Private Views of Public Lands: Who Do These People Think They Are? Oh. Heh. Us.

How do government workers stand it? All the democracy, I mean. All the dealing with people on whose behalf they are planning the roads or designing the curriculum…or, in this case, protecting the land.

This land. And this chocolate lily and this death camas.

The cover shot of this blog is part of the San Juan National Monument–which happens to be practically in my backyard. So I spend a lot of time out there–enough to feel a strong degree of ownership. “Yeah, yeah, public land…but they don’t know it and love it like I do.”

It’s not like the path is hard to find or anything.

Which is why it’s so hard, every year as Memorial Day approaches, watching the hordes of visitors begin to tromp my beloved paths. Or, often as not, tromp OFF them, into the meadows and over the fragile lichens, despite the signs asking them oh-so-politely not to…

Have you ever seen a sweeter, more polite sign from the feds? It even says Thank you!

despite the not-subtle blockages of routes…

C’mon, people…sticks mean no walkies!

and, oh yeah, this brand-new sign with the trails perfectly marked and the endangered wildflowers listed (the ones you’re tromping on now, you!!! Get back on the trail! (Easy, girl.)

Thanks, taxpayers! (You’re welcome.)

How do they DO it, those Bureau of Land Management folks who, charged with protecting this fragile landscape, hosted public meeting after public meeting with every possible stakeholder, striking the perfect compromise between use and misuse, the perfect language for every sign–including when NOT to place a sign at all? And then to see how many people deliberately breeze past your handiwork because they NEED to go climb that rock?

THIS rock…which has a perfectly good access if you’d just walk a little further up the trail!

I know, believe me. I’ve scoffed my share of laws–dog off leash for years (though I always leashed up if I saw another person), lichens crushed, flowers picked because I wanted to. But that was BEFORE someone asked me (politely) not to, and took the time to explain why.

Do we need to ask more politely? Explain more thoroughly? Or just resign ourselves to the fact that a certain percentage of people will always do exactly what they want no matter that–or even because–someone’s asking them not to?

I’m really bad at resignation. Guess there’s a reason I don’t work for the Bureau of Land Management. I have too much personal, private passion wrapped up in these lands…which aren’t private in the least.

Which is good. I happen to have neighbors who are equal parts wealthy, environmentally concerned, and generous. I walk and run on their paths as much as on the National Monument; they are contiguous, the same stunning stretch of coastline. And grateful as I am for their permission to drink in the private beauty, it feels weird to me that it IS private. That so few people have access…to wander off its trails, tromp its delicate meadows and lichens and…

Delicate lichens and red-leafed stonecrop that suddenly shows itself golden in the spring…

Oh dear. Here we go again. Guess I’ll just wrap it up this way: I love our democracy. I love the idea of public lands. And I appreciate the hell out of the folks who have to deal with the public ON the land, because…they sure are better at it than I am.

Sometimes All You Need is To Be Smacked Upside the Head by a Golden Eagle

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m a “mentor” of a little girl. Just after that post, I attended a meeting for mentors, where we were asked to share something we appreciated about our “mentee.” One fellow mentor said he loved that his kid “gets me out of my head.”

Anyone relate to that?

For those of us without small children or even pets around the house, getting out of our heads can become a strangely invisible challenge: we aren’t aware of how badly we needed to do it until something flies by and–aaahh…That’s better. Perspective restored.

Today I was running along my usual gorgeous route, which just happens to pass through the scenery depicted on this blog’s cover photo. No slouch, as scenery goes. But was I digging those craggy rocks, that deep blue ocean? Ha. Not a whit. I was stuck deeply in my own head.

Rehearsal schedule. Grocery planning. When am I going to get my garden going? Three pieces to edit–not including my own. Article to write. Need to catch up on sleep from three 3 a.m. bakery get-ups in a row. Time with Mate–when’s THAT supposed to happen? And am I going to have time to practice my subjunctive before the next Spanish class?

Then a golden eagle flew over my head. Followed by another golden eagle.

Imagine two. (orig. image courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

I’ll admit–several dozen bald eagles might’ve flown over, unnoticed, as I ran along–and good job, baldies, getting so common after nearly going extinct and all. But goldies? They stopped me in my tracks.

I’m sorry that’s what it took, but it did the job. Aaahh…That’s better. Thankyouthankyouthankyou. Perspective restored.

Care to share a similar getting-out-of-your-head experience? Child, animal, plant–or something not of nature? I would love to hear.

Road Trip VII, Days 1-4: Los Angeles to Palo Duro Canyon, Texas

Wait–Day 1 is Los Angeles? Gretchen, did you move?

No, I cheated. Starting from my home in Washington State, I flew down to San Diego for a first-ever reunion with my sisters, while the Mate followed, at the wheel of our faithful Red Rover. We met in LA and started Road Trip VII from there.

beautiful anemone in tidepool at Point Loma in San Diego

beautiful anemone in tidepool at Point Loma in San Diego

The theme of the trip so far? It’s the raison d’etre of our road trips: the joy of moving through beauty.

Our favorite way is to feel the air on our skin. So Day 1, we hiked in the steep canyons of Hollywood, startlingly green from all that recent rain, ignoring the Oscars-related bustle going on just below.

Ah, air. Even LA air. If it’s sunny in February, my skin’s not picky about pollution.

Day 2, we rode our bikes through the cactus gardens of Saguaro National Park in Tucson, marveling at the variety of the plant forms.

Make your own caption for this one

Make your own caption for this one

Can we not find a better word than “desert” to describe such arid Edens? 

dsc02176img_2210But sometimes the air-on-skin model is too rough for our tender epidermes. Day 3, approaching Albuquerque from the south, we were looking forward to biking through the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, glorying in the thousands of sandhill cranes and snow geese and other migratory fowl who vacation there. But the wind had other ideas–or rather, the wind-blown dust did.

Scenery? What scenery?

Scenery? What scenery?

With poor little Red Rover getting sandblasted along I-25, we decided we wouldn’t fare too well. Boo. Sadness.

When tumbleweed meets bike. Seriously, the size of some of those things!

When tumbleweed meets bike. Seriously, the size of some of those things!

So we pushed on to Albuquerque, where, thanks to our buddy Beth, I was able to take two long power-walks through the wonderful neighborhoods of Northwest (backyard chickens, horses, goats–even an emu!) as the wind gradually relaxed to less-than-lethal levels.

Plus Beth took us to this REALLY COOL restaurant! This is the ceiling.

Plus Beth took us to this REALLY COOL restaurant! This is the ceiling.

Mmm…and chiles rellenos with fresh, deeply-green New Mexican chiles….whoops, sorry. Not today’s theme.

On Day 4, we finally got to experience air-on-skin, moving-through-beauty in the blessed slo-mo that is camping. In Palo Duro Canyon State Park, this red, rocky wonderland astonishing close to Amarillo–really!–we rode our bikes around in the last of the afternoon sun.

Only safe way to take a bike-selfie

Only safe way to take a bike-selfie

Then in the morning we went for a hike.

Dawn's early light from our campsite

Dawn’s early light from our campsite

This was very welcome as a warmer-upper, as the blessedly still air pushed the temp down to 20 overnight. And we weren’t allowed to use our stove because of extreme fire danger. Brrr.

C'mon, Texas sun, do your thing!

C’mon, Texas sun, do your thing!

Did I mention this place is right outside of Amarillo?!

Did I mention this place is right outside of Amarillo?!

Lest you think The Mate and I are too precipitous in our appreciation of nature’s gifts, just let me add: I could easily have written a post about the joys of being outdoors while holding still. But with a whole continent to cross, basketball games to watch and a bakery waiting for me to come back and work at…my skin and I choose to celebrate our happy reality: moving air.

Almost...warm! (Sometimes air on skin is more of a concept than a reality...)

Almost…warm! (Sometimes air on skin is more of a concept than a reality…)

Milford Track-elogue: Walk With Me On “The Most Beautiful Walk in the World”

“Tramp,” actually–not walk. Kiwis don’t hike trails, they tramp tracks. And we’re going to New Zealand now, where I’ve been for most of the past month, and still am, mentally, for the past week since coming home. This blog entry will allow me to stay a while longer. Thanks for that.

January 30, with our tidy, heavy backpacks, we hopped a bus in Te Anau (in Fiordland, on the southwest of the South Island) to a boat which took us to the top of (beautiful, 40-mile long, 1,200 ft-deep) Lake Te Anau  and dropped us off at the start of the track. I was filled with that childlike sense of “I can’t believe this is finally happening!”–a feeling which never wore off, as a matter of fact, during the whole five days. (That’s what you get for wanting to do something for 20 years, I guess. I’ve always enjoyed the extra boost of joy I get from anticipation, and this was extra-extra.)

Let's go let's go let's go!

Let’s go let’s go let’s go!

The boat dropped us off. Every tramper had to step carefully through a pair of tubs filled with bleach solution, to kill an invasive algae that’s plaguing NZ waters. Milford’s rivers are still blessedly pure.

After 20 years...we're on our way.

After 20 years…we’re on our way.

Off we tramped into mature beech forest, those giant Lord Of The Rings southern beeches with tiny, dark leaves and craggy, ferny, rainforesty trunks. Huge. Immersed in silence, with occasional blasts from tiny fantails and black robins with outsized voices, I could not wipe the smile off my face.

Imagine birdsong...

Imagine birdsong…

Mountain Beech

Mountain Beech

The first hut was only 5k away and the day was fine. (In NZ, food is “nice” and weather is “fine”–the opposite of how we say it.) So we took our time, stopping for lunch and photos. We both wished the first hut had been further in, making the next day shorter, but I guess the public huts are spaced carefully apart from the lodges of the paying trampers (who have their packs carried and meals prepared), and those lodges seem to have been built first.

The irony of this river's name was inescapable, as we hiked along it only 10 days after the other guy's inauguration...

The irony of this river’s name was inescapable, as we hiked along it only 10 days after the other guy’s inauguration…

At Clinton Hut (on the Clinton River) we had plenty of leisure time. I covered myself up from sandflies and found a mossy log to lounge upon and write in my journal, and a sweet little black robin came and sat on my feet! I think it was eating my sandflies. (No pictures of that–I didn’t want to scare the lil’ guy off.)

***Not pictured: black robin eating Gretchen’s sandflies***

That night it started to rain. We’d seen the weather reports; the next day looked horrible, and we fully expected to be hiking in torrential rain and wind. Our Hut Warden, Rose, warned us, “It’ll be like walking into the shower with the spray pointed at your face.”  But we took comfort in the hope that the following day would be clear to crest the pass.

OK, I see what they mean about trail washouts...

OK, I see what they mean about trail washouts…

Rain it did–where we were, yes, but even more above us, and on the other side of the pass. We apparently received 9 inches; I’m not sure what they got, but it was more. Which was a problem. That first morning, all packed up and ready to roll, we 40 trampers listened to Rose telling usthat the track would become impassible up ahead. (Neck-deep, in fact, is what it turned out to be on the other side of the pass!) So the 40 trampers in the next hut couldn’t move on, which meant that we couldn’t either. Having already spent a full afternoon in Clinton Hut, we were now officially forbidden to leave it for another 24 hours. (Rose actually put a rope across the track–never seen that before.)

Clinton Hut wasn't my favorite, especially after being trapped there an extra 24 hrs. This is Mintaro, Hut #2--so happy to be there!

Clinton Hut wasn’t my favorite, especially after being trapped there an extra 24 hrs. This is Mintaro, Hut #2–so happy to be there!

***Not pictured: rainy, rainy Clinton Hut***

As we were digesting this, feeling dismayed, it dawned on us that the hikers scheduled one day after us were having their entire trip CANCELLED. No way to double up folks in those huts, or at least no way the orderly Kiwis wanted to try. Wouldn’t that SUCK, to get all that way and have your tramp denied? So we counted our blessings: hey, an extra day on the Milford!

But hey, it's a RAINforest. It's just doing its job.

But hey, it’s a RAINforest. It’s just doing its job.

It was a long 24 hours, especially for the Mate, who hadn’t brought a book or cards, but all our fellow trampers were pleasant, so we got to know some folks from Israel, South Africa, England, Germany, the Netherlands, Australia, Malaysia, Japan, Thailand… (Only one other American; nice.)

Kotukutuku (Fuchsia tree)

Kotukutuku (Fuchsia tree)

Our official Day 2 (actually Day 3) took us 8.5 miles, still only gently uphill, to Mintaro Hut in the fuchsia (kotukutuku) forest favored by bellbirds, so the birdsong got even better. The river valley narrowed there as we approached the river’s source, and of course there were waterfalls everywhere.

Waterfalls EVERYWHERE.

Waterfalls EVERYWHERE.

Day 4 was the highlight: MacKinnon Pass. It’s only about 3,500 ft, but considering that we started at sea level, we were not taking it lightly. To our pleasure, most of the climb was graded so gently that we made it much more easily than expected.

Passing the source of the Clinton River, on our way to the pass

Passing the source of the Clinton River, on our way to the pass

From beech/fuchsia to flax/shrub to red tussock grass/bare rock/tarns we climbed, more wildflowers and more interesting lichens at every switchback.

We've reached treeline!

We’ve reached treeline!

Really nicely graded trail, if a bit rocky.

Really nicely graded trail, if a bit rocky.

Rare mountain buttercups (as if the scenery needed embellishment)

Rare mountain buttercups (as if the scenery needed embellishment)

Up on the pass, looking over the drop on the other side (typical lack of fence–New Zealand does not have tort law, thus doesn’t appear to share the US’s preoccupation with saving people from their own stupidity), my “hallelujah I’m really HERE” sense swelled almost to painful proportions.

almost...there...

almost…there…

It was cold up there, though, and the weather threatened a change as I guess it always does. So no lingering.

...except for the obligatory We Made It shots! Gotta linger for those.

…except for the obligatory We Made It shots! Gotta linger for those.

Gretchen in her happy place

Gretchen in her happy place

Of course there was a hut up there and of course it had a gas cooker, so of course I had a celebratory cuppa, then gave the Mate a head start for the “down” walk (he has a metal hip, so down is harder than up). I took a few more pictures.

But I don't WANNA go back down!

But I don’t WANNA go back down!

Then, OH so reluctantly, I headed after him. (What is it about high alpine that thrills me so? Must be a past life thing.)

Looking back at the Clinton Valley: World's Best Latrine View?

Looking back at the Clinton Valley: World’s Best Latrine View?

The ecozone was different enough on that side that I couldn’t stop taking pictures–look, tree ferns!! Blue waterfalls!–so I didn’t catch the Mate till nearly the bottom.

img_2796

I love me some tree ferns.

I love me some tree ferns.

Thanks, Dept. of Conservation, for building a LONG staircase to allow us to follow this waterfall in relative ease.

Thanks, Dept. of Conservation, for building a LONG staircase to allow us to follow this waterfall in relative ease.

The trail down was way steeper than the climb, with a rough portion that required big, jolting steps, so the Mate was really feeling it. (Me too, but my legs are 15 years younger and contain no metal parts.) He rested a while, then headed down the last portion of the 10+ mile day; I took a brief, packless side trip to NZ’s highest permanent waterfall.

All you need to know...

All you need to know…

As close a picture as I could manage. Approaching Sutherland Falls, one gets absolutely drenched.

As close a picture as I could manage. Approaching Sutherland Falls, one gets absolutely drenched.

When I joined the Mate at the last hut (called, for some reason, Dumpling Hut), the sandflies were so thick there was no question of sitting outside. We pretty much ran from bunkhouse to loo or dining hut. Shades of things to come.

***Not pictured: sandflies (use your imagination)***

But the last night was still sweet. Everyone felt great about making those steep miles, especially us retired or less in-shape types (which was most everyone; the young Israeli guys, of course, could probably have done the whole 34 mile track in a day if allowed). Everyone had rationed their food enough to to make do even with the extra set of meals. (Actually, the Mate and I had been kinda hoping that we’d all end up with a big potluck on that last dinner, but nothing that organized needed to happen.) And everyone, even the Israelis, was SORE from that long downhill.

***also not pictured: interior of a hut. Imagine a Boy Scout Camp bunkroom.***

But not as sore as the next day. Which was the longest: 12+ miles. Gently downhill, so not a problem, but the sandflies were so thick one couldn’t stop without being swarmed. The only way to hike was to keep moving, exactly what our poor tired legs didn’t need. Once again I gave the Mate a head start, but I never caught him. For the most part I enjoyed the solitude, writing songs in my head and stopping as much as I could to take pictures…

Oh look, another swing bridge!

Oh look, another swing bridge!

Giant's Gate Falls--and another half-dozen sandfly bites.

Giant’s Gate Falls–and another half-dozen sandfly bites.

But, man–I sure could’ve used his company for the last 3 miles or so. Uff da.  “When’s the last time we hiked 12 miles with packs?” we asked each other afterward. “Right.”

GIANT beech just off the track--redwood-sized.

GIANT beech just off the track–redwood-sized.

Despite sore legs and shoulders, though, I refused to wish the track to end. I soaked that last day up, sandflies and all. New sights: a huge black river eel, four feet long at least. A tui–my favorite NZ bird! A rimu, my favorite tree–just a small one, saying hi. It rained, and I said, “Oh, good, we’re in the rain forest, this is what’s supposed to happen,” and then it stopped raining and I said, “Oh, good, we can dry out now.” I drank from little waterfalls. (All the water’s drinkable there.) And yes, of course I cursed those little sandfly fuckers.

***not pictured: all my bites***

The pickup spot at the end of the track, where a boat whisks the trampers ten  minutes across what is suddenly salt water to Milford Sound village, is called Sandfly Point. The only thing that made it bearable was the fact that the shelter there had a door on it, and also the boat driver was a good guy and just kept picking folks up, regardless of reservation times, as fast as he could shuttle them. So we didn’t have long to suffer.

Hurry up, boat! (That's Milford Sound: suddenly, salt water!)

Hurry up, boat! 

Too bad we couldn’t stay longer in beautiful Milford Sound.

Iconic Mitre Peak--goodbye, Milford!

Iconic Mitre Peak–goodbye, Milford!

But the good news: a bus whisked us  back to Te Anau, so we were able to enjoy the still-just-as-jaw-dropping scenery.

***not pictured: scenery as seen from bus windows. But my jaw stayed dropped.***

I’m not much of a “bucket list” person. But this trip has been urging me along for 20 years. Was it as good as I’d been dreaming? No. It was better.

 

Lava Falls: Gateway Drug to Adrenaline Addiction

I’ve never thought of myself as an adrenaline junkie. Yes, I’ve climbed Mt. Rainier, but only because she is special to me; I’m not a “peak bagger.” Yes, I did once lie on my stomach in the empty streambed of Tuolome Creek and gaze down the 1,500-foot drop of the then-non-flowing Yosemite Falls, but only because I’m an idiot who is apparently missing the gene that warns humans not to go too close to the edges of things. (Ditto with looking into Mt. St. Helens’ crater from a snow ledge on the rim–a huge no-no.) And yes, I’ve been para-sailing, but only up to 400 feet, with a friend. Easy-peasy.

My point is, I did these things because I felt drawn to them, not because I wanted to make my heart pound. I don’t even think my heart DID pound that much (except for exertion–Mt. Rainier is quite a slog).

I used to be a competitive runner. I associated adrenaline rushes with the hours and moments before races–never a good time. Often as not, you want to throw up. So what’s so great about adrenaline?

But since running Lava Falls on the Colorado a couple of weeks ago, I’m afraid I’m beginning to understand.

Lava is the biggest, baddest rapid in Grand Canyon. On the 1-10 rating scale rafters use for that river, it’s a 10, or 10+, depending on the level of the river. Scary as hell. As you might guess, it’s formed by the remnants of a one-time dam of black lava that blocked the river. To the right and left, the river roils and boils with giant waves, but boats can make it through. But in the center is a full-on waterfall, which dumps into a trench the size of a mobile home. You don’t want to go down the center. Here is what can happen, courtesy of Yakbas, who posted this:

(This video must have been taken during the “monsoon season,” when flash flooding in the side canyons turns the river back to its original color–hence “Colorado.” On our trip, it was a nice sage-green.)

Luckily I hadn’t seen this video before going on this trip. I didn’t know that the rapid could spin a raft and all its occupants like laundry in a washing machine. I just knew Lava was bigger than any rapid I’d experienced, and I WANTED it. The way I wanted Mt. Rainier and Yosemite Falls.

So the day came: June 19. It happened to be our son’s 24th birthday, and he happened to be with us, paddling in the same boat. That felt perfect.

We broke camp earlier than usual, about 10 miles upriver. The guides seemed more subdued. Our trip leader took a good 20 minutes to talk us through the rapid, drawing diagrams in the sand. Off we paddled.

After an hour of the usual red canyon walls, the lava made its appearance. Then, in the middle of the river, Vulcan’s Anvil. I was too busy paddling to take a picture, so I’m borrowing this one:

(courtesy ralphandmaida.com)

(courtesy ralphandmaida.com)

Pretty damn ominous, right? Even more so close up. And then we heard the distant roar. All rapids roar, and some small ones are even pretty good at sounding louder than they are, thanks to canyon acoustics. Lava Falls was different. Deeper, louder, throatier. A beast around the bend.

Ten minutes later, we were tying up the boats to scout the rapid from above. I decided not to take a picture. Giant, boat-eating waves never look like much till you’re in them. But I did take a picture of the huge hole in Crystal Rapid, a hundred miles upriver, when we scouted it. So this’ll give you some idea.

BIG water. Lava's bigger.

BIG water. Lava’s bigger.

The guides double-checked everyone’s life jackets, repeating instructions about leaning toward the waves, and about keeping your feet pointed downriver if we did “swim.” As we swung back into the smooth current, my heartbeat started filling my ears. The beast roared louder. And there we were, paddling toward it. Voluntarily. I checked my facial muscles to make sure I was smiling. Yes.

At the cusp of the rapid, where the glassy green tongue of the river glides you straight into whitewater oblivion, I could not risk taking my eyes off the rapid. But had I been able to look down, I’m pretty sure I would have seen my life jacket moving up and down from the pounding of my heart.

We hit the first wave and the four people in the front of the boat disappeared behind a wall of water. When we resurfaced, we were missing the front guy, a large rugby player we’d stationed there on purpose. They say 20 seconds or less is a good run for Lava Falls; any more and you’re in deep trouble. We came through under 20, only adding a few at the end to rescue the rugby player, who was grinning at us from the crazy rapid he’d just “swum.” (I’m glad it wasn’t my son who went in; he would’ve been fine, but parental adrenaline is the WRONG sort.) Once our boat was intact again, in time to run “Son of Lava,” we woo-hooed and smacked paddles in celebration. Then we stopped for lunch and I spent some time thinking about what I’d just felt.

Nothing more exciting, ever, with my clothes on. Wow. Damn. I can see why that stuff’s addictive.

From a limestone edge just below the falls, I took pictures, zoomed in, of what we’d just run. Of course they fell flat. As does this description.

Not even close to capturing it.

Not even close to capturing it.

Understand: I am NOT encouraging this behavior, nor celebrating it as bravery. I’m still not entirely sure I like the way I gave in to that feeling and responded with joy instead of terror, which seems more appropriate. I guess some cliche about “feeling more alive than ever” applies here.

For the record, I can find other ways to feel alive than to make my heart pound like that. But man. I’m glad I know what it feels like. Or am I?  Anyone want to weigh in on this?

 

Best Election Year Strategy Ever: Head For a Giant Hole in the Ground

During the next two weeks, I’m planning to drop out of sight. Also sound. And touch.

I’m going back down into Grand Canyon with The Mate, Son Two, and some friends. The only things I plan to see, hear and feel are red rocks and stars; canyon wrens and rushing rapids; and hot sun  and dousings of cold river water.

This will be the third time down the river for my Mate and I, but the first time down the lower half. Both previous trips–one in 1989, one in 2004– involved putting in way up where the canyon walls are only 100 feet high, rafting for 6 days, then hiking out of the canyon’s deepest point, up this:

The Bright Angel Trail.

The Bright Angel Trail.

In fact, both previous trips involved hiking the 7.5 miles in full summer sun carrying the extra gear of friends who had been scorpion-stung, or were suffering from heat exhaustion, or both. Not the pleasantest way to end such an epic excursion. This trip? We’re hiking DOWN the Bright Angel. I. Can’t. Wait.

I'm coming!

I’m coming!

Now if only I could stay there until after the first Tuesday in November…

Leaving Traces to Leave No Trace

Sometimes, to get where you want, you have to go the wrong direction. Chess and soccer players know this. Being neither, I’ve been learning this lesson firsthand these past few weekends, helping to close down “social trails” on my beloved “big backyard,” which also happens to be a National Monument.

For better or for worse, a ton of other people love it too. The place is being loved to death. And with no official marked trail system, folks wander all over. Most know not to trample wildflowers, but what about when they’re not blooming? And what about lichens? Most people don’t know how key lichens are to the entire ecosystem. This is what happens when lichens meet feet too many times:

Left side: good. Right side: bad.

Left side: good. Right side: bad.

Lichens lose.

So, enter the trail-blockers, led by Nick, World’s Most Awesome Bureau of Land Management Non-Bureaucrat. Over three Saturdays, and using approved Leave No Trace methods, the work party hauled old branches from the nearby woods to make the trails say “CLOSED” as obviously as possible.

Happy, sunny-day workparty!

Happy, sunny-day workparty!

Notice all the lichens we’re not stepping on?

Guess what? Rainyday workparties are happy too!

Guess what? Rainyday workparties are happy too!

Looking at the pictures of our work, however, you might notice something.

Pardon my debris.

Pardon my debris.

It’s UG-LEEE.

Yep. Really, really ugly.

Yep. Really, really ugly.

But it’s absolutely necessary. Under those logs new grasses will grow, new wildflowers, and yes, new teensy-weensy baby lichens. Lesser trail blockades–let alone courteous signs–wouldn’t be enough to protect this fragile, precious place. So even though I wince to see those logs scattered about so hideously amid all the beauty, I’m willing to live with it, in order to make the right side of this photo one day look like the left.

Do not enter. Lichen it or not.

Do not enter. Lichen it or not.

So, pardon our debris, everyone. Sometimes we have to leave one heckuva trace, short term, to leave none in the end.