Monday, July 15, 2013

Lovell Canyon

Lovell Canyon is nestled in the shadow of Griffith Peak on the southeast side of the Spring Mountains. Although only a 45 minute drive from the Vegas valley, the rapid gain in elevation creates an ecosystem vastly different from the desert surrounding it. While the other crews enjoyed warm, breezy days all week, we were stuck with nighttime lows in the teens, biting cold wings, and a day of endless snow flurries.
Despite the frigid temperatures, Lovell Canyon is one of my favorite project sites. It's rare that we're surrounded by trees at camp and work and I truly savor the time we spend in the forest. Each day work begins with an hour long, 3-mile hike up the canyon to the lower slopes of Griffith Peak. Along the way we take in the beautiful views of the canyon, teeming with a surprising amount of life. A diverse array of plants - many endemic to the Springs - support flocks of songbirds, carelessly flitting from perch to perch. Small mammals and reptiles flourish here and deer are known to frequent the area. Some times at night, if you listen closely, you can hear the distant growl of mountain lions, announcing their reign over the canyon.
For me, this week was even more exciting. For the first time since last September I was cutting new tread somewhere other than Black Mountain. On the other hand, the work was quite a rude awakening. Trail at Sloan tends not to be too steep. While there are many loose rocks in the dirt, rarely do we run across bedrock or extensive root systems. Lovell, however, possesses many of these challenges. What may look like a simple section when rough cutting often turns out to be a nightmare as more and more obstacles are unearthed. Regardless, the sheer volume of soil that must be excavated is staggering. Each shovel full of dirt blown back on to the trail by unforgiving winds is literally and figuratively a slap in the face.
Still, looking back at the new trail at the end of the week is a thoroughly satisfying feeling. Seeing the nice smooth tread where there once was only thick stands of Manzanita reminds of just how much you've accomplished. Over the next several decades hundreds if not thousands of hikers and people on horseback will walk over this section of trail. As they gaze out across the canyon the last thing on their minds will be where the trail they're standing on came from. Just as planned, my hard work will almost always go unnoticed. Yet without it this place would remain out of reach to most. Worse, without the trail those brave enough to beat their own path would slowly eat away the pristine quality of this wilderness.
So, despite unpleasant weather, back-breaking hiking and digging, and a lack of recognition, I am still very satisfied with my work. Looking back it will begin to blend in with all the other hitches we've been on, but Lovell Canyon will forever retain a special place in my heart.

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