Back in February, I started volunteering for the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy (OVLC), a nonprofit that protects open space through land acquisitions and conservation easements. They have a number of preserves scattered across the valley and the Valley View Preserve was their newest one. OVLC volunteers had already built two trails on Valley View and were now building Luci's Trail. While I was out on a hike I met Bill Brothers, a volunteer who said they could use my help building Luci's. I asked when could I start.
On my first day, Rick Bisaccia, the preserve manager, had six of us clear a thick stand of poison oak. One volunteer cut the branches back with a chainsaw while I used a pitchfork to toss aside the leafy debris, wearing only a T-shirt and shorts. Two days later a bumpy red rash appeared on my arms and shins then spread to my back and face. The skin-crawling dermatitis stayed with me for a month.
Above: I love Luci's. Ojai Valley, California. Photo: Craig Holloway