Half a year it has been. The weather has drifted from warm to cold and back the other way to hot. The excitement of a new adventure has waned away, only to build again as the crew now turns to their next undertaking. The members of the Lake Berryessa Trail Team showed up a hodge-podge of experienced conservationists and trail-workers, and over the course of the last six months they transformed into a family. Like any family, this group has seen its ups and downs, its fair share of drama and hardships, and it has come through on the other side a hardened, close-knit community prepared to share its knowledge with the next generation of conservation leaders. They said their hellos, and now they say their goodbyes.The team began their journey with the understanding that it would be cutting a handicap-accessible trail over three miles, but as most people that work with rock learn, expectations are quickly abandoned. From day one, the initial project was changed from the proposed ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Trail to another smaller one north of the initial proposal. For two months the crew chopped and shaved away at the soil, building the Smittle Creek Loop Trail. The team developed an intricate system of humorous conversation and an exceeding level of precision in leaving smooth tread behind them, but as soon as they had mastered the art of side-hilling, the trail was complete and it was time to find another task. At this point, the team found its expectations changing drastically. The project they thought was going to be their sole purpose now drifted further and further into the future, and the team turned their focus to building structures. Timber steps, rock steps, retaining walls, and water bars are all structures not allowed on ADA trails, yet the ADA crew found themselves building all of these in many places. The team brought together for one focus now found themselves travelling all over the lake and taking on the whole gambit of possible trail projects. After the Christmas break and the completion of the Smittle Creek Loop Trail, the team began to focus on developing their leadership skills as well as an array of technical skills. Each member took over as subcontractor and was responsible for the logistics of the work day in addition to planning the crew’s travel and stay at the trainings that were lined up for the crew. Over the course of the past six months, the team was supplied with trainings in rigging, crosscut saw use & sharpening, chainsaw use & maintenance, Leave No Trace education, and general leadership training in addition to the skills picked up from the now vast array of trail projects undertaken. The team was barraged with a pile of things to do at work, at home, and at their ‘free’ time. At times it was easy, it was hard, stressful, relaxing, tiring, revealing, dull, fun, and just too much but no one will forget this crew and what they learned from it. They learned how to fall a tree. They learned about building bridges. They learned trail survey and design. They learned what it means to have ‘trail eyes.’ They learned teaching styles. They learned leading styles. They learned the meaning of tired. They learned poison oak is evil. They learned about themselves. They learned about their crew. They learned that when they share hopes and goals, they only hint at their priorities. They learned that everyone is coming from someplace different and that everyone is going someplace different, and that sometimes those people collide on their way someplace else. They learned that everyone sometimes needs new boots. They learned that they have a voice. They learned that others have voices, too, and they learned that when everyone uses their voice, nobody is using their ears. They learned that simple things are not risky, and community is formed on simple things, and until those simple things are established risky things are off the table. They learned that there is only one dirt. And you can’t pick your family. And you can’t know who somebody is when you meet them. And you can’t know what you’ll understand until you learn it. They learned that everyone has a story, and sometimes don’t want to tell it, and there is a story behind everything that has ever been learned. Megan learned not to use liquid dish detergent in the dishwasher. Stephani learned Ryan does not like sugar and she really does. Ben learned how to look at a trail. Andy learned to put a smile on his face is not always easy. Chris learned that we’re all taking different paths, no matter where the trail is. Ryan learned that the English major is sometimes a better teacher than a writer. They all learned that they have a lot to learn.Work Totals:New Trail 3603’Trail Maintained 24044’Trail Rehabilitated 3702’Sites Rehabilitated 15Stone Retention 63’ sq.Log Retention 40’ sq.Bridges 3 @ 38’Steps 101Drianage Structures 20Fence Const. 120’Structures Removed 7Trash Collected 60 lbs. Student Outreach 63 students
Field Report by Steve Gang, Discover the Power of Parks Interpreter...Over the past three weeks the eight interpreters have been busy showing 12 different schools, 948 kids around Bear Brook State Park. These are the schools that the corps taught in from February to April. A typical field trip day begins at 10:00 with the school divided into four groups each with two interpreters. Once in the field the bug spray and sunscreen comes out and temporarily clears the area of bugs. Once the kids and adults have their protective shields on two groups head down to spruce pond while the other two begin a nature hike. Down by the pond one group heads to the vernal pool while the other goes to the beach. The group then learns what a macroinvertebrate is and how to catch it. While these groups are exploring the other two are going on short hikes around Bear Brook where they do activities and learn about the natural area as well as the human history with the CCC. After an hour all groups head back to the main lodge for lunch. During lunch the interpreter that taught at the school explains the process of recycling and composting what they don’t eat. After lunch the hiking and ponding groups switch places and have the chance to do the other activity. Around 1:00 the groups all rendezvous at the busses and circle up with their group to debrief the days activities. The kids then board the bus and wave to the interpreters as they drive away down the 3-mile driveway back to school.
Our final hitch and project were on the side of beautiful Santa Rosa Mountain overlooking Palm Springs and the Indio Valley. We were tasked with maintaining the Sawlead mill trail which had fallen into disrepair after years of no work and minimal use.We cut tread, cleared downed logs, fixed drainage issues, brushed back vegetation and reworked switchbacks. It was great work in near perfect conditions with unbeatable weather. While only 2.5 miles in length the trail was steep in the southern sections, climbing over 1000 feet. We hiked a lot, worked hard and breathed in the cool mountain air deeply, savoring our last wilderness voyage of the season.The final two days of the hitch were a Leave No Trace trainer course in Joshua Tree National Park. We were lead and taught by Matta Duarte, who has accompanied us into the field before. It was a great educational opportunity and we now feel comfortable teaching the LNT principles should we find outselves in a place to share them. It was also a great way to round out an already successful season. We walked 13 miles in the park and were able to soak in the desert one last time.
As our season fades out, the hitches seem shorter and the end feels near. Our eleventh hitch and sole hitch in Ridgecrest was a great change from the Wildcorps norm. We saw many familiar faces in unfamiliar places.We began with archeology in Portuguese Canyon near Coso Junction. The artifacts are thought to be on a seasonal site where Native Americans briefly stayed after crossing the Sierras. Each day we met archeologist Ashley from the Ridgecrest office at a site that gleamed with obsidian artifacts and stones having a variety of milling features. The other DRC crews took turns coming out for the day and assisting with our surveying efforts. We spent two days walking transect lines while marking artifacts and features. Artifacts included obsidian biface flakes and arrowheads. The two following days were spent classifying, photographing, and recording the artifacts and features on paper and GPS devices. WildCorps enjoyed the unique challenges of our task and the company of other DRC members. Wildlife was booming and with a rattlesnake and a desert tortoise making appearances. The second part of Hitch 11 was the final All-Corps, the setting was a dry lake bed in Grass Valley. Fun times were had by all. There were the famous themed potlucks, slack lines, Jurassic Park, and more. The fun was evenly spaced out between the long hot days of fencing. WildCorps got their first taste of building H-braces. It was a productive three days of work which was rewarded with all of us becoming tan and strong and fed a lot of ice cream by the Ridgecrest BLM.Highlights of this hitch included Marcus's birthday (featuring gluten-free German Chocolate Brownie Cake made in a cast iron skillet), seeing our first desert tortoises in the wild, Fossil Falls, visiting a swimming hole, spending quality time with other DRC crews, and getting a taste of Ridgecrest life. We are excited for our last hitch, Palm Springs, baby!
After coordinating flights and driving schedules, all four Conservation Corps teams made it safely to the Uwharrie National Forest in Troy, North Carolina for our initial SCA training on May 12th. The five members of our Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) team, along with our fearless crew leader, finally met after weeks of wondering who our new housemates and co-workers would be for the next six months. We were incredibly excited to find that we all have common interests in conservation and Arrested Development. This led to a smooth transition through training, where we learned about the rich history of the SCA, the vast spectrum of conservation ethics, and became certified in Wilderness First Aid at the end of the week. When training sessions were done each day, much of our free time was spent conversing with the other conservation corps teams and their projects, as well as listening to the musical stylings of the many talented SCA members, crew leaders, and staff. The SCA training prepped us for what may lie ahead of us this summer and fall in Jacksonville, North Carolina.
Our SCA training was supplemented by our CWPP training with the North Carolina Forest Service (NCFS) this past week. We were introduced to the many county rangers we will be working with and the project we will be working on. Our team will be interviewing fire chiefs in rural areas throughout 11 counties of North Carolina to determine Areas of Concern (AOCs), or regions at risk for wildfire damage. We will then visit AOCs and assess risks based on a number of factors, including presence of water sources (such as hydrants) to put out wildfires, vegetation fuel type, and distance of structures (such as houses or fences) from fuel sources. From there, we will use ArcGIS to map these areas and present the data to the NCFS and to communities at risk. With all of our training now completed, the CWPP team is now stocked with all of the tools and information to successfully assess and better prepare communities at risk for wildfires.