By Derek Johnson
Special to The Alpine Mountaineer
For the second time ever, Rim Family Services, Inc. organized a fun family event at Heaps Peak Arboretum on April 8th – a family scavenger hunt. The first event was held last August.
Organizers hope this will continue to be a semi-annual tradition, the purpose of which is to encourage kids and parents to get out and about and engage in a healthy outdoor activity for their physical and mental health.
Rim Family Services is a nonprofit organization founded here on the mountain in 1991. They engage in mental health initiatives, drug and family counseling services, and a variety of other social services.
They are funded through various government programs along with tax deductible donations. Individuals and families in need of counselling are linked up with subcontractors that partner with the organization.
During the event, after picking up a map with a clipboard (and some free bottled water and granola bars to help the kids on their journey), kids and parents walked the one-mile Sequoia Trail in search of 10 colorful signs depicting cartoon animals native to our local mountains.
Organizers staked the signs into the ground within sight of the trail – sometimes peeking out from behind rocks or trees. This time around, organizers also added a new challenge for parents – a much more difficult scavenger hunt in which parents attempted to find the places where 15 laminated photos were captured along the trail.
After finding all 10 of the hidden animals, kids redeemed their filled-in maps in exchange for a toy of their choosing. Parents were also asked to fill out a three-question survey about mental health and family activities.
The weather was particularly cooperative for the outdoor event – beautifully sunny with temps in the high 60s and very little wind. However, at the arboretum, the devastation is still apparent from the ice and windstorm that wreaked so much havoc along the rim around the New Year. There are fallen trees in a few places, some large piles of fallen branches, and splintered, raw wood is visible on many trees – either because large branches have broken off or because the trunks snapped at the treetops.
At one point toward the beginning of the trail, a massive branch system is barely hanging onto one of the oak trees. Volunteers had to use a rope to tie the limb to a nearby tree to keep it from precariously hanging over the path. Still, a little storm damage doesn’t subtract much from the natural beauty of the place. Aesthetics aside, the trail itself is clear, safe and ready for visitors.
Carol Kinzel, president of the Rim of the World Interpretive Association (ROWIA), the nonprofit organization that maintains and staffs the arboretum, says cleanup from this winter’s storms will take significant time and a large volunteer effort. Once the budget for wood chipping is approved, they can begin the process of clearing out piles of branches that accumulated when the Forest Service did their preliminary clearing of the paths and safety hazards.
“We hope to have it all cleared out by next winter,” Kinzel said. When the time comes, ROWIA will be soliciting the public for volunteers to help with the effort.
More than 100 people participated in the scavenger hunt, and parents seemed to enjoy it. One parent commented, “It’s great to have things like this to do while the kids are on spring break from preschool.”
The arboretum is open year-round. The trails and picnic area are free to the public. Parking passes cost $5 for the day, or visitors can get a Southern California annual Forest Adventure Pass that covers the Angeles, Cleveland, Los Padres and San Bernardino National Forests for $30.