Spring Flowers

Coconino National Forest Scenic Vista of the San Francisco Peaks along Highway 180 in conjunction with International Sculpture Day, April 24, 2016

Materials: hundreds of collected broken plastic sleds

Jan. 2: I got up and went for an early morning mountain bike ride. The temperature was 16 degrees. I drove out Highway 180 to Forest Service road 151, better known as Hart Prairie Road. It is a perfect road for winter riding because the snow is packed down, thawed and then frozen into ice for optimum conditions for a three mile climb. Descending is a blast. Flying around corners with carbide studded tires is all worth the slow climb up on my single speed.

As one turns off 180 onto Hart Prairie Road, you immediately cross a cattle guard and then into a parking lot. What I saw that morning as I parked was completely disgusting. Garbage was strewn across the lot and scattered throughout the forest with hundreds of pieces of colored broken plastic sleds. As I did my ride, my mind was occupied by what I had just seen. I was disturbed and had to act.

Knowing that the weekend had just started and that there would be more holiday revelers the next two days, I committed to return and clean up the mess the following week. A big storm was predicted to hit us on Tuesday with several feet of snow, so I wanted to make sure the garbage and broken sleds were picked up before its arrival.

Jan. 5: After school, Chiara and I went to the turnoff at Hart Prairie Road to collect the garbage and broken sleds.  Picking up the garbage, a man stopped and volunteered to help. He asked me if I was doing community service work for a conviction. Walking through the woods picking up the garbage, Chiara and I talked about what we could do with all the broken sleds. The snow started falling as the early evening light faded. Driving back home in the thick snow, it occurred to us that if we hadn't picked up all of these broken pieces of sleds they would reappear as trilliums on the forest floor, as the first spring flowers after the winter snows had melted, in colors of green, blue, orange and red.

Jan. 11: It was -1 this morning. Adrian and I drove out to Hart Prairie Road to collect garbage and sleds.

Jan. 19: After the long weekend that included Martin Luther King Day, I drove to Hart Prairie Road. Once again, garbage and broken sleds were strewn everywhere. I collected sleds until the van was full. On the way back into town, I stopped at the Forest Service Scenic Vista of the San Francisco Peaks. Scattered throughout the parking lot and adjacent forest was garbage and broken sleds. I returned to the area that afternoon. As I walked through the forest, the snow crunching under my feet, the sledding hill reminded me of a debris field from an airplane crash. There were broken brown McDonalds' food trays laying on the snow, having been used as sleds. I spent the next two hours filling the van with garbage and sleds. I also discovered a new plant growing on the volcanic rock sticking out of the snow, a new species of lichen made of plastic in a variety of bright colors.

Jan. 21: I drove to Hart Prairie Road to do my bike ride. Two garbage cans had been tipped over, their contents scattered across the parking lot. Crows were causing a fuss to get to the leftover food and garbage, plastic bottles and cups shredded. An Abert squirrel ran off into the forest with a paper coffee cup locked between its jaws. After my ride, I emptied the garbage cans and cleaned up the mess.