Easter in Madera Canyon
Canyon visitors start arriving early on Easter morning. A few come as early as 3:00 AM to claim their picnic spot. Most start arriving around 6:00 AM and by 9:00 o’clock all 170 parking slots are filled and the canyon is closed. Many cars are then turned away, although some choose to park and walk in from the road outside of the canyon. Later, as cars begin to leave the canyon, a few lucky arrivals are allowed to enter as space becomes available.
They come in vehicles laden with grills, furniture, toys, coolers, boxes of food, and pots of menudo. The canyon is transformed from a place of peaceful solitude, where birdcalls are usually the most raucous sound, to a virtual living room set up under the oaks of the Madera. Furniture stands scattered around the picnic tables. Piñatas and swings hang from the trees. Smells of wood smoke and barbeque fill the air. Screams and laughter of children throwing confetti-filled Easter eggs at each other replace birdsong. The canyon becomes a place of joyous celebration.
The hapless “birder” who may have come upon this transformation is stunned. The birds have retreated long ago anyway.
By four o’clock, almost 600 cars have been counted at the Visitor Information Station staffed by the U. S. Forest Service and volunteers from the Friends of Madera Canyon.
On Monday morning after Easter, six volunteers from the Friends of Madera Canyon arrive at 7:00 AM to clean up the aftermath. Easter grass, confetti, and bits of plastic have to be extracted from leaf debris. Discarded plastic Easter eggs, soda cans, stray socks, paper, and even underwear are removed from gullies. Eight buckets of ashes are emptied from grills. By nine o’clock the volunteers have finished their work.
Once again, peace has returned to Madera Canyon. The birds have returned to their daily routine and the lizards and small animals once again scurry among the fallen leaves.