This update comes to the Mono-logue from Hillary Behr, one of the Mono Lake Committee’s Outdoor Experiences Instructors:
The 2009 Outdoor Experiences season has been going strong all summer! It is the first season here for both me and my co-worker Logan Parsons and we are finding the program very fun and rewarding. I drove out to the Mono Basin from New Hampshire this spring and am still trying to get used to the stunning Sierra and vast open spaces of the west. As I get to know this place, it keeps opening up to reveal more and more beauty and mystery.
Two groups in particular have really blown us away as far as the maturity and attitudes of the students. Both were part of a program called Generation Power. All the students attended the Infrastructure Academy, a school sponsored by the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DWP) that prepares students for jobs in city infrastructure.
Generation Power students are chosen from their class to work for DWP performing water audits in Los Angeles Unified School District. Since they are already involved in water conservation in LA, their trip to Mono Lake really showed them the significance of the work that they do. They learned how conservation in Los Angeles directly benefits the ecosystem here in the Mono Basin, something that became increasingly powerful to them as they learned about and came to love this place.
On their first night we took the students on a night walk in the Jeffrey pine forest. This is the first time that many of them had been in a forest like this, let alone in the pitch dark. We walked out together, did some activities, and then the students got to walk alone on the way back, spaced about two minutes apart. Doing this, it feels like you are the only person on the planet, and all you can hear is the wind in the pines. Sometimes the silence in the Jeffrey pine forest is almost perfect, and the coyote calls that we do echo for miles. It is very different from the sirens, cars, airplanes, voices, and constant noises of LA. I was very proud of the students because many of them understandably had fears about the solo walk, but all of them did it. Some even said, “It was the best walk of my life.”
We also had the groups work with members of Friends of the Inyo to help remove invasive plants near the stream deltas at Mono Lake.
This work is funded by a grant in partnership with Friends of the Inyo, Inyo National Forest, and the Mono Lake Committee. The students said that they liked being able to give back to Mono Lake and to the community here. Even though it was hard work digging up plants and roots in the hot sun, I didn’t hear one word of complaint.
On the last morning, some students said that they didn’t want to go home yet and that they were going to come back up to Mono Lake on their own someday. I think these groups just had a blast up here. We laughed, teased each other, played card games, and played soccer along with learning the story that connects Mono Lake and Los Angeles. These students undoubtedly formed a connection with this place, learned the history of the battle to save Mono Lake, and saw how their work in LA affects this place today.