This hitch in the exciting world of the Umathrillas, the season ended with unexpected tasks, a very grateful forest service, and a feast fit for kings. Our last hitch started auspiciously with good attitudes and high spirits. The first morning we awoke interested and invigorated to experience yet another chunk of the Umatilla forest. We were serenaded that morning by a cacophony of woodland creatures that set a positive tone for the next 9 days.
Our work started with an old friend, brushing. But this time we were granted the majesty of power tools. We got nice and familiar with a power brusher and hedge trimmer and we were able to fly through the gnar at unprecedented rates getting roughly 6 miles of trail maintained in 5 days. We weren’t so lucky with the sign work. The power auger we were offered turned out to be broken and we had to use a good ol’ fashion posthole digger. Nonetheless we got the sign work done with time to spare. We had far exceeded the work we were assigned and still had a few days left in our hitch. So we ended up being given to a campsite that needed a good cleaning after being out of commission for a while. We brushed, moved gnar, put in signs, cleaned fire pits, stacked logs, moved picnic tables, all sorts of fun camp site activities! The individuals in the forest service were extremely grateful and very impressed by our efficiency and focus. We even got all that work done early and moved on to giving our tools and trailer a good thorough cleaning. That day was not lacking in funk music.
There was a rather beautiful meadow not far from our campsite that Tony had found. It was wide open, high up, and you could see all the brilliance of the mountains and horizon. We spent evenings up there watching the sunset as the mountains turned a hazy blue. There was even a meteor shower one night and the meadow offered a superior vantage point.
On our last day after cleaning the tools we headed to Jubilee Lake to soak up the rays and go for a swim. The bottom of the lake was squishy. I liked it. The night proceeded spectacularly. We had plenty of foodstuffs left and we needed to use as much of it as possible. Needless to say we were by no means short on sustenance that night. The meal started with a hefty and delicious potato and squash casserole fresh from the Dutch oven that had slowly cooked over an open campfire. We also made two loaves of corn bread to supplement said casserole. Then came all the goodies made from scratch. We pulled together and picked a healthy amount of wild huckleberries and happiness ensued. We started with a strawberry cake with caramelized huckleberries on top. It was good. Then came our first pie, mostly apple with some huckleberries. It was good. Then came our second pie, mostly huckleberries with some apples. It was good. Lastly we had a nice batch of cranberry granola chewy bars. They were good. We ended the night watching the sunset. The perfect hitch-end.
by Dan Mikros
191,520 sq ft brushed
6 signs erected
18 campsites maintained
Dan Mikros 
As early as I can recall I’ve had a passion for adventure, exploration, and learning new things. The enthusiasm I have for the natural world led me to a major in biology at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. I’m focusing on ecology and environment with a minor in anthropology. I’m originally from the south side of Chicago, which I figure is what made me so interested in backcountry expeditions seeing as I love to get out of my element and do new things. I love studying the intersection between art and science. Before this I worked at an art gallery in downtown Chicago using film photography. I am also an avid painter and am willing to experiment with anything that allows me to be creative. There are so many directions I’d like to go with my biological education and I intend to experience all of them. One of the areas I’m interested in and have worked with to some extent is sustainable urban agriculture. I’d also like to see urban planning and environmental engineering more unified as to reintegrate nature into cities. I’ve always been in love with the forest. That’s why I am working with the SCA this summer, to live in a wilderness setting and explore a possible future in forestry.
We started off the hitch by setting up camp at the Umatilla Forks campground, making a bougie hot lunch, and heading up Buck Mountain trail. On the way up, we gave the trail a look over. Seeing where brushing was needed, where the tread could be improved, and where water bars could be placed. We did this until we reached the end of the wilderness, about two and a half miles. We turned back, did some minor brushing, cached our tools, and called it a day.
Our work this week consisted mostly of brushing and building water bars. Oh, and walking up the steepest trail known to man. It had slopes of at least 45 degrees in some spots. And, in other places, the trail was eroded down to the bedrock. The only thing worse than going up was going down. The footing was very treacherous causing us to slip and fall multiple times, showing off our dance moves in the process. The trail was in desperate need of some TLC. Luckily, the Umathrillas are professionals.
For some unknown reason the Trail Gods wanted to make our job much harder. They gave Tony a hernia, causing him to miss a full workday and placing him on the physically unable to perform anything other than light duty work (PUPAOTLDW for short). He had ants in his pants all week. He was like a dog stuck on a boat in the middle of the lake, just itching to get in and do some hard work. The Gods gave Jill a weeklong sickness. She missed one day only because Tony made her and toughed it out for the rest of the time. She never showed any signs of pain, fatigue, or desire to stop working. I was definitely impressed by her toughness. It’s things like that, which make a team stronger. For Dan, he also caught a dose of the illness. He also missed one day. The team really pulled it together and worked even harder on the days our comrades were out.
Other than those misfortunes, we had a great hitch. Highlighted by the Umakillas (Umatilla 2) giving us a surprise visit and showing off their new uniforms. They stayed at Umatilla Forks with us for four days. We had some grand dinners and marvelous desserts. My favorites were having breakfast for dinner and some delicious apple blueberry pie that Leela beautifully crafted. As always, overeating was a common theme, especially on burrito night. Eating loads of chips, salsa, guacamole, and oversized burritos reduced me to the fetal position, swearing I would never eat again.
We did some varsity work this hitch. We did such a good job that Steve (our Walla Walla district contact) decided that he doesn’t need us to work here again. We’ll be working out of the Woodland campground, near Tollgate next hitch.
Draygon Slayer Stats
36,040 sq. feet brushed
378 feet of treadwork done
31 water bars built
3 quarts of ice cream devoured
1 crayfish feast
329 quotes of Taytay (Why do you have to be so mean?)
On the last day of hitch we finally got our snazzy SCA garb. Now I don’t need to wear a woman’s blouse for a work shirt(see hitch 4 pictures).
I’m James Kramer. Stay Classy, Planet Earth.
After the third hitch, we celebrated civilization in style--going to the movies, cleaning out all the thrift stores in the Lewiston-Clarkston area, eating enough frozen dairy desserts to make a mere mortal weep. And visiting pet stores, which are more entertaining than any television.
Our fourth hitch was different from the others in several ways. At only five days, we got relatively but not impressively dirty. We hosted our SCA Program Coordinator, Trevor Knight, for several days. He arrived with a Westfalia van and stories of working in Florida humidity than made the Umatilla sound positively frosty.
On the first day we spent a while simply trying to locate the trail, which jumped through our campground and across a creek. Eventually, only Jill and I continued to wade through in our boots, passing by the boys who put on sneakers or river shoes before crossing. We worked our way up Rattlesnake Trail--fortunately free of actual rattlesnakes, though with slopes and switchbacks that could probably kill a person just as effectively--and through the seemingly endless stretches of trees burned by the School Fire. It may have been in 2005 but most of them have yet to fall, and by the first day my arms were covered in fine black dust from touching charred logs. It was a curious experience, to work in a forest with no living trees.
Each morning we split into groups, most brushing and some hiking miles up the trail (and its brutal hills) to log out. We removed 67 logs and cleared 7,103 feet of trail, a patch of which was so thickly overgrown that I literally fell off the path trying to get through it. By this point in the summer we are experts at lopping, and the days of brushing were memorable mostly because of their games. We played a lot of 20 Questions (actually Infinite Questions, as 'counting' is something no one has patience for), probably enough to go pro, and when that got old Trevor taught us how to play Contact. He sat down with each of us, and our individual responses to the query "Describe your team with one word" caused me no end of delight. In random order: joyful, wholesome, sassy, rugged, family. He also pronounced our team "high-functioning," something we can all take pride in. High-five for high-functioning.
Before heading to the Panjab campground we had been warned about the presence of bears in the area, but saw none. (Unfortunately for Jill, for whom it's a summer goal.) Other things we saw?
56,824 Sq. Feet Brushed
67 logs out over 4 miles of trail
Elk: at least ten
River otters: three
Slugs and mosquitoes: many
Friendly squirrels: one
Uncomfortably close skunks: one
Beautiful vistas: as usual, a plethora
We finished our work and said good-bye to the Pomeroy Ranger District. Then we drove out, past lovely rolling hills of wheat and a thunderstorm we we lucky enough to miss. Our last two hitches will be spent in the Walla Walla district. Are you ready, Walla Walla? We're going to bring a storm of trail maintenance upon you.
July 1st arrived, so we had to say goodbye to our other half, the Umakillaz(Umatilla2). Then we went on our way to Walla Walla for pre-hitch duties. Day one of the hitch began by setting up camp at the Teepee Campground on the 2nd. We were front country camping for the first time this summer, which means there was less to set up. We were able to get in a half day of work after that on the Mount Misery Trail.
We spent several hours on Mount Misery trail during this hitch. Our work involved maintaining existing water bars, crosscut sawing trees out of the trails, tread work, and some general trail maintenance. We worked on the Smooth Ridge trail for two days, which was a somewhat dusty and rocky trail. Once we met our goal for the Smooth Ridge trail, we went back to the Mount Misery trail and headed north. We sawed out a plentiful amount of trees and at this point we were hiking about ten miles a day.
Front country camping was pretty luxurious for us, but some or all of us still got the gnarosis. When it comes to waking up at two in the morning from James barking in his tent, I can’t really blame the gnarosis. I think that is just his natural way of scaring off animals, which were actually just some horses that a couple of hikers had tied up at camp.
We had some nice hot and dry weather for most of the hitch, but then the storm hit. I specifically remember James saying, “Those clouds look like fun.” Then it started hailing ferociously. There were sheets of marble size hail covering camp, but our kitchen tarp was able to withstand all the hail, rain, and wind that the storm brought us. The ground under our tents did not fair as well. At one point through the storm, I had a waterbed in my tent. Once we realized what was happening to our tents, Phil ran and got a pick mattock and started digging trenches around our tents to get the rain to drain away. At one point, Dan jumped in and did the same on the other side. Then the clouds cleared away and left us with hail on the ground. Tony picked up some hail and made a snow cone, or should I call it a hail cone, with some strawberry flavored jello powder.
We finished the hitch strong and then closed up shop on the 11th. We made our way to Lewiston, ID and got an ice cream cake at Dairy Queen. We downed the cake immediately after buying it in about seven minutes. We have the next few days off and we plan on resting along with some exciting excursions in the Clarkston-Lewiston area before we hit the trails again.
29,084 feet of general trail maintenance
1,504 feet of tread work
127 log outs
50 water bars maintained
After our first hitch, the Umathrillas stayed at the luxurious Chief Timothy campground, where the lawns are cut and the men’s showers are free. While off hitch, the team enjoyed an art walk in Moscow, Idaho, explored a Petco, and saw Prometheus in theaters.
On our last day off hitch, we were united with our newest member, Dan. His first impression was all of us shining our headlamps in his face and nearly blinding him.
The Umathrillas grew tired of contemporary life and went back to our old spot in the Umatilla National Forest. We did some minor tread work, moved a rock that was roughly 850 lbs, and spent the rest of our 10 day hitch brushing intense gnar that I can only describe as a rainforest. Our leader, Tony, kept our team in high spirits by repeating the mantra, “It gets better right around the corner”. Most of the time it didn’t.
During our trip we encountered by some wildlife, including multiple snakes, 4 mountain goats, a lizard, elk and deer. We made our days more interesting by having specific theme days for each day of the week, such as Mystery Monday and Sarcastic Tuesday (it even rhymes!). After our delicious backcountry meals, we sat around the fires and had members give their autobiographies, one each night.
Then it was finally time to pack up camp and hike out of the forest. It was also Jill’s 24th birthday, so after the hike we enjoyed a night at a Forest Service building, which to us felt like a five star hotel. The next day we met with the Umakillas (Umatilla 2) and formed Megatilla starting with a bonding ritual of a group boot dance in Pendleton, Oregon. The town has many attractions including the annual wiener dog races.
What adventures are to be had in the future? I do not know, but I do know that fun and laughter is just around the corner.
The gnar numbers:
52,800 sq. feet of jungle gnar brushed
35 ft. tread rehab
1 big ole rock moved out of the trail
After the glorious mega corps member training in Carnation, the Umatilla 1 team (more aptly known as Umathrillas)set out for our home forest- Umatilla National Forest(North).
We spent our first couple of days in the Pomeroy and Clarkston/Lewiston area becoming acquainted with our supply towns. The forest greeted us with a beautiful double rainbow on our first night going in to camp(what does it mean?). After our forays into town to purchase vittles and supplies we set out for the town of Troy,OR (pop.20ish) to prep for our first hitch.
Day 1 of our hitch consisted of loading up the mules and hiking down into the winding canyons of the Wenaha-Tucannon wilderness. After about 9 miles hiking through rain and super thick brush we finally arrived at our base camp site. Everyone was soaked but in good spirits.
The following days our team set out back towards where we hiked in, brushing out the trail all along the way. We cut a 10'x10' corridor through what seemed like a rain forest at times. The trail hadn't seen any brushing maintenance in several years and was hard to find in some places. Add a little rain and it makes for a damp team.
The rain and endless gnar (N.1.super thick brush 2.general wildness)did not dampen our spirits and the sun finally came out to dry us out half way through our hitch. Also, a couple of mountain goats came to visit our team on the adjacent bluff. Our team found ourselves the rest of hitch looking to the highlands saying 'Hey goat...where you at?!'. The gnarosis (N.1.a happy, funny state of being from being in the gnar for extended periods of time) had finally settled into our bones as we laughed our way through the days.
After 8 full days of brushing with a splash of tread work we came to the end of our first hitch. On our pack out day our Forest Service partner Rich (a cowboy who self titles himself as Rooster Cogburn from True Grit) rode up on us playing ninja in the middle of the wilderness. It only occurred to us then how strange it might be for 'normal' folk to stumble upon 5 gnarosis stricken dirty people making ninja chops and calls 9 miles back in the woods. After a hardy laugh we hiked out with dreams of ice cream and wondering what the next bout of gnar would bring the Umathrillas.
By the numbers:
Trail brushed: 47,850 sq. ft.
Tread work: 400 ft
Log Out: 4
Mountain goats: 2
Fish caught: 0
Gut busting laughable moments: 5,367
Umatilla 1 will be working in the Umatilla National Forest on the border of Oregon and Washington for the season. We will be working in the The Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness and the North Fork Umatilla Wilderness.
The Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness is located in the northern Blue Mountains of southeastern Washington and northeastern Oregon and encompasses 177,465 acres.
The majority of the wilderness is characterized by rugged basaltic ridges and outcroppings separated by deep canyons with steep side slopes. Elevations range from 2,000 feet on the Wild and Scenic Wenaha River to 6,401 feet at Oregon Butte. Plant communities vary widely from bunchgrass slopes to higher subalpine areas of lodgepole pine and subalpine fir.
Nearly every wildlife species present in the Blue Mountains can be found within the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness including Rocky Mountain elk, bighorn sheep, whitetail and mule deer, black bear, cougar, coyote, and pine martens. Both the Tucannon and Wenaha Rivers provide good spawning habitat for Chinook salmon and steelhead.
The managed trail system within the wilderness totals over 200 miles. We will be doing primarily brush clearing and logging out trees with vintage crosscuts.
The North Fork Umatilla River wilderness is characterized by terrain that varies from gentle, sloping hills to extremely steep, timbered canyons. The elevation in the area ranges from 2,000 to 6,000 feet, assuring a good workout for hikers and equestrians using the 27-mile trail system. The wild, unpredictable weather of the Blue Mountains also adds to the challenge anytime of the year.
The North Fork Umatilla River supports sizeable runs of anadromous fish, which makes this area a popular spot for anglers. There are also several streams within the wilderness that contain native trout, and a few streams support spawning steelhead.
In this section we will be doing some brushing, tread work, and installing water drainage structures.
Leela Hospach 
I’m Leela Hospach. I come from McGaheysville, Virginia and am halfway through a degree in geography from McGill. I served on an SCA national crew in high school and clearly can’t get enough of doing manual labor in federally-designated forests. I like reading, hiking and baking pies. I believe in the preservation of natural spaces. I’m in this to see fine trees and learn new skills.
Phillip Jacques 
Hey, my name is Phillip Jacques and I am from Eau Claire, WI. I am currently a junior at the University of Wisconsin Eau – Claire and I am majoring in Organismal Form and Function Biology. I achieved the Eagle Scout award after many years of Boyscouts and I even got the opportunity to be the project leader of a horse corral for a new park in Wisconsin. I really enjoy camping, socializing with people, fishing, and being active outside. Two main philosophies that I am driven by are to know more today about the world than yesterday and to live life to the fullest. I do plan on becoming an entomologist someday and I believe that this Umatilla National Forest internship will give me a greater understanding of an active biology career.
James Kramer 
Hey everybody, I’m James Kramer. I’m from Ramsey, NJ and I study Environmental Science and Policy at the University of Maryland. Since I was a child, I’ve wanted to go places where I could make the most of my favorite outdoor activities. When the Umatilla Trail Crew opportunity presented itself to me, I just could not say no.
This spring I interned with the Anacostia Watershed Society, working on various restoration projects in D.C. and Maryland. I’ve volunteered for the Nature Conservancy in Johnsonburg, NJ doing trail work there and also participating in a deer management program. In my spare time I love to go fishing, hunting, hiking, birding, boating, and playing Ultimate. By working in Umatilla National Forest, I hope to build on environmental knowledge and build strong bonds with new people.
Jill Maes 
Hello, my name is Jill Maes and I am from Edwardsville, IL. I graduated from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville in 2010 with a degree in Geography and a minor in Environmental Sciences. I served with nine other people on a trail crew in the Great Basin National Park in Baker, Nevada last summer. I performed trail maintenance tasks, such as installing rock steps, stepping stones, and tread work. I have several interests, but just to name a few, I really enjoy being active outside, writing, and reading. I am highly motivated to serve in the outdoors because I believe in respecting our environment. I hope to learn something new every day this summer and I will provide all of my attention to the Umatilla National Forest so that visitors can get the full experience that they deserve.
Listen my children and you shall hear the story of Tony and the natural world he holds dear. Once an actor and broadcast tv director in good ole Missouri, I decided to leave it all behind in search of something more meaningful. In 2010, I packed up and headed out to the woods of Maine to work with the Maine Conservation Corps. The experience had such a profound impact on my life I continued to wander from Maine out to California, Oregon, and Washington exploring National Forests and National Parks all along the way. In 2011, the SCA came calling and I headed off to work on the Pacific Crest Trail in California. The High Sierras opened a whole other dimension within me and it was a gnarly 6 months. A few things I enjoy: rock climbing, hiking, yoga, paddle boarding, nature, music,and learning. I'm geared up to share trail skills, outdoor living, and a whole bunch of laughter. I'm excited to be back out west in 2012 working on the Umatilla National Forest as a Project Leader.