s worth your time. At least that’s how I feel. Can you relate?
I have always felt naturally drawn to those subtle invitations along the road. If something happened there, I want to know more about it, whether it interests me or not. It’s one of the real charms of the road. We all have our favorite signs. The special ones connect us to some event or incident that we have pondered in the past. And then, when we find ourselves right there, it almost doesn’t feel real. All of a sudden, you are breathing the same air as whoever occupied that space creating history before you arrived.
I wanted to share one of my favorite signs. It’s at Yosemite National Park. I was in the middle of researching a book that I was writing on President Theodore Roosevelt. Back in 1903, during his first trip to California, he quietly set aside three days and nights to go backcountry camping with the famed naturalist John Muir. Over their campfires, horseback rides, and hikes in the wild, the two men hatched an idea that eventually gave way to the creation of our National Parks. Like many of you, I revere the National Parks. I truly find them to be our most valuable national resource and over the years they have given both myself and my family much pleasure.
There’s a sign in Yosemite that marks close to the exact spot where the men spent their third and final night together camping. When I found it, it gave me great pause. I had been working on the book for about a year, re-tracing as many of their steps as I could, and this truly was, for me anyway, the most pivotal spot. Standing there, I let my mind drift back and imagine what it must’ve been like more than 100 years ago when they sat by their campfire under the stars discussing what they could do to help preserve and protect our most beautiful open spaces.
Whenever I go back to Yosemite, I always make sure I go visit the sign and then reflect a little bit on what took place there. There are a number of signs around the country that have a similar effect on me, but not quite to this degree. How about you? What’s the sign or marker that makes you stop and think? The one that makes you pinch yourself a little bit? The one that makes you feel the most gravity. These places matter. To a traveler, they become like an oasis. They nourish us and enrich us.
All of a sudden, I can’t wait to get back to Yosemite.
Read more from Chris Epting here.
Chris Epting is an author, award-winning journalist/photographer and dedicated road tripper. His best-selling books including James Dean Died Here (the locations of America’s pop culture landmarks), Roadside Baseball, and The Birthplace Book, along with many others that remain popular with many travelers and RVers throughout the country and world. He is excited to be contributing to RVTravel.com and looks forward to helping to lead you places you may not have discovered otherwise. You may learn more about Chris at his author’s site, www.chrisepting.com.