Hiking Hacker Creek
Wild Turkeys hiding below the Hacker Creek Spill
She offered to hike me in so this afternoon we set off. Hacker Creek is a blue line creek–legally we are allowed to walk up it as long as we stay below the high water mark. The creek through her property was beautiful but as we reached the edge we noted some slight sheening. We ran our hands through it and felt a faint slipperiness. A week and a half ago, an alleged marijuana grow had been the scene of an ecological disaster–about 1000 gallons of diesel had overflowed into a generator shed, the soil beneath, and eventually into the headwaters of Hacker Creek.
Less than 50 yards past the sheening was a Pacific Giant Salamander. If you look closely at the photo, you can see the greasy effulent from the diesel spill floating in the water above it.
Surrounding us on the hillsides was critically endangered California Bunch Grass. The short basal leaves stay green year round. While tall graceful stalks turn pale gold with age, the roots extend up to 20 feet deep searching for moisture. Some plants are up to 200 years old. They can survive drought but they are vulnerable to invasion by non native species. I wonder how these plants will survive one more onslaught into their frail ecosystem.
The creek area was full of unique plants and tree configurations. I have lived in the area my whole life and have never seen some of these.
We hiked past beautiful flowers, deer scat, and birds.
Blue Jay feather
As we went upstream, mostly the water looked clean but then we came upon the first berms. They lay like kids’ long floaties across the creek. Behind them, like squares of dirty toilet paper were the absorbent pillows. The pungent aroma of diesel grew stronger as we climbed up the creek bed.
We found our first dead insect and heard the rumble of heavy equipment.
Soon we were right below the spill site. The building must have almost overhung the creek before the generator shed was torn down. The equipment noise had stopped. The woods were quiet as we scrambled up the hill to peer over the black cloth like fence. The bobcat mini excavator was still.
A 12 to 15 foot hole was dug out of the earth. The smell of diesel was overwhelming but not as bad as I had expected after Tuesday.
We contemplated waiting for the men to come back but decided we had seen what we were there for. Bleak and a little tired after our hour and a half climb, we headed diagonally downhill. And stumbled on this…
A bog above the creek filled with the greasy shine of diesel. There were no pillows or absorbent padding here. We don’t know if they hadn’t yet discovered the area or if they felt it best to clean it up when it reached the creek.
Quietly, we hiked down the hill. Passing the same ugly foam and oily surface covered with pads we returned
to the unique woodlands and native meadows. They looked as beautiful as they had two weeks ago–before the spill.