A PLAN FOUR YEARS IN THE MAKING: RE-CREATING BOGGS MOUNTAIN
August 6, 2021
It’s September 14th, early evening at Whispering Pines Resort. The sun still has a couple hours before sundown, but here, beneath the shoulder of Cobb Mountain, it’s twilight. Someone just plugged in the lights that stretch between the overarching pine trees, illuminating picnic tables beneath. People relax along the benches, eating tacos and sipping on beer. Colby Lee Huston sits on his cajón thumping it, strumming his guitar and singing. It’s a happy, mellow evening.
Debbie Bloomquist stands next to the wine bar, a giant grin on her face.
Four years and two days ago, The Valley fire burned over ninety percent of Boggs Mountain Demonstration Forest, leaving blackened trees and destroying the twenty-two miles of hiking and biking trails that wound through the woods.
“My first thought after things settled down was ‘What about the trails?’” Debbie begins, her blue eyes shining. “And all I got was . . .” She shrugs her shoulders, imitating the answer. “’I don’t know.‘” As an avid outdoor person and an active bicyclist, she realized that nothing was going to happen unless she did it herself. So she took the reins, working hard behind the scenes to attract people and sponsors who saw the vision to restore Boggs Mountain as a hiking and mountain biking paradise.
Tonight she’s glowing; several years of her hard work saw a huge payoff. This morning a group of over seventy people came to Boggs Mountain to participate in REI’s “Dirt, Sweat, and Beers” Stewardship Series, designed to get volunteers together to help with outdoor projects.
“REI was incredible,” Debbie beams. “They donated $10,000 to the Redwood Empire Mountain Bike Alliance, and asked for nothing, no ‘sponsored by’ trail signs or anything, just good stories and good times.” She swings her curly dark hair to the side.
Earlier today she had it pulled into a bun to keep out of her face as she and the several groups of volunteers tackle the restoration. Teams spread across the mountainside, each to work on a thousand-foot section of damaged, tree-covered, and eroded trail.
Each group leader leads ten or so volunteers to a section of the trail. Parts cut along the hillside, swoop into small gullies and up the other side. Others wind beneath still towering pines and firs. Manzanitas two- and three-feet high spring from the remnant of the trailbed. Sections no longer exist, having collapsed, now covered with rocks.
After taking five minutes to create a plan and make sure everyone’s safe, everyone splits up, loppers, picks and rogue hoes in hand. Soon a cloud of dust rises between the tree trunks. Branches and logs start crashing down the hillside; people rake with a vengeance, eager to reveal and restore the damaged trail. Some places it only takes a quick raking, and there it is, hiding beneath the pine needles. Other areas require digging and a complete rebuild.
All along the mountainside, groups dig, scratch, rake, and haul, eagerly moving along, laughing and chatting as they work. Within two and a half hours they manage to complete over a mile of trail, a fantastic feat. Then they sit down to sandwiches and beer, enjoy a lunch provided by REI, and share stories.
That’s why Debbie’s smile won’t go away. In the past nine months, and counting the mile today, Boggs Mountain now has over seven miles of trail, part of their aggressive five-year plan to restore all twenty-two original miles of trails. It’s a dream that began in Debbie’s mind four years ago, and now is coming to fruition.
“It’s like grief,” Debbie she pauses, her eyes glistening. “I hope I don’t cry talking about it. Grief is coming to grips with what was, what is, and what will be. And you can see it all at Boggs Mountain. You drive into Calso Camp and you see what Boggs was, the big trees and the campsites. Then you walk a little further out, and you see what is, the burned forest. But then,” she stops for a second, her eyes filled with passion. “Then you look at all the trees coming up and what we did today. Then you see what it will be.” She smiles. “And that makes me happy.”