I had another encounter with a variation on the Forest Service’s wilderness aesthetic. This time, however, it was not a wilderness sign and it was not in a wilderness area. It was a pleasing encounter nonetheless. On Monday I took my three kids for a hike on the Squaw Valley Creek trail. Even though the fall color was long since gone, the creek had plenty of water in it and the trail was delightful. My kids had a ball climbing on the rocks around the junction with the Pacific Crest Trail too.
On the hike, the path along Squaw Valley Creek quickly intersects the Pacific Crest Trail. The two continue together a short distance before the PCT peels off and heads to the west, beginning its climb up to the top of Girard Ridge and then down to the Sacramento River. Trail signs naturally populate these junctions and as we hiked past something about them struck on at my subconscious. However, with three kids to shepherd, I did not dwell on it for long.
We hiked along the creek for a while but we did not make it to the waterfall before my youngest started to expire. I needed to conserve his energy for the hike out. On our return, we passed the pair of junctions it the note of familiarity struck at me again, but this time I had a moment of instant recognition. The signs appear thus:
Note how they have the same roughly-hewn pentagonal shape as the signs marking entrance into a wilderness area, only these have been rotated 90 degrees. The similarities went even further. The familiarity that had nudged at my mind as we hiked by the first time I now saw in my minds eye with greater clarity. The signs along the PCT and Squaw Valley Creek were essentially the same as the wilderness sign indicating arrival at the boundary to the Kaiser Wilderness in the Sierra Nevada. That sign was a little smaller than these signs but was oriented the same way. It also had the same time of rustic beveling along the edges.
I think it is interesting that the aesthetic for trail signs has permeated beyond the wilderness signs and is now found along trails serving a different function and not within a wilderness area. This is certainly not a bad development, since the aesthetic is pleasing to the eye and is always a welcome sight on a hike. I am glad to recognize it wherever I find it!