E ticket. Better than the Golden Ticket. This is my key to an adventurous new year.
(Yeah, it's another blather about open-water swimming, but I'll keep it short.)
This has already paid for itself, as the salespeople say, because it would have cost me $10 per visit to Nimbus Flat or any of the gateways into Folsom Lake; not to mention an infuriating set-to each time with some of the most miserable automated drive-up payment machines ever devised.
(Did the California State Parks system ever actually ask a human, in a vehicle, to test these before installation? The ones at Natoma an Folsom are not installed high enough, low enough or nearly close enough for any car to use, and requires a legerdemain of debit card handling not seen since Ricky Jay to operate. Getting this annual pass is worth just being able to drive right past these machines.)
We have been to both parks this year many, many, many times more than it cost me to buy this beautiful pass, as the scuffs and scrapes of this one shows. And we haven't even used it to get into many of the other state parks. That would be a delightful bonus, should we ever do that before this pass expires, especially since I have used it much more than my wife has gotten a chance.
No matter, though. When this pass expires, we'll get another one.
Annual park passes are like insurance policies for county and state and national parks. Many, like us, will use them far beyond their face value. Many more — most? — will under-use them, and then the parks people will have a little bit more cash flow with which to maintain the parks, restocking the toilet paper dispensers and paying park rangers' salaries, etc.
I encourage you to buy park passes wherever you are. They may compel you to get out to your parks more often and join the other stewards who will use the parks lest we lose them. Buy passes for that, or for pure altruism, knowing our parks need the money.
California's parks are under serious threat; sure, you may say, shutting down a park is not really a loss; the land will return to nature. But a shuttered park suddenly becomes more vulnerable to a developer who wants to stretch his/her gated community out a few hundred subdivided lots, or some corporation to run its roads or water/power/oil pipes across the property because, heck, no one's using it.
While you're at it, buy a California Parks pass too, even if — especially if — you don't live close enough to use it. I thank you in advance.