Weekly newspaper of Three Rivers, California, and Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks

Jim Barton at his family cabin in Mineral King.The Elliotts, John, Sarah, and Jennie on a Father’s Day hike to Franklin Lakes— a John Muir Trail tune-up for the thru-hikers.

Makin' History: You don’t miss the water till the well runs dry

John Elliott

No, this isn’t another article on the impact of the drought. This is a piece on a more personal subject – something that I have been thinking about lately especially the last couple of weeks. If you have someone who does way too much for you and you take some of those things for granted, this column is for you.

With Sarah out on the John Muir Trail for 28 days I’m thinking about everything she does for others – husband, family (kids and parents), friends, co-workers, community and to generally improve life on this planet.

It’s not a subject she would permit me to write about if she were here because she’s also humble. But in her absence my speaking out just might strike a familiar chord especially in those of you in a similar situation.

If you need a litmus test to see where you are with your loved ones just make arrangements for your spouse, or significant others to be somewhere else for a month or so, and soon you will relate to what I mean.

When we first talked about Sarah doing this JMT backpacking adventure I thought I would be going along. Every backpacking trip we’ve taken for 20 years we’ve done together. As we sized up what was involved we realized I had to be support crew for this adventure when your family business is the town’s newspaper.

There was no way we could both go for a month and meet all the demands of publication deadlines and managing the business. Backpacking and living outside is one of Sarah’s passions in life – nobody I’ve ever met does it better.

What’s unique about this trip is thru-hiking the JMT and doing it with our daughter. Over the years Sarah has developed into an accomplished outdoors writer – she will produce some incredible material documenting this experience.

Throughout the 28 years we have known each other, Sarah has been a huge John Muir fan and wilderness advocate. Those values were instilled during nine childhood summers living inCedar Grove, Sequoia, and Yellowstone and while her father, Jim Barton was a seasonal NPS ranger (1950 to the late 1960s).

Jim, 91 has been invited to the NPS alumni employee bash at Wolverton in September that’s part of Sequoia’s 125th anniversary celebration. My father-in-law, who first worked for the NPS as a seasonal in 1950, will likely be the oldest former park employee in attendance.

He’s met, worked for, or was a friend of every superintendent Sequoia National Park has ever had. Jim Barton is truly “living history” and is a big part of why we have the preservation of a historic cultural landscape in Mineral King. It is a remarkable story that’s far too complex to be understood in its own time.

I’m part of this Barton clan now – our kids are the sixth generation to be raised in Three Rivers. They (Jennie and Johnnie) live in Oakland now but like Sarah they will come home one day and take up the mantle of this Barton legacy.

Appreciating this history doesn’t make me miss my wife, friend and business partner any less. There’s a big hole in my heart right now and I wish I could just get a text or message saying the JMT hikers are okay and making steady progress toward Mount Whitney. [I did receive a voicemail on Monday, July 27 when they briefly had cell service on a layover day at Red’s Meadow near Devils Postpile].

When I do finally see Sarah after what seems like an eternity, I can show her how much I appreciate all she does day in and day out. I’m going after that “honey do” list like I really care – because I know now as much as ever how much I do care. I can take solace in the fact that soon she will be home back doing her thing again and planning our next adventure.

“The sweetness in travel is the homecoming.”
                                    —Bela Fleck