Our third hitch was all about soldiering on as vigilant tread troopers. Rocks started to show their pointy, stubborn faces, but yielded to the ceaseless pressure of double jack sledgehammer assault. Neither could toppled trees or fast growing annuals block the path any longer. Yes, Buck Creek was fast becoming more and more accessible and pleasant to hike.
We camped for this hitch at the venerable Umatilla Forks Campground, a swarthy and stalwart companion for a beleaguered trail crew. Not only did it do the job, but it provided a veritable godsend in the form of a deep swimming hole right behind our campsite along the Umatilla River. This was especially needed because the sweltering temperatures on the trail began to push 100 degrees during the day. So right after we got back to camp we raced out to the swimming hole to cool off and clean off. The developed campground also allowed us to socialize after work beyond our inner circle, though trying to sleep with music blaring at midnight was less than ideal. C'mon guys, some of us have to work on Sunday.
We're looking forward to being able to backpack in for our next hitch, as the trail finally flattens out to allow for camp to be set up. Every day we grow more enamored with this lovely northeastern Oregon trail despite (or perhaps because of) the 2+ mile hike in every morning (and out every afternoon). Hopefully, with the trail in ship shape, more people will take the time to hike it and and share this appreciation. Like the gentleman we met on horseback who was so grateful to us because for years he couldn't ride the trail due to the fallen trees and battered tread. It's good to know we're making a difference.
During the first few weeks of our field work, we met a wonderful man who walks 2 miles of the towpath every morning close to where we were working. After seeing and chatting with him for a few days during our morning routine, he started bringing his camera and taking action shots of our work. He loved to see us in the canal and was very supportive and appreciative of the work we do. The next week, he brought us print out copies of some photographs, along with a CD of all the shots he had taken of us over the previous weeks. This entry is a tribute to Einar Johnson, a stranger turned friend, who is helping us day by day to believe in ourselves and the mission of the SCA.
Below you will find before, during and after photographs of Lock 74, our very first lock.
So I figured that the best way to give ya'll an idea of what our work is like is to post "before and after" pictures of our sites. It's truly amazing what progress 5 people can make...
It would also be a good idea to give ya'll a step by step outline of what we do when we get to a site, AKA lock. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Locks_on_the_C%26O_Canal)
-Assess lock and clarify specific dangers and safety protocol
-Assign specific jobs to each crew member
-Put on appropriate PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) for the job
-GET TO WORK!
-Take the weed wacker to the bottom of the lock, which is sometimes filled with about a foot of water
-After the bottom of the lock is cleared, take the chainsaw to any exisiting trees and treat with herbicide
-Use loppers and pole saw to remove vegetation from the top portions of the lock walls and treat roots with herbicide
-Use rakes and man power to pull debris out into the forest to lay
-Set up the ladder and treat the vegetation hanging on the walls with a backpack sprayer via foliar spray
-Any trees growing out of the lock wall (example:tree of heaven) are removed by climbing up the ladder and using a hand saw to cut and herbicide to treat
-Swamp, AKA pull debris, out of the locks and into the forest
-Come back to site after a few weeks to monitor the foliar sprayed vegetation and remove when plants have died out
-To protect the integrity of historical structures throughout the C&O Canal NHP for future generations to enjoy and experience.
Follow the pictures from left to right to see before, during and after photos of our work :
Loaded down with corridor clearing tools, crosscut saws (with fresh crosscut certifications), and long-sleeve poison-ivy blocking shirts, the Ramsey’s Draft SCA Team set out on their first 10 day hitch of the season. The focus of the beginning of this hitch was all about the two-man crosscut saw. The Team hauled in 6 crosscuts the first day to test their effectiveness in the hardwood forests of Virginia. Many of the saws did not “make the cut” and were deemed unfit for further use.
After spending the first couple of days bucking out bigger logs, the Team went back to clearing trail corridor of branches, saplings, and nettles. Nettles hurt a lot. Don’t sit in them. Heaps of branches and small trees had to be lopped, sawed, and hauled out of sight of the trail. Due to the sheer volume of vegetation being removed from the corridor, it became particularly challenging to avoid compacting new paths into the wilderness. The end result of our meticulous attention to our corridor and our impact outside of the corridor was a very natural looking trail that will remain a pleasant hiking experience for a long time to come.
Further into the hitch, the Team took on slightly different work. A couple of false trails were thoroughly obliterated. Then the group graded out some steep slopes on the banks of the stream. During the last few days of the hitch, the Team was broken into smaller groups and assigned to one of two important projects. One group was put in charge of removing problematic rocks and roots (some really really big roots from a dead hemlock) from a slippery and difficult slope in order to build up a rock retaining wall. The other group was assigned the task of clearing out a trail reroute for a couple hundred feet and methodically obliterate the old portion of trail. This work was largely done with saws, a weed whip, and the fire rake.
Both of these projects turned out beautifully. The rerouted section of trail is very clean and the old section of trail is barely noticeable. The rock retaining wall was completed on the last day of the hitch and is a significant improvement over the original trail. Also on the last day, some initial brush clearing and log bucking was done ahead at the next trail reroute. All in all, it was a very demanding and successful hitch.
Greetings from Northeast Ohio
It has been a month since we last had an update so here is a recap of what the CVNP Native Plants Team has been doing over the last month:
1) Scouting the sites that will be worked on within CVNP
2) Taking note of the non-native invasive plant species that we see while walking through sites
3) Going over the best way to manage the plants that need to be removed
4) Cutting and treating large invasive shrubs
5) Chipping the large shrubs and small trees that are cut down
6) Letting it be known that invasive species are not welcome at the park and that they should take notice when we arrive at a site :)
One site we have worked on quite a bit is the site of the old Richfield Colesium. If you are a basketball fan, that is the site where Michael Jordan famously made "The Shot" as it is known in Northeast Ohio against the Cleveland Cavaliers to advance in the playoffs.
It is quite amazing that when we walk through the site (now a grassland) that we have to imagine thousands of people sitting in stands watching basketball. Now it is known primarily as a great place to view native birds in the Park.
We also finished our first site this last week at the Frazee House. Even though the weather was extremely hot (90s all week) the team was able to accomplish the task of finishing the site and now we look forward to moving on to the next one!
Hope everyone is having a great time wherever they are (in the field, on breaks, etc).
All the best,
Isaac, John, Trevor, Tyler