22
Sep
09

The Glacier of Corinda los Trancos

Corinda los Trancos is a very romantic spot, entirely in keeping with its name. From the ridge top, you get a gorgeous view of the mountains nearby and the ocean beyond. Early on a September morning, the vista is shrouded in a few late-rising rags of fog fighting a losing battle with the sun. The haze in the eastern sky gives the light a twinklyquality and turns the range farther out into a ghostly shoal of breaching whales. In the late afternoons, when the fog rolls in again, it feels like the ocean rises up around you leaving you stranded on an archipelago of tiny tropical islands while the valleys below are lost in gloom.

The glacier hugging a cleft down the side of Ox Mountain is much less romantic, seeing as how it’s made of trash. Corinda los Trancos is the only active landfill in San Mateo County, California. Not that you can see the trash itself. What you see—if you’re lucky enough to wangle admission, that is—is a vast earthwork filling up one end of a secluded canyon and draped up against the mountain side. The trash is exposed in one little spot, where the big possum-belly trailers are tipped up high in the air to shake loose the garbage they’ve brought from the transfer processing station in San Carlos. A herd of goats roams the surface higher up. At the very top sits a generator that turns the methane produced by decomposing organics into energy.

Corinda los Trancos Range (with landfill glacier tucked out of sight)

Corinda los Trancos Range (with landfill glacier tucked out of sight)

The thing is huge, by the way, containing some 35 years worth of trash already. And it’s going to accumulate many more layers on top, since it’s permitted to keep filling until about 1932 or so. It’s awesome. I wish I could show you what it looks like, but when I got the tour I didn’t have permission to take pictures.

For now, a forlorn little hilltop rises above the scene, the remains of the real Ox Mountain. Not for much longer. It’s being dug down for material to cover our trash—my very own garbage included, I might note—to supplement the concrete and green waste that is also used for cover. So eventually, Ox Mountain the former will be gone and right next to its absence will rise Ox Mountain the latter, a layer cake of trash that at the present moment has a better life expectancy than our civilization as a whole.

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