This past weekend, the Outreach Assistants (aka: The Fabulous Four) were at it again! They travelled west to the Livingstone Range, in search of great weather and even better recreationists. After an incredibly cold and rainy May Long, anything short of a blizzard would be a welcome sight!
Soon after arriving at Dutch Creek Rec Area on Friday afternoon, camp was quickly set up and Rob Taylor went to work on team dinner; a delicious pork shoulder shredded for tacos. Who said cooking in the backcountry had to be bland?
Afterwards, everyone went to visit the neighbors down the hill, who affectionately call themselves “The Mahoners”. Nicola and Ryan had met these delightful campers the previous weekend, and were greeted with an avalanche of hospitality. This visit was no different, and in a moment of sheer coincidence Thomas realized one of The Mahoners was a high school buddy of his, one he hadn’t spoken to in over 20 years! Everyone crowded around the campfire and many great conversations concerning the backcountry ensued. Our friends had been coming to Dutch Creek for decades, and shared many of their concerns regarding the area and its future sustainability. They were especially displeased with campers who leave garbage behind, promising us that this would not be the case for them!
The team split up into two groups for Saturday. Thomas and Ryan decided to head slightly north to the Oldman River Recreation Area, host to many random campers and the spectacular Oldman River Falls.
Throughout the day, a diverse demographic of recreationalists were encountered. A middle-aged couple in the midst of a day trip, disappointed in what they considered over-use of the area. A young couple camped out in a secluded hollow, without a care in the world. A large family of responsible OHV enthusiasts, accompanied by an army of friendly dogs. Thomas even got the chance to learn a new game from a couple of young campers, who were rewarded with OWC stickers and tattoos (temporary of course!)
No matter who the audience, the goal was to engage in meaningful conversations about the area and to listen to the many different perspectives people had. This proved quite successful, as many of the chats lasted an hour! It seems that most individuals who spend their time in the backcountry carry strong opinions on how it should be managed, and the Outreach Team is more than willing to listen!
Meanwhile, Rob and Nicola set their sights on the Racehorse Creek Road and Atlas Road areas. Although they did not meet many campers, this gave them a great opportunity to collect important environmental data through GPS coordinates. This information will give the OWC insight into what areas are most damaged, and the potential for restoration projects going into the future!
Although the general plan was the same for Sunday, the teams were switched around to provide a new dynamic! Rob and Ryan scoured some random camping areas, but found that many of the inhabitants weren’t home. Their efforts were then redirected to environmental damage duty! Although a large part of their role is to engage with recreationists, keeping an eye out for degradation is also a top priority. Data was collected involving such things as stream-bank erosion, infrastructure damage, and general littering. However nothing compared to the large lead-acid battery found in a small stream near the Oldman, which Rob Taylor heroically extracted. Remember, pack out what you pack in! Water is a precious resource worthy of respect from all of us.
Just down the road, Nicola and Thomas were spending their time chatting with a wide variety of recreationalists, and were met with warm welcomes. Coincidence seemed to be the theme of the weekend, as both Outreach Assistants connected with friends old and new. Thomas rekindled stories with a friend from high school, making that the second this trip, while Nicola chatted with the parents of some of her soccer teammates. They finished up the day strong, increasing our total audience for the weekend to over 60 individuals!
As noted before, coincidence seemed to be a large part of this particular trip. But is this really the case? The Oldman Watershed is home to just over 200,000 people, a relatively small number compared to places of similar size. This goes to show the collective appreciation for the outdoors that many Southern Albertans share. It doesn’t seem to matter if you’re in the middle of the backcountry, miles away from pavement. The chance of running into somebody you know, or even love, is all but inevitable. That is why it’s incredibly important we all treat these wild places as if it were our own neighbours yard. In the end WE ARE ALL DOWNSTREAM, and we must all take on an individual role in protecting our watershed for generations to come.
PS. After the Mohoners left Dutch Creek, the Outreach Assistants walked down to their campsite to take a look. As promised, the site was spotless!! Good job!
For more photos of this trip and others, check us out on Flickr.
Volunteering for the OWC is a great way to help the environment and make a difference!