Steward Fred Allebach recently coordinated with the local Rotary club to come out for two work days on the trail this month. The first one, with “Sunrise” Rotary, was held today. The large group, including entire families with young children, worked on several areas of the trail in two groups — one led by Fred and the other by me.
The work included:
Putting in a drain and laying gravel on the middle portion of the main steps at the trail entrance to deal with a muddy area.
Laying down a thin layer of gravel on the second set of steps (enclosed with railroad ties) a short distance along the trail from the steps (see picture).
Berm and drain work at the loop at the top of the trail (see picture).
Given the size of the group and their eagerness, we were done with what we had set out to accomplish within 2 hours. The children were enthusiastic and very helpful.
Today, the second day of an “atmospheric river” storm, I hiked the Montini and Overlook properties to check out how well the water was getting off the trails. More water was running off than I recall ever seeing before, although I had missed the October storm which by all accounts was a gangbuster.
You know it’s a major storm when the waterfall on the Holstein Hill trail on the Montini Preserve is running as it was today (see photo).
Most of the trail structures put in place to get water off the trail were working as intended, although a few need to be cleaned out or enhanced. The properties are so rocky, however, that in places water seeps from the hill above and sheets over the trail. In other words, there’s just no getting around having water on the trail, so be careful.
I confess: I have begun writing a post many times in the past to talk about why we Overlook stewards give of our time, energy and essence to this endeavor, and why it matters. Each time, the words simply didn’t come, and so I would delete the post without publishing it. Today, I’d like to attempt to speak for the team on the notion of why we do it.
There are many benefits to being of service, to giving back to your local community or the global good. These may include recognition, accolades, credit, and even occasional material rewards. You tend to meet some of the best and most interesting people when you volunteer, and it’s a fantastic way to network. Plus it looks great on your resumé!
There are also physiological benefits to volunteering as long as you perform it willingly: studies show that acts of service encourage your body to generate telomerase, an enzyme that helps to heal the ends of your chromosomes. And if you work the trails like some of us, it’s an excellent source of cardio and weight bearing. 🙂
This is all wonderful, and reason enough. Far beyond that, however, I can tell you that there is a stunning depth of satisfaction in one’s life that is born and thrives when one devotes oneself to these acts even in small stints. It doesn’t matter what cause you choose as long as you help to drive it towards the best outcome. Push the spinning wheel a bit further onwards, chop wood, carry water. Just jump in somewhere and you will eventually find the work that jives with what you have to offer. As you do, you and your comrades, you will find the real reward, the one that words can’t describe.
Today I realized that the invasive species removal season had started — earlier than it ever has during my tenure. The earliest I had started removing Italian thistle from the Sonoma Overlook and Montini Preserve properties had been in December. But now, with our early rains this season, the thistle has already started coming in (see pic). This essentially cuts my “down time” from four months to three, meaning the thistle removal season is going to be nine months long this year. Ouch!
One nice thing, though, is that I will have a three-week “vacation” in May, when I put in on the Colorado River rowing an 18-foot raft for 17 days. Since I just recently got off a 19-day trip doing the same thing, call me one lucky guy!
But mostly I’ll be out there, day in and day out, pulling these plants so that we can eventually eradicate them, as we almost have with the Yellow starthistle.