Last weekend, I had the opportunity to volunteer for a very special project with the California State Parks Foundation, a nonprofit that supports the California State Parks system through fundraising, legislative advocacy, and volunteer work days at understaffed parks.
My husband Will currently leads the work days at our “home” park, Rio de Los Angeles, but had been tapped to coordinate and guide a group of volunteers on a two-day backpack up to Mount San Jacinto State Park. This is the only overnighter that CSPF organizes and the weekend fills up every year, even with the maximum allowed amount of volunteers doubled this year.
With how often I personally visit the parks and utilize trails all over the state, this was a small way for me to give back. Many people don’t realize that a portion of the trails they hike every year is maintained by volunteers; this includes rebuilding and reinforcing the paths, creating new paths, cutting back foliage, and diverting trails around natural features. The volunteers hike in to these trails with their backpacks and tools, and if you’re familiar with some of the trails, you know they can be quite a distance!
We “lucked out” in that our project site, Tamarack Valley, was only three miles from the trailhead with about 700 feet of elevation gain, and we were camping right where we were working. Tamarack Valley lies in the Mount San Jacinto State Wilderness at 9,200 feet. A network of trails spreads out from the designated campground, and our weekend entailed working on the trails (some of which were nearly nonexistent) and “freshening up” the outhouses (digging new holes and moving the structures — who knew that this was actually a job?).
I decided to highlight this project in a Five Things Friday post because one, I’m incredibly grateful for and impressed by the volunteers that made this event happen, and two, I hope to inspire you to give back to a community you’re passionate about, whether it’s the outdoors or even just your local garden club, food bank, animal shelter, or any cause that you strongly believe in and support. Many of us might feel encumbered by what little time we have, or think we’re stretched too thin already, but I am still amazed that it only took one weekend of work to provide years of future enjoyment for fellow hikers and campers in our state park. A little goes a long way!
If you want to spend a morning or two with wonderful people working with the California State Parks Foundation, you can join their Park Champions program as a work day volunteer. There are work days all over the state at various state parks; once you sign up, you’ll receive emails on upcoming work days and where volunteers are needed most. Their online calendar also shows scheduled work days, so you can find one closest to you. Monetary donations are great too, but bodies are always appreciated!
And now… the five little things that made my week! (You can see more photos on CSPF’s Flickr page.)
1. Though it was nearly 100°F in town, the mountain was at least 30° cooler and made for a fun, temperate hike to Tamarack Valley. Not a bad “office” for the weekend.
2. One of the many deer we saw on the mountain. They came right up to our campsite!
3. Rebuilding the trails around Tamarack Valley. Some of them looked like dry creek beds; it seemed that nobody had maintained them for years. To get them from the narrow, rocky, overgrown paths we found to the wide, smooth, well-marked trails we eventually created only took two days. Teamwork!
4. The brave, strong men digging new pits for the backcountry outhouses. They went at least 6 feet deep!
5. One of our newly completed trails! So honored to work with this great group of volunteers. Until next year, Park Champions!