Wow what an eventful and action packed couple weeks it's been so far. The western corps programs for this spring gathered in Tucson, AZ last week for several days of training. With cold mornings and hot afternoons, the group of over 30 members filled their brains with information about the upcoming season. Wilderness first aid and Leave No Trace training took place along with some of the most beautiful power point presentations ever assembled. The TRACS crews headed to the midwest included Mike Robinson, Rebecca Gray, Daniel Riser-Espinoza, and Nettina Conkey. All of them showed great enthusiasm throughout the week and were itching to go by the time training was over. Over the course of the week we saw Javalina's, skunks, spiders, and all of the amazing plants that the desert has to offer. It's a dry heat up at the Triangle Y Youth Camp, where the training was held, and I found myself with a "racoon eyes" tan line from my sunglasses.
We left from Tucson on the 14th and all made it safely to Rolla, Missouri that night. Ron Hassel, SCA Director of Trail Corps, met us there to join our Forest Service introduction/orientation.
Our job these next 12 weeks is to make "TRACS" on the Mark Twain National Forest. Trail Assesments and Conditions Surveys to be more precise. We'll be walking the trails using GPS devices, tape measures, and distance wheels to assess the condition of the trails. Our reports will include trail features and problem areas, as well as recommendations for improvements like new signs, drainage structures, hazard tree removals, and tread improvements. The crew has done well in getting up to speed on the paperwork and codes required to do these types of surveys and our first taste of a few trails this week has increased everyone's excitement level.
We traveled over to Potosi, Missouri on the 18th of Feb. and checked in with the Forest Service district office there. We'll be spending our next couple weeks in Potosi doing surveys on the Council Bluff Lake trail and the Bell Mountain Wilderness.
Potosi is a nice, small town and the roads around this area will make you feel like you're riding a roller coaster. The countryside is beautiful with rolling hills, hardwood forests, springs, caves and floatable rivers. It should be great to see the spring bloom around here. I feel a dogwood summer coming on already.
Our crew volunteered at a Grace Fellowship church in Rolla last week. We helped bag up food items for a food shelf that they have there. It was a good time and seemed to go by really quickly with everyone who was there chatting and working hard. Some of the members have also attended a volunteer trail maintenance day with the Ozark Trail Association on the 19th. They worked in the rain most of the day and were rewarded with a cookout after work for all the volunteers.
We'll check back in when we've finished our next project on the Council Bluff Lake trail.