JC & MongoThe Elkeart CliffsOf the many things we do here at the XbarH, one of the most enjoyable and challenging is working with the land.

The XbarH is situated in the transition zone between the high deserts of northern Arizona and the alpine forests of Cedar Mountain in southern Utah.  We're in a couple of small side canyons in Long Valley, along the East Fork of the Virgin River.  The natural landscape of the transition zone is beautiful and unique, shaped by time and the elements.  It possesses all of the challenges you would expect to find in a semi-arid climate that experiences occassional monsoonal rains, but the biggest of those challenges is erosion.  There are also dramatic changes in elevation on the property, and unfortunately, a history lacking in the spirit of stewardship that this amazing landscape deserves.

When we arrived here in January 2009 to open the lodge, the land was blanketed under thick snow.  As the snow melted that first spring and we surveyed the landscape, our plan for the restoration began to take shape.  We decided the best approach would be to apply the same philosophy to the land that we had to the rest of our endeavors here: Hospitality, Creativity and Sustainability.

Planting tree seedlings

Butterfly on the blooming alfalfaWe wanted a natural landscape where our guests would have access to the geology of the canyons andPlanting trees enjoy its wildlife and plants.  For us, hospitality is all about sharing, and we have a very unique outdoor experience to share.  That hospitality also extends to the wildlife who are returning to the property as the grasses, shrubs and trees are re-established.  

The scale of the land restoration project on the XbarH's 75 acres would definitely require creativity.  We devised a long term plan that would primarily utilize materials found here on the property and would work with the inherent forces that continue to shape and transform the land.  An early focus was building simple berms with rock found on the property, to shift some of those forces to work for us instead of against us.  Now, the soil and rocks that would have washed away are helping to rebuild the landscape.  

Collecting native seedsJC mowing

We know the importance of sustainable endeavors.  It's always our goal in business and it's our goal with the restoration project.  Golden Laced Wyandotte chickensWe've added chickens to help fertilize and rebuild the depleted soil.  We harvest native seeds to scatter about the property every year.  We use materials found on the property whenever possible, and turn to local sources for the other materials we need.  All small things, but important steps that make a big difference.  

So we began creating berms and terraces, walkways and Kingbirdpaths, working areas and wild places.  We build compost and increase the size of the garden beds each year.  We continue to discourage noxious weeds, encouraging the native plants and wild life, and seeking beneficial plants that will do well in our quirky climate.  Little by little, erosion becomes accumulation, wildlife returns, and diversity prospers.

And so, we continue chipping away on the XbarH restoration project. Mule deer Much has been done and much more remains to be done.  It’s challenging to find the ways to build a place that comfortably supports people while working in accord with nature, rather than in defiance of it.  It’s even harder to describe the feeling that comes when you become intimate with a place and experience nature as teacher and guide.

 

                                        And we share it all with our guests,
                                                                                       the best way we know.

Guests meeting the chickens     

 Building a retaining wall

Sage Lizard