Hitch 6 - The Home Stretch

It has been an eventful season for everyone here and for some of our families back home. Much can happen when you take three or four months of your life, dedicate it to something far from friends and family, and remain true to your plan. We’ve accomplished many great things this summer, and these two weeks are no exception. As we progressed through the last two weeks of surveying, our minds were thinking more and more of home and what lies in the future. Whatever may come, one thing was certain; we had made friendships here that will last a lifetime.

8/19/2012 to 8/22/2012 – Surveying:
We continued on with surveying, using off time in these few days of surveying to also begin planning out our final week of conservation projects. Squeezing in all of the project work and preparing to close out the program will take some careful coordination if we are to complete everything successfully. Fortunately, light visitor use and our expert skills in surveying are helping us manage our time.

8/23/2012 – Tenkiller Ferry Lake Overlook Trail:
We returned to the Overlook Trail of Tenkiller Ferry Lake where we completed repairs to the pedestrian bridge, removed fallen trees, fell dead trees, brushed the last overgrown section of the trail, and removed several bags of trash. When we were done, the trail looked wonderful. We completely rehabilitated this trail, which is approximately 1.25 miles long and travels across 4 pedestrian bridges through a wooded portion of Tenkiller’s Linder Mountain. But we aren’t done quite yet. We’ll be coming back here once more to complete some interpretive signs we are currently designing.

8/24/2012 to 8/26/2012 – Surveying:
Our survey countdown began today. From the 26th, we had exactly one full week of survey days to complete. So far, things have gone well for us. We’ve made few errors surveying, and that success has kept us free to complete conservation projects in the last week. Hopefully we can keep up the excellent survey work, because our final week is shaping up to be fun and hectic.

8/27/2012 – Invasive Specie Removal:
Our final, regularly scheduled conservation project had us heading to the Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge to remove Eastern Red Cedars from several acres that had been planted with young hardwood trees. Having acquired tracts of old farmland and planted young hardwoods for carbon sequestration and wildlife habitat, the refuge staff must remove Eastern Red Cedars to prevent them from crowding out the young hardwoods. Eastern Red Cedars were historically found along rocky ridges, where they faced little exposure to fire that burned other areas regularly. However, in the absence of natural, seasonal wildfires, the trees have expanded across much of Oklahoma. Although the tree is native, it has become invasive to various ecosystems such as the fields planted with young trees within the refuge. We spent the entire day using handsaws to remove any tree we could find. Walking the area, we saw several spots where wild boar, another invasive specie, had been rooting and wallowing. With so many tracks and sections of ground torn up, we were surprised not to have seen any boar. At the end of the day, we had cleared all of the trees we could find from 35 acres. Not bad considering dense brush came up to our hips in several places and we were working with hand tools. On average, we removed 70 trees per person.

8/28/2012 – Surveying:
5 days of surveying left.

8/29/2012 – Calm Before the Storm
We were all off from surveying today. Instead of taking a day trip or going out like we normally had, we decided to relax and enjoy the moment, making sure we were ready for the last stretch of surveying and the week of conservation projects, cleaning, paperwork, and packing to come.

8/30/2012 to 9/1/2012 – Surveying:
The last weekend to survey has arrived. With it being the Labor Day weekend, a huge surge of visitors was out at the lakes for the weekend. It was the first nice weekend in a long time here, with clear skies and temps in the 80s, beautiful lake weather. Because of that, we were kept busy with surveys. We hadn’t had such high visitor use since the 4th of July weekend. It’s nice to see people back at the lakes, and having a good bunch of surveys to conduct is a great way to close the survey season here. With only 1 day of surveying left, everyone is excited for next week and then the journey home.