Seeing Local: Wrapping up the Great Escape

It’s never easy coming home from a great trip –especially when what could have been a vacation was actually part of my job!

The Great Escape Trip – in which Sierra Nevada Geotourism Senior Program Director Nicole DeJonghe and I travelled the Sierra via an Escape Campervan, in search of the region’s hidden gems — opened my eyes to the incredibly diverse, expansive, and enchanting mountain range that I am lucky enough to call home.

P1060859After wrapping up the Great Escape and dropping our campervan off in San Francisco this pastFriday, I’m adjusting back to life in Truckee. However, life in Truckee is not the same as it was when I left for Auburn twelve days ago: I wrote last week about traveling the Sierra with the eyes of both a local and a tourist, but I can safely say that I’m connected to the Sierra Nevada more deeply now than ever before.

The Great Escape showcased hidden gem destinations throughout the Sierra. We travelled from Auburn, up the Feather River Canyon, to the small towns of Taylorsville and Blairsden, stopping in Quincy, Sierraville and Truckee. Then we ran down the western Nevada side of Lake Tahoe through Carson Valley, south to the eastern Sierra where we saw Bridgeport, Bishop, and Lone Pine. Finally, we headed all the way down to Lake Isabella before turning north and making our final stop in the Yosemite Gateway town of Mariposa.

All along the way we met local business owners, volunteers, and non-profit organizers who were thrilled to have the chance to show off what makes their town, their business, their principles – from sustainability to land preservation to definitions of success – unique.

What struck me most about these meetings and visits was how hungry proprietors are for opportunities that allow them to showcase themselves. They know that they’ve got something worth checking out, from their county’s fall colors to their secret brewing recipe to their homemade apothecary, and they want the world to know it too. So why aren’t more organizations ormajor media outlets giving them the opportunity? 

Mariposa OpenBusinessThis question brings me back to what has changed in the way that I see Truckee and the Sierra Nevada. The Great Escape opened my eyes to the realities of life in rural areas, realities that brought the Sierra Nevada Geotourism Project into fruition in the first place: Incredibly special destinations that have so much to offer are struggling for attention against the big cities, National Parks, and too-readily-available chains that so many travelers are drawn to. I am thrilled that through an event such as the Great Escape, we not only had the chance to meet local business owners, volunteers, and non-profit organizers, but we were also able to highlight their efforts and all that they have to offer to both Sierra Nevada travelers and residents alike.

The knowledge that I acquired on this trip has strengthened my resolve to consume locally and to be more conscious about where my dollar is going. This is a small way of doing my part to strengthen the vitality of the Sierra’s local businesses. Shopping local is a simple step that anyone of us can take, and I invite you to join me in seeing the Sierra for its hidden gem destinations, whether they be in Lassen County or Kern, Lake Almanor or Lake Isabella, Susanville or Lone Pine. Hopefully, like me, you’ll discover that they have far more to offer us in exchange for our simple effort of seeking out and supporting the authentic, local Sierra.