When I stepped out of my car this afternoon at my regular trail head, I thought that someone had graded the road. Upon closer inspection, I discovered that what I had been looking at was the ending of a washout. There had been some flash floods in this area over the weekend, and there were big washes where roads had once been. The regular water ways overflowed making new gullies. It was quite interesting and awe inspiring.
A part of me wanted to be a geologist studying the water flow and how the rodent tunnels, roads, erosion, rocks, and plants all had a part in how the water moved. I followed the first of the ravines up into the foothills paying attention to the evidence of water movement. Here I could tell that the normal water way was just too small for the amount of water that rushed through the area. I went further seeing what the water uncovered. There were wonder stone, tufa, lava rock, and others I didn’t know what to call them.
In the middle of the wash, a large intact piece of tufa was uncovered. It reminded me of my childhood when I didn’t know what tufa was. I had seen the rock and thought it was petrified cow poop. I knew what petrified wood looked like and what it was, so I just assumed that the tufa was cow poop by the piling shape.
I walked up until I came to the beginning of the wash. Then I looked out over the hills paying attention to how the curves caused the water to gather and flow through this point. I continued on up and found another wash out. I followed that down noticing the deep narrow furrows that could have once been rodent tunnels.
I know that erosion is caused by many things, but one thing I have learned over the years is that new paths from wheels or feet cause erosion to begin. This is why social paths are frowned upon. It is bad enough that we are compressing the trail following one after another causing low spots and ruts, but when we add other paths, no matter how innocent they seem at first, we are adding to the destruction of the area. We are killing off the vegetation and loosening or packing the dirt and kicking rocks out of their beds. This in turn leaves the soil vulnerable. In places, the trail becomes a hole that fills when there is water. Other places, it weakens and the water and wind move and change the trail.
Today was fun following the washouts because it is in an area where people and cows roam all over on and off the dirt roads. But in a trail area or undisturbed land, we should respect it. This will help to keep the impact to a minimum and others can enjoy the views or we can come back and recognize it. Please keep erosion to a minimum, stick to the paths.