Saturday, April 13, 2019
The Church of the Open Road’s
Good Deed for the Day…
Adjacent to our little community rests an open space that sweeps from the edge of the Russian River’s Alexander Valley to the rim of some nearby hills. Porterfield Creek drains this area – a habitat for oak, madrone, and manzanita as well as deer, gray fox and the occasional mountain lion. The area is laced with trails – both developed and not. Background music for a hike during anytime of the year will include the melodies of whatever bird frequents the area that month along with the percussion of Porterfield Creek as it tumbles toward the Russian.
The place is a delight and, best of all, walking distance from our front door.
On hikes with Edward over the past sixteen months, a gradual transformation has occurred. Volunteers from the Sonoma County Trails Council have been pressing back to shovel in an effort to grade and gravel sections the trails in the little park. Frequently we’ve seen ‘em out there and thanked ‘em, but the thanks never seemed like enough.
Today that changed.
Responding to an article in Cloverdale’s weekly paper, we joined the volunteers for a morning of paying-things-back labor. The network of trails was to be dedicated in an upcoming weekend, and after a particularly wet few weeks, there was work to do to spruce ‘em up.
The main task was to arrange drainage for water that would sheet down off the hillside and gather on the paths. Soil in the area is a rather unforgiving brand of clay. In the summer you couldn’t dig through it with a nuclear device, and in rainy season, the stuff forms a gooey glue that sticks to the Vibram of your boot soles adding about fifteen pounds each to each footstep.
Today’s job would be to channel that water along the uphill side of the trail points where a gentle swale would be cut across the path. The gentlemen working the small crew skillfully engineered laterals and crosses knowing exactly where to dig – and how deep – checking their success by monitoring the seep water that flowed from the hillside, into the channel and then across the path. Once certain gravity was doing her part, a number of loads of ¾ inch road base were spread and compacted across the previously muddy and slippery sections.
I learned that forming the ditches and swales was a gentle task. Gradual would suffice as long as the water would flow away. Also noted was how the mineral surface scraped from the trail course wasn’t just tossed down the hill side; rather organic matter (duff) was swept to the side, clay and rock deposited on other clay and rock, and then the organic matter returned to its spot.
A fifty to one-hundred-yard section of what will be known as the Three Bridges Trail (we’ll always call it “Edward’s Crossing”) has been a slippery and muddy mess. Footing has been a bit like ice skating on an oil slick. On the wettest of days, this was a trail to be avoided.
Today, after three hours of our volunteering – and five from the regular crew – the trail is dang-near all-weather. Water drains off the low sections and gravel rests atop the gooey clay mud. The trail looks great and will be presentable for that grand opening event coming in May.
The Sonoma County Trails Council Website: https://www.sonomacountytrailscouncil.org
On why we’ll always call it Edward’s Crossing (previous pst): https://thechurchoftheopenroad.blogspot.com/2019/02/the-search-for-edwards-crossing.html
Church of the Open Road Press
Monday, April 8, 2019
My first visit to the Sierra…
The ’54 Ford Ranchwagon was brand new. Not that I remember. Dad had banged up a ’46 Chevy in a collision at an intersection – a collision that, to his dying day, Mom would not let him forget – so we needed a new car. All this I was told. I was also told that in celebration of this new family car our first road trip would be to Yosemite. In later years, Mom always prided herself in packing our succession of station wagons such that no cargo rested above the lowest portion of the windows. “Safest to drive if you can see out the back,” she’d said. Also safest to have a two-door car rather than a four-door car because, so she explained, when she was growing up in Houston in the 30s, some poor kid fell out the back door of a four-door Hudson or a Plymouth or something, landed on his head on the pavement and “…was probably addled for the rest of his life.”
I’d just turned two so I don’t remember anything about this first-trip-for-me to Yosemite or how the car might have been packed. I know only what I was told. And only what I was told after once, when as a teenager, I happened across a yellowing Kodachrome slide – shot by Dad with his trusty Signet 35 – of me standing in a wet didee on a picnic table, shoulders just unclutched by a red-sneakered Mom whose skirt was soaked nearly up to her waist. The Merced River slipped by in the background of the frame. Brother Bill looked on.
The ride from LA’s Altadena suburb to the valley floor had been hours long. And, in the days long before car seats or seat belts – how ever did we survive?– I had a lot of time to rumble around in the back seat with brother Bill. At twenty-seven months, I wasn’t much interested in the scenery, I suppose. And even if we did have that travel bingo game – the tagboard gameboard with the little plastic windows – I would more than likely have occupied myself chewing on the gameboard’s corner than matching what was outside with what was illustrated on the card.
Anyway, upon our arrival in Yosemite Valley, apparently Dad pulled into a lovely spot in a valley floor campground backed by the river. Apparently, also, was that once the seat in front of me was unoccupied, I could easily push the seatback forward and tumble out through the open passenger door. And speaking of apparent, the rushing water of a snow-melt-flush Merced River must have been quite inviting because within moments, I was “bobbing up and down like a little red-headed cork,” according to Dad, who always chuckled when he told this, “as the river sorta carried you away.”
I didn’t hear Mom shriek or Dad swear. All I have to recollect with is a once-obscure bit of family history linked to my discovery of an old Kodachrome slide depicting a two-year-old me atop a park service picnic table and a terrified, half-soaked – and likely infuriated – mother, undoubtedly at a loss for what to say or do next.
We camped elsewhere that night.
And for the rest of Dad’s life, once the story was… well… public, Mom’s telling always concluded with, “I told Clayton not to pick a campsite so close to the river!” followed by: “I had to go in there and rescue you because he was fumbling with that damned camera of his.”
Church of the Open Road Press
Friday, April 5, 2019
Visiting America’s BEST idea
Only the calendar suggested that spring had come to Yosemite. Winter was not quite finished. Vigorous intermittent cloud bursts were rolling through, shrouding the panorama across from our Yosemite West rental creating a cat-and-mouse display of tumbling cataracts on the canyon wall opposite. The term shower curtain suddenly had a new meaning.
Descending some 2800 feet to the valley floor, the waterfalls run gloriously full. El Cap stands like a granite gate keeper, only one with its head in the clouds.
Mirror Lake, a two-mile walk from parking, both mirrors and mutes Half Dome.
I find myself thinking of Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir and their embrace of the subtle beauties of a magnificent place during inclement weather. The softness under foot. The aroma of dampened pine and fir. The symphony of falling water.
The near perfect blackness of a cloud-blanketed night. Annoyances to the contemporary traveler were simply elements of an environmental tapestry these early twentieth century futurists felt worth preserving.
The following dawn: Overnight, spring had bullied that late-winter storm over the Sierra and out across Nevada.
The air is crisp, the mountains and domes glazed in fresh snow and the forest floor washed clean.
A hooded Junco pecks at the duff until a Stellars Jay swoops in to claim some sort of grub. The crok-crok of a distant Raven breaks the silence while a Cooper’s Hawk turns cartwheels on the sub-floor of heaven.
Our road to the valley floor (California’s State Route 41) is a patchwork of lush forest and year upon year of burn scar. Fire fighting in the wilderness of the national park, unlike that of the national forests, is a practice of letting nature take its course. As we pass from one fire zone to another, we can see the succession of life: sprouting grasses, and brave fledgling sprigs of scrub, oak and pine. It is the rebirth of the forest as God probably intended and as John Muir probably concurred.
Gazing up from Yosemite Valley, Bridal Veil, Yosemite and so many other many nameless cascades leap over cliffs, their falls looking like silver ribbons on a package that, when opened two or three weeks from now, would yield the priceless gift of a wildflower burst in the valley floor.
At the foot of one tumbling rill, mist dampens my cap and clothes and offers the mid-day sun a palate with which rainbows are painted against a deep azure canvas.
The day would be spent chasing those rainbows and vistas, peering up at the cliffs and down through the crystalline waters of the Merced.
To Muir’s pleasure – or perhaps his chagrin – the paths are now paved and choked, in places, with visitors.
Visitors from around the world whose voices and dialects provide another tapestry for me to consider: a reminder that our National Parks, starting with Yosemite, may well represent America’s best idea.
Morning view from Hwy 41’s Tunnel View.
Unnamed and temporary.
Valley floor awaits spring.
Tenaya Creek crossing.
David Brower’s admonition.
Church of the Open Road Press