I was very impressed with our volunteer coordinator, Jessica, for choosing this volunteer opportunity. While Zion National Park gets lots of people offering to volunteer every year (Jessica said about 450), smaller parks and monuments don’t get as many offers from people wanting to volunteer. Since there are other National Parks around the Zion area, Jessica took us to Pipe Spring National Monument this day to volunteer. Pipe Spring is an old fort on top of a spring that was originally settled by Ancestral Puebloans, and then the Kaibab Paiutes. Once Mormons settled the region, they took control of the spring and built a fort on it. The surrounding valley was actually used for grazing for LDS owned cattle; the spring water was used to water the cattle. The fort was also used to shelter plural wives after the Edmunds-Tucker Act of 1887. According to the ranger who directed our efforts at the Park, about 55,000 people visit the Monument every year, most of them Mormons who are interested in Mormon history. The Monument has the fort, but also some cattle, horses, and gardens, as well as a hiking trail that offers nice views of the surrounding valley.
We were broken up into several groups to do a variety of projects. Two groups spent the morning weeding – some in an open area and some in a native plant species garden where the path had become overgrown with invasive weeds. Another group cleaned out the horse and cow stalls. My group hauled away logs; several trees that had died had been cut down the week before and the pieces needed to be hauled away and burned. Since the pieces were quite heavy, that task fell on the men in the group. We hauled away several truckbeds full of logs and threw them in a fire. We also hauled away the weeds the other groups had pulled.
Most of the projects were finished by lunch, but the weeding in the native plant species garden wasn’t quite finished and the path inside the garden also needed to be covered with mulch. So, after lunch, we all turned our attention to that project and, about an hour and a half later, it was completely weeded and mulched.
We then had a chance to go on a tour of the fort and hike the short trail up the hill behind the fort. Two of the students came across a rattlesnake, but were far enough from it when they saw it that they were not at serious risk. The tour of the fort was interesting and informative. If you ever find yourself in the area, you should stop by.
After our tour, we loaded up into the van and headed back to Zion, driving through Fredonia and Kanab and the east side of the park. We stopped briefly in Kanab to pick up the rest of the food we needed for the week, then drove back to our camp.
It was time for dinner when we returned. We had burritos; another great, hearty meal. The rain had also cleared up. With no rain, we were able to spend the evening by the fire, making smores and chatting. We also had our reflection exercise, then turned in for the night.
This was, however, the night that the wind picked up. Rather than raining at night, the wind gusted all night. The gusting wind woke me up around 3:00 am and I realized we hadn’t put away all of the cooking supplies. So, I got out of our tent and put stuff away (some of it had blown a little). As I climbed back into the tent, the one working zipper (the other was broken when we set up the tent) stopped working. I got it about half way up, but couldn’t get it any further. About 10 minutes after I got back into the tent, a wind gust pushed the zipped part of the tent door open. Despite quite a bit of time spent trying to get the zipper to work again, we weren’t able to for the rest of the week, meaning we slept with our tent door open for the next two nights. Luckily, all of three of the men had good sleeping bags, so we didn’t freeze with the wind gusting into our tent all night.