Caring for the Canyon

Reed Community Celebrates Canyon Day

This past Saturday, October 27, Reed students and community members alike gathered to celebrate Canyon Day on one of the last sunny days of this fall. Canyon Day, which takes place once each semester, is Reed’s oldest tradition, at least according to the banner hung outside the Gray Campus Center (GCC) over the weekend.

From 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., students, alumni, neighbors, and other community members congregated at the west end of the canyon near Sequoia, cleaning up and revitalizing its understory, and, this year, repurposing an old bottle of Pinot Grigio found in the search. While a key part of the ritual is caring for the canyon, Grounds Specialist Zac Perry emphasized that the event is first and foremost a celebration of the Canyon and its role in Reed campus life.

Participants spent the morning digging up weeds, and in particular the pernicious Hedera helix, or English Ivy, an invasive species in the Pacific Northwest that often strangles the poor ferns in the understory of the Reed Canyon. With the help of the Canyon Day crew, the ferns could breathe once again. For lunch, Sustainability Coordinator Hayden Henderson and other members of Greenboard made “a shit ton of vegan black bean burgers,” as Sky Ford ‘21 put it. In the afternoon, participants starting planting new fern and oxalis species where the English Ivy had been before after having cleared enough space for new plants to grow.

When asked why they like Canyon Day, Ford told the Quest that the event is “one of the few times when Reed students interact with the neighborhood, and it’s nice to get to know the people who live around here. I work in the canyon and I do the same kind of work we do at Canyon Day — restoration, taking out invasive species — but the amount [of work] we get done on Canyon Day is incomparable to what we get done during shifts.”

Taking breaks in their weeding and planting, participants enjoyed homemade sorbet made by Sustainability Coordinator Bella Brownwood. After people took guesses at some of the more interesting flavors on offer, Brownwood revealed the secrets of her creations: lemon basil, coconut chai, quince, plum, and, apple — fitting for the fall day. Perry also brought the bicycle-powered apple cider press that was gifted to Reed as part of the celebrations for Reed’s Centennial.

Brownwood ‘19 believes it is important to keep traditions like Canyon Day alive at Reed. “It is really important for people to feel some ownership over the canyon,” she explained.  “Letting people work pulling weeds and planting gives them some of that ownership. In this way people feel invested in its well-being and success.” On a personal level, she added, “it is really nice for me to have a day every semester to get out and dig in the dirt.” As an organizer, Brownwood has enjoyed trying to continually improve the event (“no more disposable cups! Or single use peanut butter things!”). She thought this year’s event was a success.

Ford, who has been to multiple Canyon Days, thought that the music on offer put the event over the top. “What was really good about this year was [that] the music was incredible,” Ford said. “We had a group of students who came into the canyon itself. It was kind of impromptu. Groups were scheduled to show up, but they played together and jammed together.” At one point, a young toddler from the neighborhood sat enthralled, eating her bean burger and listening to the musicians’ rendition of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”

Reflecting on his experience at Canyon Day, Simon Couch ‘21 said, “at least for me, Canyon Day has always been a good reminder to spend time in the canyon. I always leave Canyon Day feeling really appreciative of that space and more motivated to make an effort to get out there more often.”

Although one of Reed’s oldest traditions, Canyon Day will continue for years to come.