by Kevin, Hamilton, SCA Web Team
Week one of SCA’s Alternative Spring Break at Grand Canyon had more twists and turns than the Bright Angel Trail.
Sponsored by American Eagle Outfitters, ASB was planned to give 30 students from across the U.S. the opportunity to restore a blacktopped parking lot near the South Rim of the Grand Canyon to bare ground and native plants. But they arrived to find their work site buried under snow so, with the help of park officials, quickly devised a Plan B.
About a dozen members converged on South Kaibab Trail, where hard packed ice and snow covered the route’s steep upper stretches. At least two hikers had already fallen that morning, suffering broken wrists, and mule trips had been suspended. So, with crampons on their feet and picks and shovels in their hands, the volunteers set out to clear the route.
South Kaibab is a narrow trail with numerous switchbacks. The first quarter mile or so was covered with up to 18 inches of snow and ice. As the ASBers soon discovered, there was little space to deposit what they dug up – and anything that spilled over posed a threat to those down trail. The group spread out and carefully began removing the frozen cover when one of them shouted in mock delight. “I found it! The buried treasure!”
As hikers made their way back up to the rim, they expressed relief and gratitude to the volunteers for making their climb far less treacherous than their descent.
In the meantime, the rest of the ASB team was busy scrubbing graffiti from various overlooks. Their chance to get below the rim came the next day, when they hiked three miles down the Bright Angel Trail to erase more etchings that failed to qualify as rock art. Under a warm sun and amid jaw-dropping views, Kenyon College history major Geoff Toy explained why he chose to work over spring break. “I really enjoy visiting national parks, and I began to think about how many people it takes to maintain them. You know: staff, rangers, search and rescue teams,” he said. “I just thought it was time for me to give back. So, here I am.”
Following an education day on Wednesday led by SCA alumna Kassy Theobald, biologist and head of the revegging program, the group spent Thursday and Friday salvaging native plants from construction sites that will be replanted once the snow melts. Although the week’s work was not as planned, no one seemed to be disappointed with the experience.
“I’d always wanted to do something big for spring break,” said UNH senior Kerry White. “So I thought: Grand Canyon – you can’t get much bigger than this!”
Week two of SCA’s ASB is taking place starting this weekend. Please visit our Facebook fan page to follow intern Lauren Freedman reporting live from the field. Or, read our blog account and see more great photos of another SCA Alternative Spring Break crew at Saguaro National Park in Arizona, engaged in revegging trails with large, native cactus.
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