Pyramid Creek Trailhead Kiosk
As our second year of the ENFIA, Forest Walker service at the Pyramid Creek trailhead comes to an end I would like to tell you about our activities.
Every Saturday and Sunday from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend a team of two to four Forest Walker volunteers arrive at the Pyramid Creek trailhead at Twin Bridges, US Highway 50. We create an information kiosk with a pop-up shelter, several tables and multiple containers of reference materials, displays and assorted tee shirts, hats, maps and sun screen. The word interpretive in our name is the heart of our purpose. According to the Encarta Dictionary: English, interpretive is “relating to, involving, or providing an interpretation or explanation of something”. As ambassadors of the forest, I believe we fulfill this mission.
The openness of the Kiosk allows us to see most hikers and for them to see us. Sometimes our only service is a hello and a smile. For others we provide the confidence to try something new through information about the trail conditions, suggested routes and distance. Also, we answer questions about permits, wilderness use and parking. A good 10% of the hikers do not see the large fee station sign at the entrance to the parking lot.
It is important to recognize the variety of the 300 to 600 people that pass in front of our kiosk on a typical Saturday or Sunday. We see everyone from seasoned, fit hikers headed up the falls to Pyramid Peak to first timers.
- For the people that have never walked a trail before the path is quite daunting. These people are often anxious about their ability to cope with a trail. We give them suggestions of the best route, tell them what they will experience, remind them they are not at sea level and the air (oxygen) is thinner. We encourage them; if they go at an easy pace they will make it.
- Many of our visitors are foreign tourists that have never seen mountains to the scale of the Sierra Nevada. They are curious about the geology, vegetation, animals, birds and reptiles.
- Many children are hiking a trail for the first time. We show them what the trail markers look like and encourage them to find them so their parents don’t get lost. When they come back we give them stickers and Smokey swag.
- Many are unprepared for trail walking. If I had a nickel for every person that went up the trail in flip flops I could go to Starbucks! We counsel them to wear sun screen and hats and to carry drinking water.
- A small percentage of the trail users are proficient, equipped hikers. They are headed to Avalanche Lake or further into Desolation Wilderness. For these we show them the picture of the falls and tell them about a less dangerous route the wilderness hikers suggested.
- A good number of dogs go up the trail each day. For their owners we give out doggie duty bags and alert their people to the presence of rattlesnakes. Also, at the trail head we provide a bucket of water for the dogs.
We assist hikers to have a pleasant, successful trip. Then we congratulate them when they come down on their accomplishment. Many are amazed that they made it. Some have never seen anything like it and are excited about the beauty of the area. We also assist hikers to find information about plants and animals they saw on the trail. We have a white board for hikers to note the plants and animals seen that day. Many people want to see what they did on the map. They are thirsty for more. We open the map and show other good hikes. We have a handout showing other hikes on the Highway 50 corridor. Also, we give information about how to plan and get a permit for overnight camping in Desolation Wilderness.
The facilities at Twin Bridges and the Pyramid Creek trail are heavily used by visitors to the El Dorado National Forest. Even with Saturday morning maintenance and garbage service for the toilets, the ENFIA volunteers routinely service the toilets with additional toilet paper. Not all visitors are created equal. At least once a day we use our gripper to pick up scattered paper in the bathrooms and patrol the parking lot for litter. Often we alert the Forest Service about clogged toilets, leaking pipes, broken doors and graffiti. When we have enough volunteers, one of us hikes up the trail picking up trash. While this is not the glamorous part of our service it is an important service to the forest. When a facility that opens the forest to so many visitors is clean and inviting we hope that encourages our visitors to be good stewards.