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Walking with “Walking Water”

September 10th, 2015 by Janet, Volunteer Coordinator
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Pinyon jays flocking over the Aeolian Buttes at dusk.
Warm pears in the morning on a perch of Bishop tuff.
Scent of shady Jeffrey pines on a hot afternoon.

On the morning of August 31, a group of walkers joined together in Lee Vining Canyon to begin a journey paralleling the route that water diverted from the Mono Basin takes en route to Los Angeles—around Williams Butte, through the aqueduct tunnel below the Mono Craters, on to Crowley Lake, and beyond to the Owens Valley.

The Walking Water group fords a creek on the first leg of their journey. Photo courtesy of G. Dalglish.

The Walking Water group fords a creek on the first leg of their journey. Photo courtesy of Geoff Dalglish.

We walked through a landscape my husband Dave and I have viewed thousands of times from the windows of our car on Highway 395. Walk on the east side of 395? Why? What could be there?

I am a retired park ranger, a practical “let’s get it done” type. A group pilgrimage on dusty dirt roads was a leap of faith. Working with the Walking Water organizers over several years on logistics and route questions, it became increasingly obvious they were really going to do it. To organize, to recruit, to inspire, and TO WALK TO LOS ANGELES over three years’ time. We had to join the walk, if only for the first week, to support the tremendous effort and heart it takes to make something this big happen.

As the international group gathered beneath the pines, I was already proud to be a part of it. My natural inclination to organize for efficiency had to be muzzled and calmed. It was truly a “go with the flow” experience, following the water, by route and example. Our Mono County Board of Supervisors, members of the Native American community, staff of the Mono Lake Committee, and representatives from the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power arrived for the opening ceremony—honoring the idea and the intention with their presence. Many local donors contributed food, supplies and funding to fuel the walkers.

We started walking, slowly and deliberately, and together.

First was the pace. The slowing down from frantic weeks before. The pace of the day, with time to note the small things too often overlooked. The pace of my body, slow and exposed, at the mercy of the day be it gentle or not. The pace of the group, sometimes maddeningly slow but moving as one in solidarity. The pace of the travel, taking hours to cover what had so often been done in minutes.

There was the seeing of things familiar in a different way. The angle of Glass Mountain, so different when viewed from the far side. The Aeolian Buttes becoming dinosaurs prancing when viewed from our camp to the south. The wonder of the Jeffrey pine forest in the midst of so much pumice sand, and the coolness and life it provides.

There was carrying. Carrying of a special blue bottle of water gathered from around our blue planet. Carrying the hope of getting along and being strong and a good future for our children. Carrying the weight of what is needed to sleep and eat and walk.

There was singing. Strong beautiful voices of the young people and the old joining together in creating new songs and remembering old ones. Singing in appreciation for being in such a beautiful and welcoming place.

And the walking. Walking together in an ancient way. Remembering the rhythms of the earth’s time. Making slow progress as one. Feeling feet ache and blisters form, but somehow going on. Sharing snacks and stories and moleskin.

Now I am back in our Mono Basin home. A week has passed while I walked the land I have loved so much. Not the high country, but the familiar Jeffrey forest, sagebrush and grasslands where the people live.

What should I remember? What should I share?

I will remember this window onto a different way to be. Slower and clumsier and more exhausting. But also richer in some ways, kinder and gentler, quieter and calmer. Taking time in each day to be grateful, to be mindful, to be caring to my community and to my place.

We are all united in this world by water. Our bodies and minds are mostly water, and water sustains us, cools us and cleans us. Walking Water’s message is simple. To honor the water and all it does for us. To take care of what we need so much for life. To inspire change to help ourselves—catchment systems, rainwater capture, recycling, wise and careful use, keeping water clean.

The walkers continue on, through the sagebrush, to Bishop, Lone Pine and Owens Lake. I will jump back into the river of my day-to-day life, pulled by the currents of demands and family and emails. But I hope to “dance for the rain” as a Native American elder urged us to do at the opening ceremony along Lee Vining Creek. To keep a place in my life each day where I honor the water and the planet and make an effort, in my own small way, to be a good part of it all. To ask for what I need and offer what I can.

I let go my ways and offer praise to the way of the water
I will swell with this spring that lets me sing.
        —Song by Sarah Nutting, composed during Walking Water.

Photo courtesy of G. Dalglish.

The Walking Water group’s journey took them through the Eastern Sierra’s Jeffrey pine forest. Photo courtesy of Geoff Dalglish.


There are several chances to join Walking Water at events this month:

Thursday, September 10 in Bishop, join Walking Water at the Owens Valley Paiute-Shoshone Cultural Center from 7:00–9:00pm for  a water stories roundtable discussion with Alan Bacock, water coordinator for the Big Pine Paiute Tribe; Daniel Pritchett, member of the Owens Valley Committee and conservation chair of the Bristlecone Chapter of the California Native Plant Society; Harry Williams, activist and member of the Bishop Paiute Tribe; and Teri Red Owl, Director of the Owens Valley Indian Water Commission.

Saturday and Sunday, September 19 & 20: All are invited to walk with Walking Water in the Lone Pine area.

Saturday, September 19 at the Lone Pine Paiute Community Center at 6:00pm, join Walking Water for a potluck and discussion with international and local leaders on Around the World of Water, Thinking Local and Global

Tuesday, September 22 is the Walking Water closing ceremony in the morning at Owens Lake.

4 Responses to “Walking with “Walking Water””

  1. avatar Jan Le Pouvoir Says:

    “Walking Water” – Anyone out there interested in indulging in the journey from Lee Vining Canyon to LA in one fell swoop, rather than over the course of three years? The idea strikes a chord. How about it, long-distance hikers?

  2. avatar Sandra Noll Says:

    So enjoyed sharing your experience, Janet, and gaining a greater understanding of Walking Water’s purpose and message. Walk on!

  3. avatar Deirdre Cerkanowicz Says:

    Would love to know more about next summer’s hike! Who do we contact?

  4. avatar Elin, Communications Coordinator Says:

    Hi Deirdre– You can contact the folks at Walking Water for info about next summer’s pilgrimage: