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. 


Our public lands and open spaces require our support and stewardship.  Certainly, some of our tax dollars fund national, state and regional parks.  But, as our recent visit to Yosemite showed us, our parks need more than tax dollars to remain viable and healthy.  They need us.

Today, we contributed with a bit of our time.  Others are better at this than we’ve been.  Sister Sue has done this in Chico’s Bidwell Park and friend Patti has done this as a Canyon Keeper along the American River near Auburn.  

Today, we also became members of the Sonoma County Trails Council with a small financial contribution.

Now, as we walk the trails of the Porterfield Creek Open Space, along with the hardwoods and wildflowers, creeks and wildlife, there’s going to be a little feeling of contribution that will make our strolls there even more satisfying.

The Church of the Open Road is sure that there is an open space in your area that could benefit from your time or a few shekels and asks that you look into how you can help. 


The Sonoma County Trails Council Website:

On why we’ll always call it Edward’s Crossing (previous pst):

© 2019
Church of the Open Road Press

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