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Field Fridays For the Win

(Panoramic of Silver Lake with me standing on the right end.)

Completing my term of service with the Lost Sierra Partnership means I get the opportunity to support two sites: Friends of Plumas Wilderness (FOPW) and Lost Sierra Food Project (LSFP). Located in Plumas County, FOPW supports protections for wilderness and other special areas and LSFP supports food security and community resilience efforts.

During the first half of my service term, I’ve been mostly working with FOPW. In the office located on Quincy’s Main Street, I read up on the Bucks Lake Wilderness designation, the history of American Valley, and about the first inhabitants of this region, the Maidu native community. Early on, shortly after starting in September, my supervisor/FOPW Executive Director Darla explained the importance of learning about the region–from its history to its current events–and so I read what I could about this area. She had a more immersive technique in mind, though, as she explained that I would personally understand why FOPW is working to protect these areas if I got out into these places. And so, she threw out the idea of having Field Trip Fridays where our small office team of 3 people would engage in weekly outings to explore Plumas County and surrounding areas. For me, I would be exploring these areas for the first time while avid explorers Darla and FoPW Board President/Darla’s husband Darrel would be seeing these areas for the who-knows-how-many time. One thing I hadn’t realized initially, though, was that we’d all be observing somewhat new terrain – these outings would be some of their first after the Dixie Fire.

In mid-September, we undertook our first outing to hike a trail just a short drive from our homes in Meadow Valley. At this time, due to the Dixie Fire, many Forest Service lands were closed but Darla and Darrel (the D’s) explained there were areas owned by PG&E which were not closed to the public. We therefore hiked a short trail and I learned to identify tree species, like differentiating a white fir from a douglas fir tree.

(Walking on a trail in PG&E owned land.)

The next two outings in September, we viewed sites impacted by the Dixie Fire. At the Heart K Ranch, we observed forest burning management practices that had seemed to reduce the severity of the Dixie Fire in that area. It was the first time I witnessed what “good fire” or “bad fire” looked like up close. At another outing, we went to Chucks Rock, an amazing lookout point. There we witnessed severe fire scarring and the marks of bulldozers that had been brought into wilderness areas.

(View of Bucks Lake Wilderness forest from Chucks Rock area.)

On the 1st of October, we hiked loop trails in the Lakes Basin area. As tempting as it was, we didn’t get in the water but we shared stories of the great feeling of jumping into lakes after hikes. On all these outings, I’ve appreciated the stories the D’s have shared. When they reminisce about the activities they’d previously done in that same place I’m standing, I sense their excitement and why they care for these areas.

(Darla and I with Lower Sardine Lake in the background.)

The following week, we hiked Nelson Creek, a tributary to the Middle Fork Feather River. The MFFR begins in between the Southern Cascade mountains and the northern Sierra Nevada and flows to Lake Oroville, the primary reservoir responsible for providing around 27 million people in CA with drinking water. Seeing the tributary and later a section of the Middle Fork was amazing, powerful, and so much more and I loved the sights and sounds of rivers running. We ate lunch at a spot where Nelson Creek and the Middle Fork meet. It may have been my favorite sight to date.

Near the end of October, we hike to The Big Tree, Frog Rock, and Soap Stone Rocks area. It was a rainy and cloudy day, but the weather didn’t deter us. At The Big Tree, a douglas fir tree much larger than its surrounding siblings, we talked about the history of logging in this and other areas. On some outings, coworkers, board members, or old friends have joined and it was great to meet a friend of the D’s on this outing.

In early November, we hiked to Grizzly Peak. There were amazing lookout points that allowed us to see in all directions. On one side, we were able to view our work and home sites of Quincy and Meadow Valley. While there was not yet snow on that ground, up on Grizzly Peak there was snow starting to accumulate at this higher elevation. On the other side, we had views of many places including Genesee Valley where we had done a couple of our previous Field Trip Fridays.

(Darrel and I at Grizzly Peak.)

In early December, we met with a member of the Maidu community in Greenville, a town severely devastated and almost completely engulfed by the Dixie Fire. When we arrived, he was giving an interview on his hometown and on the fire and, while we waited, I took in what I could of the infrastructure that remained. It was a difficult thing to see and a sight for which I don’t have many words. After his interview ended, we went to a nearby campground where I was able to learn about some Maidu cultural tools and knowledge. He showed us a baby cradle basket he’d been working on, demonstrated proper acorn crushing, and identified good cedarwood for starting a fire. He was an incredible person to meet and, since it was his first time meeting me, he kindly gifted me a bundle of sage. It was a day heavy with the reality of the Dixie Fire, but meeting this wonderful individual left me hopeful about the future of these lands.

When heavy snowfall began in mid December, the power outages disrupted our office work, but didn’t affect our weekly outing! The D’s said we could try hiking, but it’d be more fun to use equipment so, for the first time, I went snowshoeing. Darla and I used snowshoes to trek, but Darrel was excited to ski instead around the Johnsville Historic Ski Bowl. On this trip to Plumas Eureka State Park, I learned about this history of longboard ski races and how it brings together communities every year. It was another thing I learned that was important to this area.

From exploring Bucks Lake Wilderness, Plumas Eureka State Park, and all the places I’ve been, I’ve appreciated how being outside allows for my mind and body to feel at ease. Being able to exist in these spaces is a much needed retreat from my office life. For residents of these communities, I imagine these spaces not only provide them comfort, but also allow them to form deep connections with their homes and communities.

As the winter season picks up, we’re participating in fewer Friday Trip Fridays, but I’m fortunate to have participated in many great outings. I shouldn’t be too sad that these field outings are coming to an end; I’ll be engaging in field outings almost every day once I start working at the Rugged Roots Farm with the Lost Sierra Farm Project. When that time comes, I’ll start thinking: field everyday for the win.

(Looking at Indian Falls flowing downward.)

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