The hills were dry and the sky was clear, but the old empty Chatsworth Reservoir held a thick grey-white cloud of fog so tight it looked like water, a visual reminder of its former splendor. Something I have only seen in pictures.
Driving up the canyon and into Sky Valley is a little like walking down the Grand Canyon or seeing Sedona for the first time. Rocks rule the landscape and the air is heavy with history.
The early morning light makes the visual seem spiritual. We are way too cheerful this early in the day.
High on a rock, on the highest hill in front of us, stands a large doe, a mule deer. The sky seems a deeper blue than normal. Some energy from the early morning sun back-lights our deer. We all stare and take pictures of the deer. She stares back at us, proudly.
We mull about the parking lot, snapping on ID badges. Chisholm, our liaison and protector, hands out safety vests and black hats with a cougar on the front patch. We get to keep the hats. Boeing calls our group of random individuals “the community,” just as a group of quail would be a covey, or an assemblage of eagles, a covenant. He wishes us the best as we drive off to the southern buffer zone. We are a truck with a water tank and Wendi’s quiet SUV.
We see caves and wildflowers and wild life; coyotes, quail, rabbits and raptors. We see iconic images of the cold war being dissembled.
Two dirt roads come together at the bottom of a gentle slope. Where these roads converge, the top soil is a fine silt. We stop to look for animal tracks. Insects, birds, mammals small and large, and reptiles leave very clear prints. Bobcat and baby deer and mountain lion tracks get our imaginations going.
Then we do what we came to do; water the young oak trees we have been tending all this year.
It has not been easy. Once a week became twice a week. 9 AM became 7 AM to avoid the extreme summer heat. But the hardest part has been the lost or lethally damaged trees. We do get attached. Some trees are named. Rodents are opportunists, there is no malice on their part. We do not take the destruction of any one plant personally…Like hell we don’t! But we replace and persevere.
If half the surviving trees can go ten years we will have created a healthy oak forest.
I sincerely thank the Sky Valley Volunteers Watering Crew for their enthusiasm, commitment and outstanding contributions. Team leaders, John and Wendi, are accompanied on these early mornings by Nikki, Pat, Nancy, Mike, Diana, Bill, Becky and Jolene. Thanks for letting me be part of this proud project.
(Photo Credits – Diana Sprout)