A couple weekends ago, we participated in the Mill Creek Clean Up. Mill Creek is about 10 miles from the city of Redlands at the edge of the San Bernandino National Forest. It’s a very popular destination for hiking and for it’s swimming holes, especially in the summer. The San Gorgonio Wilderness Association estimates that approximately 40,000 visitors enjoy the creek over the peak summer months. Unfortunately, because of people’s carelessness, the creek and trails are left covered in trash once fall comes around. The event we participated in was a preventative round of maintenance to remove trash from the creek and surrounding trails before the crowds arrive.
This was the first time I went to the area, and I was amazed that such a beautiful and lush area was just in Emily’s backyard. The creek was swollen from snow melt and the vegetation was bright green from all the rain we’ve had this year. All the stress I felt from the long drive and the anticipation of getting ready for the event instantly dissipated.
After some lolligagging and a short geology lecture, Emily and I, along with 50 or so volunteers, got to work. We all grabbed trash bags and some tools (rakes, shovels, picks, and giant tongs to pick up trash) and set off. For the next couple of hours, everyone wandered the trails and along the creek picking up (digging, pulling, or carrying out) litter. We got down and dirty, digging out giant plastic tarps, rusted car parts, a few pairs of shoes, lots of beer and plastic bottles, and I even braved the strong current of the creek to get a food wrapper caught on a branch. By the time we got back to the trail head, we were lugging two heavy bags full of trash.
We also used the clean up event as an opportunity to test out a new recipe for homemade granola bars. We set them out along with our famous Honey Almond Flax Granola and Secret Weapon Spice Rub sprinkled on chips, and happily watched hungry volunteers devour everything.
Besides feeling good about spending time for a cause, we got great feedback on our granola bars (people kept coming back for seconds and thirds!), met really amazing people, and got to be part of a community of people with local pride that cared very much about keeping Mill Creek pristine for everyone to enjoy. It was my first time participating in an event like this, and it was fun beyond my expectations. I strongly encourage you to take the time to explore the sights and sounds in your neighborhood. In the end, it’s everyone’s responsibility to take care of their surroundings and keep them beautiful – and you might even make some new friends in the process. For those who live in Southern California, we’ll keep you posted on the next Mill Creek clean up planned at the end of the summer.