First of all, as cool and catchy as the name sounds, the title of this event is actually misleading. Last week, a group of over 50 high school students, all part of rock climbing clubs from the Fremont Union High School District, headed up to Sanborn County Park to do a trash cleanup around Indian Rock. I decided to bill the event under the name Castle Rock Cleanup to try and promote awareness about the potential closure of the park, as well as the simple fact that it just sounds better.
Indian Rock is across the street from Castle Rock State Park, which is one of the best local crags in the Bay Area. If you haven’t been there already, Castle Rock has been billed by many as the “Mini Fontainebleau” of the United States. With thousands of perfect sandstone boulders scattered across acres of wilderness in the Saratoga hills, it’s a wonder people don’t flock in from around the world to sample some of America’s best bouldering.
However, recent state budget cuts have nearly doomed Castle Rock as well as many other state-operated parks. Thanks to a multi-thousand dollar fundraising effort spearheaded by the Sempervirens Fund and backed by the Planet Granite Climbing Gyms, Castle Rock was saved from closure for at least one more year.
The fact that such natural beauty in California has been given a number value has inspired my fellow classmates and I to take action. Last year, I organized a trash cleanup at Indian Rock in order to promote the conservation of the area and also bring together the Fremont High School Bouldering Club in one last community service event. We picked up almost 70 pounds of trash, had a huge raffle, ate a bunch of bagels, and went climbing afterwards. This year, we looked to better that.
Early Sunday morning, after setting out from Fremont High School with about 10 kids, I was skeptical about how big of an event it would be compared to the year before. I reasoned it didn’t really matter, as long as we all had a good time and contributed back to the community. However, when we arrived at the Indian Rock parking lot at around 9:30, I discovered it to be almost completely filled with high school kids already, way more than I was expecting. In total, we had over 50 kids from 5 different high schools there for the cleanup. Even my good friend Hannah Donnelly from Sacramento made it down just for the event. It was way more than I had ever anticipated, much thanks to my friend Yann de Bleecker, president of the Cupertino High School Climbing Club. His efforts to promote the event at his school as a community service event helped ensure the huge turnout.
We started the event at 9:30, and everyone immediately started picking up trash around the base of Indian Rock, working with bags and gloves donated by Orchard Supply Hardware. The most common items people found were broken pieces of glass and shredded rubber pieces, mostly due to a combination of idiots chucking beer bottles off the top of the cliff and exploded shotgun targets. Some of the more interesting things that were found included unopened beer bottles, a vintage 1984 Coca Cola can, an intact 75-pound porta-potty, and a discarded tent.
All in all, we collected 349 pounds of trash in just under 3 hours. Not too bad. Also included in the event was a raffle for all participants, sponsored generously by REI, Sports Basement, Five Ten, and Planet Granite. The team of two guys who found the porta-potty were dubbed the “winners” of the event (in total, they picked up 109 lbs by themselves) won a half-day of professional guiding at Castle Rock with Rick Picar, all gear provided. Needless to say, when I presented the award to the two ecstatic guys, their faces were priceless.
After the raffle was finished, we all enjoyed some complimentary bagels for lunch (provided by Noah’s Bagels) and went bouldering across the street at Castle Rock State Park. Everyone who stayed had a blast trying out some of the entry-level problems around the Magoo’s, as well as giving the ultra-classic Spoon (v1) many burns late into the afternoon.
From my perspective, seeing my project come to fruition was an inspiring experience. To see kids actively getting involved with their community out in nature is something you don’t get to see every day. For most of them, it was their first time climbing outdoors as well, and by the time we finished climbing nearly all of them had started making plans to come back to finish off their projects. However, the best part of our event was the friendships that came out of the experience, especially between kids from all over the district. There’s nothing that brings people together better like sharing a common passion for climbing and the outdoors. Unfortunately, as I am graduating high school, I will not be on hand to participate and organize the event next year. I can only hope to inspire people around me to continue the event into the future.