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The Things We Carry: A Backpacker Reflects on Her Relationship with Waste

The largest trees on earth are found in Sequoia National Park, germinating from seeds that fell thousands of years ago, around the time the son of a sun goddess founded Japan and the Assyrians sacked Babylon.The park, and the adjacent Kings Canyon, rival Yosemite in beauty, but without the millions of visitors each year. “In the vast Sierra wilderness far to the southward of the famous Yosemite Valley, there is yet a grander valley of the same kind,” wrote John Muir, the famed naturalist, in 1891.The six of us, friends and family, drove to the park along twisting, dizzying roads where we risked plunging into deep canyons. At the trailhead, we strapped on 50-pound backpacks and hiked up a steep, dusty trail to the sapphire jewel of Eagle Lake.Our Chinese immigrant parents found our plans baffling. They preferred a Las Vegas buffet piled high with king crab legs, or a cruise where the staff twisted towels into bunnies and elephants. To them, visiting the great outdoors meant driving to vista points, taking photos, and getting back into the air-conditioned bubble of their vehicles. They didn’t understand w …

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