Mount Akawie

25 March 1990

By: Louis Quirarte


Leaders: Stag Brown, Louis Quirarte

An early HPS tradition has been reestablished. As we once did long ago in memory of certain founders of our Section, we have just planted a new grove of trees in the Angeles National Forest in honor of Richard I. Akawie (1923-89).

The sky at La Cañada was gray and drear, but it was deep blue and cloudless at the trailhead. Here the sun was bright, but there was still the delicious tang of early spring in the air. Nearby Waterman Mountain was covered in snow, but there were only a few white patches visible near our destination: a summit known at various times as BM 7283, UTM 157014, Pine Mtn #3, and Buckhorn Peak.

At Dick's passing there were many plans laid to evidence the respect and tremendous sense of loss we all endured. This day was simply one of the last events to finally happen. The HPS had to labor through official channels (and no little resistance) before USFS Ranger Terry Ellis finally gave approval. I asked Elden Hughes to intercede on our behalf and I believe that this did the trick. Even so, we had to wait nearly a year for the right planting conditions immediately after snow melt. Since this window of time varies annually we couldn't schedule this hike and instead had to trust to last minute phone banking. Jon Sheldon and Ruth Feldon deserve our gratitude for their aid in this.

Supervisory Forester Richard Hawkins generously provided us with 75 Pinus jeffreyi to plant in his Oak Grove District. These trees, native to our area, were named after John Jeffrey, a 19th Century Scottish botanical explorer who first collected their seeds.

Jeffrey's prefer dry, sunny and rocky slopes at elevations to 8,000 feet and hence were a perfect choice. Our plantings were specially grown from seedlings gathered near our site. We may hope that in 2089, Dick's great-grandchildren will see his mature trees standing 80 to 130 feet tall.

Jeffrey's are everyone's delight for another reason: both the needles and the bark provide an exquisite aroma described as something like that of apples, violets, pineapples, lemons or vanilla. The fragrance may be ambiguous in description but not in its effect: it always fills you with a sense of well being. It pleases me to think that this too is most appropriate for our purpose.

At 10:00AM I gave planting instructions to the group and we were then led up the slope by HPS Chair Stag Brown. Before gaining the peak, most participants dispersed to find their own favorite spots.

The actual planting was a spiritual experience - I still recall an unusual clarity and focus, as well as the certainty of doing something I wouldn't soon forget. But in keeping with HPS tradition, it was also great fun. Each of us had to dig many exploratory holes in the snow because the rocky soil seemed to be mostly solid bedrock a few inches below the surface. But eventually (after a few playful snowball fights), we all managed to dig down to the required depth. Then, under a waxing moon, we carefully deposited our offerings to the future and hoped for the best.

Those of you who wanted to be there still can help. It would be wonderful if you could make it a point to take a few canteens of water to the site sometime soon. Forestry Technician Don Gilliand (who supervises planting in this area), informed me that despite marginal soil and limited rainfall, there is an 85% (or better) chance of our trees surviving. But he urged that we give them some attention soon. If they survive this very dry coming summer, they'll very likely make it to maturity. It might be your care that makes the difference.

At high noon, the group reconvened on the summit. Stag allowed me the honor of making a surprise announcement. I reminded the group that this peak was the site of Dick's Sixth List Completion, and was the setting for our Commemorative hike for him last year. Additionally, it was always very special for him and his family.

I explained that recently, some members of HPS Management had been reminded by Bobcat Thompson that this peak was not officially named by the USGS and that it had only been given an unofficial use name by us. In the absence of directions in our Bylaws covering this, we had decided among ourselves to suggest that it be renamed on this day in Dick's memory - rather than wait the minimum of six years it normally takes to get a peak name officially listed. With Shirley's indulgence, we'll still endeavor to have it listed by Ernest Berringer, Chief of the Board on Geographic Names, but until this occurs there is nothing stopping us from calling it whatever we wish among ourselves.

After consideration of peak, point, or mountain, those assembled quickly agreed to henceforth and evermore refer to HPS Peak 13B as MOUNT AKAWIE and to request that the entire Sierra Club do so as well.

Thereupon, many bottles of champagne magically appeared and we all toasted our proud "new" HPS summit. Later on we descended for a tailgate potluck with views over Buckhorn camp to Mt Williamson to forever.

Present were Shirley Akawie, daughter and granddaughters Carol, Anna and Lisa Schneider, Stag and Nami Brown, Lynda Kennedy and Tom Armbruster (who contributed a new Register book), Georgina Burns, Frank Goodykoontz, Barbara Miller, Eric Weinstein, Dottie Rabinowitz and Mike Sandford (congratulations on your recent engagement), Marci Sandford, Cindy Okine and Mike Runyan, Jack and Phyllis Trager, Micky Thayer, Alan Coles, Donica Wood, Andy Anderson, Art Schain, Carol Geissinger, Julie Rush (with her superdog Ruskie), Louis and Betty Quirarte.

We all thank Shirley and her family for permitting us the joy of this day.


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