April 2, 2014

A Humbling Experience: Nature Wins Again

This past Saturday, my work day took a dramatic shift from what was originally planned.

I work for a local Parks department and the plan was to plant ferns in a local park. But as my coworker and I were on our way to that park we received a call that there was a mudslide that was blocking a popular trail. So we changed plans and spent the day cleaning up the mess.

We have had a very wet spring so far this year and the area where the mudslide occurred is in an area of steep slopes and saturated, unconsolidated soils: ripe conditions for a slide. During the slide a large tree uprooted and slid down a small stream onto a small bridge going over the trail, dragging along with it mud and other smaller trees. While the bridge was amazingly unharmed, the debris clogged up the bridge so that the stream was now flowing over the trail.

We spent several hours using a chainsaw to cut up and remove the larger trees, shoveling the mud off of the trail, and unclogging the bridge so that the stream flowed under it again. It was hard but satisfying work. We got many compliments from the many hikers passed by us as we were working.

But as we were getting ready to leave, the rain started getting heavier and we noticed that the water in the stream was turning dark brown. Before we knew it another smaller mudslide was coming down the stream. We watched as the debris from this new slide clogged the the bridge again and the stream started once again flooding the trail. It wasn't as bad as the first slide, but after spending hours clearing the trail, it looked as though the trail was soon going to be covered with water and mud again. It was near the end of the day and we decided to pack up because we were not going to win this battle with mother nature this day... We decided to wait till the rain slowed down a bit to try again.

It was frustrating if darkly comical to consider all the work we had put in and how quickly nature wiped away those efforts. As humans, I believe we have a tendency to consider ourselves the ultimate power, able to impose our will on the world around us. It is humbling to remember that Mother Nature, when she decides to, will do whatever the hell she wants, and to not take it personally. A good think for all of us homesteaders to take to heart...

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