Follow Me: SCA member blogs from the field

Follow Me is the place to read field dispatches from SCA members serving the planet all over the USA.

I’ve been trudging and mucking around in the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge for almost two months (!) now.

Indian Creek Rec. Area near Markleeville, CA

Number 11: Appreciate and choose, when possible, meaningful work rather than just making a living.
-from Arne Naess’ “Lifestyle Trends Within the Deep Ecology Movement”

Five days ago, all of this around me – the land, the people, the flora and fauna – was foreign.

Standing in a booth at the back of a circus-sized tent with the smell of fried dough and the sounds of bleating farm animals in the air, we were tasked with drawing in and keeping the attention of wiggling children at the Greene County Youth Fair.

(Photo above) Our unamused faces at Mount Rushmore on the 4th of July

—As Teddy Roosevelt always said: ‘Speak softly, but carry a large rock bar’.—

Work days in South Dakota quickly coming to an end, it was time for the much anticipated Rec trip which was to be a smorgasbord of all the activities the Black Hills has to offer.

Wheew! So it’s been awhile since I last slowed down to document the many adventures of a Fire Effects Monitoring Intern. But now I’m coming at you full speed with a new one, Central Oregon and the John Day Fossil Beds!

After an eleven hour drive from good old Marblemout, WA, we pull up to our campsite with plenty of day light to spare.

Image 1: Hiking Static Peak, Elevation 11,303 feet

The wild that we always see in movies and in parks is very different from the human lifestyle, from civilization. Most of the people in the US do not live by the wild, and have no knowledge in how to survive or deal with it.

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Aboard the Serac, the Park research vessel, we bob gently in Aialik Bay, listening to the sound of gulls, surf, and an ancient tidewater glacier calving. Every 5 minutes or so, a piece of the massive ice wall half a mile ahead rips away with a noise like thunder and gunshots all at once, plunging into the sea below and sending up a cloud of spray.

Back in January, when I was still learning about all of the different events which we would be taking part during our 10 month program, someone told me about an SCA AllCorps gathering taking place in July.

(above) This picture taken after dominating the last bit of trail and hiking out laden with tools.

Today we filled up another truck load of herbicide and took the jugs out to the great marsh. We strapped on our backpack sprayers and the five of us continued to march up and down the twenty acre plot, making sure that even the littlest of Cattail would not be able to reach maturity. When I am spraying, people passing by often ask me questions as to what I am doing and why.

At the fire hall, tension crackled. In between gleaming fire engines, volunteers in rain gear and torn flannel murmured to each other, speculating about the lost racer—where he was last seen, what he was wearing, where he might have gone off the narrow race trail and into the bush.

Jennica getting a letter!

1. Nature’s Alarm Clock. I strategically position my tent on each hitch to face the rising sun. I tend to be restless in the morning anyway, meaning I frequently wake up and fall back asleep. After a few days, it’s pretty easy to remember where the sun is at certain times, and judge when it’s time to get the stove fired up for oatmeal!

An Elk herd passing by the road near the dam.

Experience is everything, ranging from surviving skills in wild expeditions to work experience in different areas of interest. I have learned that reading material on the internet or books will not get people the real life experience where they can feel, smell, see, or suffer though different situations.

Standing precariously on a gravelly chunk of riverbank, I reach over a thick sheaf of willow cuttings to grab the bucket being waved in front of me. And nearly drop it—it feels like cement hung from my hands. Pointy stems dig into my stomach; overhanging cottonwood branches brush my eyelids.

We are now into our second week of our first hitch. We are the first ever NH Corps crew to have a full hitch in Maine. The project is to replace a boardwalk through the Saco Heath near the mouth of the Saco River in South East Maine. A heath is a form of a bog. In Saco, two adjacent ponds were filled in with peat.

At the end of the Harding Icefield Trail, it feels like the end of the world.

There is no grand finale, no plunging cliff, no soaring overlook. Just flags through the snow, and tracks, and then nothing. Snow, and rock, and Exit Glacier, and the far reaches of the Harding Icefield on the horizon, still heavy-coated with thick sugary white.

Erryday I’m shovelin’. (Shovelin’, shovelin’.)

Shovelin’ out the Harding Icefield Trail, that is—scooping snow out of the track, piling it on switchbacks or trampled vegetation to protect plants and the trail from erosion.

This is my first SCA internship. Right now, I’m on my first hitch doing conservation work for the first time. I’m living in a large community, cooking and doing chores on a mass scale – all for the first time.

On January 6th, when a fellow member Stamati picked me up in New York to go to Bear Brook we talked at length of what it would be like. What would the cabins be like? How do we cook?

Now that our trail was finished all we needed to do was build the benches and trashcan holder in order to complete our project. But we ran into a few bumps along the road, at first the wood wasn’t in on time and when it came in it wasn’t the correct kind. Luckily Bobby was nice enough to take it to the store and exchange it that same day.