The Other Side of the Mountains by Barbara L. Steinberg©
Life is returning to the Lower Owens River along the Eastern Sierra near Bishop, California. With releases of water from the Upper Owens River – forced upon the Los Angeles Water and Power District (LAWPD) – fields of wildflowers, masses of enormous tule reeds, groves of willow, and green grasses are flourishing. From afar, tell-tale signs of water in the Owens Valley -- a place whose history has spawned books (Cadillac Desert) and films (Chinatown). And be still my heart, what’s that I hear but the sound of white-water rushing down the Owens River. I wander paths until I find what my eyes can scarcely believe they see.
Along with all this renewal, signs of ruin are prevalent along the shore. Foul humans, who come to the wilderness to enjoy its splendor and, in their wake, leave trash and signs of disrespect for what so many fought for years to reclaim. Cigarette butts off Chalk Bluff Road – is this really Marlboro Country? Clearly, someone spent some time here casting into the rushing waters. Plastic bags, bottles, duct tape, and empty cans of chew – just a few of the items I retrieved along the path near Pleasant Valley Campground. Soiled toilet paper within view of provided outhouses and illegal campfires a stone’s throw from fire rings. And it’s just enough to make you scream when you see the dumpster and recycle bins…oh, yes, visitors to this sacred place are so environmentally friendly.
Who are these people? Fishermen who surely must thrill at the sight of brown trout in the Owens River shallows and shadows and gates providing access to the same. What are they thinking? Wasn’t it enough that the LAWPD controlled and destroyed this landscape for nearly a century? Now that humans can again enjoy a small piece of this once grand terrain…it seems they simply cannot be trusted to be good stewards. I do not count myself as part of that community of thoughtless travelers. However, if this is how we repay the efforts, then maybe the beauty of Owens River should be left just to the wildlife, birds, animals, and fish who will not destroy an environment that is struggling to be reborn.
The irony of dumpsters and recycle receptacles within easy reach of all the trash and filth. As well as officially-sanctioned fire rings. Maybe we really don't deserve these special places.
Please! Respect the land we love and practice, at every level the Leave No Trace philosophies. We all benefit, as does our wildlife and our open spaces.