It has been an amazing first week of Walking Water!

Thirty-five pilgrims from around the world awoke on a beautiful clear morning at Cattleguard campground outside of Lee Vining, September 1st. We were joined by many from the local community for the opening ceremony, a strong time as a diverse crowd gathered in support of the waters—including representatives from the Mono Lake Kutzadika Tribe, Big Pine, Lone Pine and Bishop Paiute tribes, the Mono County Board of Supervisors, a representative from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) and many others from young to old. We were welcomed by traditional songs, blessings for our walk and traditional stories from this land.

A photo of water from all over the world being carried by the walkers for the duration of the pilgrimage and will eventually end up in Los Angeles.

A photo of water from all over the world being carried by the walkers for the duration of the pilgrimage and will eventually end up in Los Angeles.

Gifts were exchanged and we began the walk in gratitude for all. We set out on a strong current, accompanied by local supporters, carrying a blend of waters and prayers from many watersheds and countries far and wide.

Our first day set the terrain in many ways. We followed Lee Vining Creek, a major tributary of Mono Lake to the diversion site, built in the late 1930s by the DWP. We saw more infrastructure, including the dam of Rush Creek and resulting reservoir at Grant “Lake.” Our experience was enriched by the presence of David and Janet Carle, now-retired Mono County park rangers who joined the pilgrimage for the first week.

We sat and imagined what the people were like and what it took to build such a complex and significant system.

During the week, we had opportunities to hear from several community leaders who were among the walkers. At the Mono Basin Outdoor Education Center, Mark Drew, Regional Manager for the Eastern and Northern Sierra regions of CalTrout, shared about the need for integration and engaging in community process where all perspectives are considered. Andy Lipkis, president and founder of TreePeople in Los Angeles, spoke about inspiring solutions to localize LA’s water, through harvesting, catchment and storage of rainwater. We became engaged right at the start in what is a much longer conversation now underway about source to end-user. We were inspired by much of what was shared and aware that there are still many more voices to be heard… all of us looking together at how we have been and how we are currently in relationship with water.

By now, the route has taken us through many lands, traditional territories, DWP land, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the United States Forest Service and more. We have walked the water story…across, near and down rivers and creeks, up to the edge of the Mono craters, through pine forests over 8000 feet, to the big springs at the headwaters of the Owens River, to the geothermal activity of hot springs at Hot Creek, and into the sage brush of lower elevations.

Walkers exchange food as they wait for the rest of the group to catch up.

Walkers exchange food as they wait for the rest of the group to catch up.

We are finding our rhythm and pace, as a group and as individuals connected to the whole. We do our best to listen to how to care for ourselves, each other and the places we walk. We have picked up and disposed of many bags full of trash left behind by others… Oftentimes we walk as a group in silence remembering why we came, the care we hold and the prayer we began with. We engage in conversations with new and old friends along the trail .Some are trackers inspiring others to see who has come before…mountain lion, coyote, deer… Mornings are spent gathering our things, adjusting our packs and tending our blistered feet. Some sit, stretch, find their way to meet the day. We come together as a group and prepare for the days in many ways. We have experienced walkers with us…one pilgrim, Geoff Dalglish, has been walking for several years, stopped counting at 10,000 miles, once on a 124-day walk. Others are walking in this way for the first time.

WW-Blog(Week1-img4)The spirit of song is strong, with improvisation and professional singer-songwriters. There has been laughter and tears. Days have been hot, nights cold. Some new things which have been seeded in our time together… Collaboration on at least 2 books, a new song, partnering around photojournalism and getting important stories out… We are finding our way to meet each other, the issues and the waters.

Huge thanks to our many sponsors, all of you tracking us along the way , and a special bow to the logistics team and kitchen crew, who are full on in support and participation—refilling our water, packing, unpacking and repacking our base camp gear and camp kitchen, creating delicious and abundant meals, working the route, and generally looking out for the needs of all.

Some of us depart today, September 6, and all are saying they want to walk more… Most of the group will carry on, welcoming new walkers, all of us in a shared prayer.

We are looking forward to our next public event, Water Stories, Past, Present and Future, at the Owens Valley Paiute Shoshone Cultural Center in Bishop on September 10th. During this “roundtable,” we will hear from many more people involved with the waters locally. Please join us.

Water Stories, Past, Present and Future

Date: Thursday, September 10th

Time: 7:30-9:30 pm

Location: Owens Valley Paiute Shoshone Cultural Center, Bishop, CA

Description: Water stories consist of many interwoven stories, here in the Owens Valley and around the world: tribal history, migration, development, settlement, water rights, land management, and more. Through the medium of story, we will take a look at the current realities, and at some examples where water has been part of struggles and unity. How do we contribute to a future that is for something and what do our young people need from us to do that?

Roundtable discussion with: Alan Bacock, water coordinator for the Big Pine Paiute Tribe; Daniel Pritchett, member of the Owens Valley Committee and conservation chair of the Bristlecone Chapter of CNPS for 15 years; Harry Williams, activist and member of the Bishop Paiute Tribe; Teri Red Owl, Director of the Owens Valley Indian Water Commission

Convened by Gigi Coyle, Walking Water co-leader