Until very recently, I hiked almost exclusively in the summer. Happily, thanks to monthly hikes with the Alpine Trails Book Club, I've had reason to do a lot more hiking year round, and I've found my favorite times to hike are during the transition between seasons. Hiking outside summer has also led me to discover all kinds of new trails, including the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River. The trail a perfect meandering riverside hike that I was happy to share with the Alpine Trails Book Club. It also turned out to be a meaningful trail to pair with our book selection of Reclaimers in ways I hadn't expected.
During our group discussion over lunch, I was astonished to learn that The Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River has a history of misuse. For decades, the area used as a dumping site for locals. That all changed starting in the 1990's, when a group called Friends of the Trail began the difficult work of cleaning up after illegal dumping activity in public lands throughout eastern King County. A little over two decades after they began their work, the history of the forest we hiked through had disappeared. The mossy forest showed little trace of any damage that had been done by the years of dumping, or of the hard work that had been done to reclaim the land and return it to a more useful state.
After lunch, as we hiked back to the trailhead, I found myself ruminating on the messy business of reclaimation. During our discussion of Spagna's writing, someone mentioned that after reading the book, she didn't like the word reclaimation. It didn't seem to fit the complicated process that each of the groups Spagna followed in their ongoing attempts at reclaiming. Perhaps the idea is bigger than a single word. Reading Reclaimers left me thinking that the most important task ahead for any would be reclaimer is not to restore or preserve land, but to manage land in a way that makes it useful to all. It may be a much more difficult task than simply removing a dam or clearing out trash, but as Spagna comes to understand: