The sounds of water rushing, people talking, laughing, and singing filled the air. Sweat dripped down tired, sore bodies. Muscles strained. People worked together in returning the landscape to its original form. Not only was the landscape changing, so was I.
I have lived in the Bay Area for most of my life. I am used to the “bright lights, (semi) big cities”, where the only time people see and explore mountains is when they are in Lake Tahoe to ski. When I came to Synergia, I was in awe of how quiet it is up here. I started to forget the sounds of BART and sirens. I am continuously amazed at the overwhelming amount of stars in the sky. At a snail’s pace, I began appreciating the San Juan Ridge and its remote beauty. But I felt like I wasn’t completely synced with everything around me…
I am still grateful for the transformative opportunity I had to participate in the river cleanup. On September 17, Hanna, Mia and Oliver, youth from Sacramento, joined us along with Miles, and Cevin who came from Marin. It was really nice to see that other young adults care about the Earth. The Synergia staff, Mike, Nicole, Annabelle, Bryan, Sebastian, and I along with members from the Ridge community continued to clean up a section of the Middle Fork of the Yuba River that was overflowing with trash from an old miner’s shack. The miner’s dwelling was on the opposite bank from the trail so, like last year, we set up a haul line that spanned the river. We used a raft to transport trash to the loading area. From there, the waste was transferred to plastic litters that we hauled up the trail. I, for one, acquired a love-hate relationship to the litters; I definitely built some muscle but grew to dread the long, hazardous trek to the dump truck on the road. Over a two-day period, we carried out more than 2,000 pounds of trash.
It was amazing to see the range of trash we found. I lost count of how many cigarette lighters I uncovered. Like last year’s group, we found what seemed to be an endless stream of batteries. I felt like an archaeologist whenever I found a piece of the miner’s personal life. Just seeing the amount of detritus that one person can accumulate within a lifetime further cemented that I need to waste less and reuse all that I can. It resonated with me that, in a broader sense, no matter what measures we take to dispose of our garbage, it could still end up destroying nature and ruining historical areas.
Mother Nature was clearly trying to reclaim that land. Plants were starting to grow over the trail; the metal scraps were decomposing into rust. We helped remove a blockage to the natural flow of restoration. This cleanup was the necessary kick-start I needed to feel more connected to this area. My muscles were so sore I was ready to collapse. Having sweated over this reclamation, I had a sense of ownership for the future of the project site. I felt like I was taking care of the Earth’s wounds and making sure that the “scar” would fade. This cleanup finally helped sync me to this region’s environment. By continuing a legacy of care-taking the land, I felt more at home here on the Ridge.