Well after three final crew member visits to the doctor for poison oak we are finally done with Markley Cove and back to Smittle Creek Trail. It has been a busy nonstop four weeks filled with training and new projects. Over the past month we have maintained 3,425 feet of trail, relocated one 12 foot bridge (with new footings), removed seven old steps, added thirteen new steps, added three new drainage structures, dismantled one bridge, assembled one burly twenty foot bridge from scratch, moved 5,460 lbs of concrete down to the bridge project site by hand, moved 900 lbs of concrete back up the hill from the bridge project site, created three rigging highlines, mapped several trails using GIS, gained six new Leave No Trace Master Educators, five S212 approved B sawyers, dug two very big holes and had one Easter egg hunt. I think it would be safe to say we have accomplished a lot in the last month and we were ready for a break. So naturally when Ryan mentioned that we get would our first real days off in a couple months and that he had rented a boat for us to go waterskiing, tubing, and wakeboarding we were a bit excited. When Wednesday finally arrived we drove over to Markley hopped onto the boat and headed out for some fun. After going only a few hundred yards from the boat slip we to found ourselves making a quick u-turn to admire the stairs we built on pullout thirteen and fourteen before we made a quick sprint across Lake Berryessa. Once across the lake Chris was the first one to break out the water skis and jumped into the chilly water. He easily made it up on his first try. After a few runs Chris called it quits and jumped back into the boat to warm up and it was Andy’s turn to try and wakeboard. It took him only a few tries to get the hang of it and considering he had never been on a wakeboard before it was pretty impressive. As it began to warm up, Ben and I jumped on the tube and tried to hang on as we were slung around the turns. We weren’t successful. We spent the rest of the afternoon soaking up the sun and alternating between skiing and tubing. Both Ben and Megan found that waterskiing was much harder than Ryan and Chris made it look but both successfully managed to stand up even if it was only a moment. After Chris and Ryan took their last turn waterskiing we headed back to the marina. Not long after we arrived at the marina a life flight helicopter landed only a few hundred yards away. If it had not been there for a real emergency it would have been a really awesome way to end the day. That being said it was a great day and a lot of fun.
Nature of the BEAST 
Well, March turned out to be quite a busy month for us here at Lake Berryessa. With our schedule packed full of awesome work projects and incredible trainings we brought the term “March Madness” to a whole new level. Not to mention four of us were rooting for our respective teams in the tourney, which fueled a fun, friendly bracket challenge amongst us. We even enjoyed the company and help of the Oakland Community crew for a day of collaboration between the Corps and Community programs.
To start things off, the crew jumped immediately into “trail weird” mode and finished the last of the re-routes on the Smittle Creek trail – a whopping 200 feet of hypothetical questions, “returning” items to customer service and Emilio Estevez jokes. We spent a day fixing/replacing a section of timber steps and doing some finishing touches to the trail before switching locales and making the daily commute to Markley Cove. Our focus for the rest of the week turned back to rigging and rock steps at the dreaded pullout #12, where we had begun staging rocks in the previous hitch. It was slow going, and at times very tedious and frustrating trying to get rocks to fit the right way in the holes or gargoyles to match up and have at least three points of contact. Tensions rose and fell like the waves lapping at the shore where we gathered our rocks. Thus is the nature of rock work and as such we grew to have better and more effective communication, increased patience and a greater awareness of our own personal responses to stress. The final result gave us sixteen beautiful rock steps that make the path from the pullout to the water safer, more user-friendly, and hopefully with minimal erosion.
During the following hitch we quickly finished setting a final step and bid farewell to pullout #12 for bluer waters and shorter slopes right down the road at pullout #13. We took a quick detour back to Smittle for a day to replace a small bridge, and then shifted our attention to preparations for the arrival of the Oakland Community Crew to help with 2 rock projects: a retaining wall and more steps. We began figuring out the highline system and getting things into place and everything was going relatively smoothly. Perhaps a little too smoothly, so of course I found a way to shake things up which is how my finger ended up caught between a rock and a hard place, or more specifically, a rock bar. This led to a whirlwind afternoon trip to the ER, 7 stitches, a splint, and a bit of perspective to remind us of the dangers of our work. This also gave the crew a chance to practice their WFR (Wilderness First Responder) skills in the field and made for a great teachable moment for the Community Crew when they arrived 2 days later, I did not catch a single member without gloves on the whole time we were working. It was fun having fresh faces at the work site and I know we all enjoyed the chance to put the leadership skills we’ve been developing to the test.
We were fortunate to be able to spend our off time with not one, but two wonderful trainings with the infamous and masterful Dolly Chapman, learning all the ins and outs of crosscut saws. (I knew I could work a pun into this post if I tried.) The first break we headed to Pollock Pines Ranger District in the Eldorado National Forest and spent 3 days in the lap of luxury staying at the fire barracks, complete with big screen T.V. and all manner of ridiculous movies. (Big Trouble in Little China, anyone?) We learned the proper way to use crosscuts and got lots of practice bucking and clearing downed trees with a variety of different saws and implements. The second break was another journey, this time north to Calpine, CA where we disperse camped on Tahoe National Forest land with only the smallest remnants of snow still left on the ground. Here we were bestowed with all the knowledge and tools necessary to properly sharpen and tune crosscut saws. This has fueled once again the desire of some folks on the crew to become “a slave to an age old trade,” and this may now actually provide them with a feasible opportunity.
When all is said and done, the hard work, frustration and lack of sleep was well worth it to see the completion of structures that will be here for decades, gain knowledge and skills that are becoming a lost art and be rejuvenated by the spark in the high-schoolers who are well on their way to being some of the next great conservation leaders.
Our crew continues with a steady stream of hypothetical questions, meandering conversation, and late mid-afternoon thoughts that swirl and dance about our heads, a gentle reenactment of the suspended sediment whose presence we are working to reduce in Lake Berryessa. February has seen our work days extend to ten hours, allowing for six days off which we will now be able to cram full with trainings to expand our knowledge of trails, tools, and with any luck, provide us with new questions, incomprehensible stories, and inside jokes.
Our longer days have been accompanied by a larger variety of work. We started the month by installing check steps to help prevent erosion on the gullying trails at the south end of the lake near Markley Cove. Our work of cutting and installing rebar and pressure treated lumber took much less time than we had expected, so we took another look at areas that might benefit from more work. We found that several existing staircases and structures needed replacement and we set to work analyzing the areas, proposing all manner of solutions sufficient to reconstitute the trail, employing heretofore unexplored possibilities of communication consisting primarily of gestures and impromptu props. We concluded our first hitch in February by beginning a full-crib staircase on the Smittle Trail.
Our second hitch was filled with even more variety as we finished the staircase and set out to Markley to begin work on stone check steps at Pullout 12. We spent a total of three days pulling boulders up to a staging area and setting steps and gargoyles. We enjoyed an energetic two days working with Rangers Mike and Victoria helping teach fifth grade students about the water cycle, pollution, biological diversity and population trends. We had an especially delightful time as scrub jays, stealing the nests of unsuspecting fifth grade juncos.
We are preparing now for an unrelenting series of erosion control structures surrounded on all sides by the virulent, formidable and ever present poison oak.
For the stats lovers, in the last 3,004 crew hours we have performed the following work:
3,350 feet of new trail
3,130 feet rehabilitated /reconstructed
16,257 feet of trail maintained (3.08 miles)
120 ft fence repaired
17 drainage structures
64 lumber check steps
4 stone steps
3 days of rigging training
Cleared nearly an acre of Spanish broom
And we helped teach 59 students the importance of water.
Gettin' Trail Weird 
I love the crew I work with. We’re made up of a bunch of like-minded folks from all across the country who have a shared passion of the great outdoors. Luckily another thing we have in common is the ability to get trail weird. You may ask yourself, “What in tarnation is trail weird?” I’m sure other subcategories of labor-induced weirdness exist as well. Restaurant weird, retail weird, farming weird - they all accomplish the same thing. It’s a sort of coping mechanism used to lift spirits among a crew when times get tough.
Our days start off upbeat for the most part, but after lunch the weirdness usually starts to take hold of us. People get tired physically, and restless mentally. When you combine these traits you are left with an opportunity for greatness to ensue, should you seize it. Someone starts speaking in an amusing accent. That evolves quickly into the entire crew speaking in that same accent. As we tire of our new voices, our minds wander. People start asking questions that they consider to be deep and thoughtful, but to anyone outside the crew would sound like the ravings of a lunatic.
“Hey Guys! If you had a magic water bottle divided into four sections, that could each contain four separate liquids, all of which having an infinite supply, what would they be?”
We generally take these questions with the utmost seriousness. It’s as if we believe that if our answers are witty enough, and our justifications sound, that we would turn around to find that magic water bottle on the ground behind us.
Another symptom of getting trail weird is temporary aural ignorance. Often, a member of the crew will experience a momentary lapse in conversation, but not in their subconscious. After a statement is registered as a sudden thought instead of part of a conversation, it is often blurted out as the same exact words that were uttered in the first place. I guess we just wouldn’t be ourselves if we didn’t repeat ourselves.
One of the greatest side-effects of getting trail weird is the boost in morale that it brings with it. There are always more things to accomplish around Lake Berryessa, and getting trail weird has helped us to tackle an enormous amount of work in the last few weeks. After returning from our winter break, we completed a loop trail hugging the shore of the lake at the Smittle Creek Day Use Area. The trail is a 3/4 mile jaunt with minimal grade changes and a wide tread. After completing the new loop, we maintained a large section of the Smittle Creek Self-Guided Nature Trail. During the first week back, we also took a grip hoist rigging course. Our newest endeavor is at Markley Cove, where we are improving the water access at roadside pullouts along Route 128.
So next time you find yourself wandering the shores of Lake Berryessa, if you come upon a group of dirt laden, overall wearing, tool wielding trail philosophers with muddy boots and big smiles, slowly approach and say something strange -just don't be surprised if we manage to make a conversation out of it.
Greeting from the Spanish Flats Mobile Villa. After hearing that SCA found a trailer for us to live in for the next six months I envisioned shag carpeting, wood paneled walls, and six of us squeezed into an area the size of a sardine can. However the past month has proven that life in the Villa is quite comfortable. We are living the high life in a double wide with everything an SCA crew could ever want; a refrigerator, stove, showers, and even a washer and dryer. All that is missing is the pink lawn flamingos.
Our agency partner, the Bureau of Reclamation, is having us construct trails in heavily used areas surrounding Lake Berryessa. Our first project has been building new trail at the Smittle Creek Day Use Area with the intent to open the area up to all users. Once completed, our trail will tie into the Smittle creek trail which currently connects the Smittle Creek and Oak Shores Day Use Area. On rainy days we are tasked with completing other projects that the Bureau needs addressed due to concerns of water contamination from the soil that is moved when we are building the trail. These concerns have entailed removing trash from the lake shore, checking erosion control structures and repairing fencing all in an effort to help protect the lake and its shoreline.
Outside of our time spent on the trail, we are working as a crew to become more environmentally conscious and active members in the community. One way we are working at becoming more environmentally conscious is by purchasing a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share. Every other week we drive into town to pick up our share; which so far has provided us with a bounty of fresh, organic produce ranging from Oranges to Romanesco. In addition to joining the CSA we participated in an olive picking which resulted in a 55 gallon yield of olive oil.
Stephani Kopfman 
My name is Stephani Kopfman. I am from Manhattan, Kansas but grew up in Southeast Kansas in the small town of Caney. I attended school at Kansas State University and graduated with a degree in Wildlife Biology and Conservation. This will be my third SCA program. The previous two programs were in Idaho. The first was working in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness clearing trail. It was an awesome experience and got me hooked on the SCA. After I graduated I attended my second SCA program in Idaho in the Salmon Challis National Forest (adjacent to the Frank Church). I learned a tremendous amount from the variety of work we accomplished and the twenty two other SCA members and leaders. My last SCA introduced me to leading and I am hoping to further my skills so I may lead in future. I am also looking forward to learning what goes into creating a trail from beginning to end. Some of my hobbies include cooking, biking, horseback riding, swimming and I love trying new things.
Chris Olsen 
Chris was born in Rancho Cucamonga, California (Yes, it’s real. Yes, it’s a goofy name for a place. Yes, it’s a suburb of Los Angeles.) His varied interests led him to pursue the study of natural history at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. A few semesters in, he discovered a startling imbalance in the relationship between his continued interest in school and his ever-growing pile of loan debt. The remedy for this dilemma materialized in a position with the Washington Conservation Corps (WCC), where he worked for a year and a half on various salmon habitat restoration projects in Bellingham and throughout Washington State. Days off were spent backpacking in the Cascades, the Olympics, and climbing trees. He finished his service with WCC working on trail re-locations in Mt. Rainier National Park. Through this formative working experience, Chris’ interests are further diversified, leading him to look after acquiring a banjo (whose delicate twang had entranced him some fire-lit full moon night, months prior) He began work with SCA satisfying the desires to work outside and travel extensively, leading two high school crews and working on a leader crew in California’s Desolation Wilderness. Chris spent 2012 at Bear Brook State Park in New Hampshire co-leading the Manchester Community high school program. He is looking forward to living with a great new group of people, and building some more trail.
Megan Blanchard 
I spent most of my time growing up in the “Sunshine State” 15 min from the beach in Jacksonville, FL. I spent 4 years at the University of Florida (GO GATORS!) and graduated in May 2011 with my B.S. in Geography and minors in Environmental Science and Sustainability Studies. During the summer after my sophomore year I joined my first SCA crew in the Delaware Water Gap NRA, building timber steps, treating Hemlock pines for the invasive Wooly Adelgid and planting over 300 trees. It changed my life by creating a passion for environmental conservation, which influenced my university studies, and I have been a hardcore SCA enthusiast ever since! Since graduation I have spent the past year and a half in continuous SCA internships. I moved up to the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park for a year-long internship as the GIS Specialist making maps and helping with natural resource management (water quality monitoring, invasive removal, and biology.) When that ended in August I jumped on down to New Orleans for 3 months, working for the USFWS as a biology intern at the SE Louisiana Wildlife Refuges. I got to help with endangered Red-Cockaded Woodpecker monitoring, wild hog removal and even had the chance to visit the 2nd oldest refuge in the country 30 miles out in the Gulf on Breton Island!
I’ve been on the east coast and gulf coast so I figured it was time to come check out the west coast! Traveling is one of my favorite things to do so I am super stoked to spend the next 6 months out here in the beautiful Napa Valley and exploring all over the western seaboard! I am looking forward to building awesome trails, getting chainsaw and crosscut certified, and training to hopefully lead and influence the next generation of environmental conservation activists! Y’all come back now, ya here!
Andrew Heller 
Howdy! I'm Andy - Or Andrew John Heller if you're not into the whole brevity thing. I grew up near the beach in New Jersey and I went to the University of Rhode Island. While in college, I studied Marine Affairs and Underwater Archaeology. I spent this past summer in the Adirondack Mountains in New York as a part of another SCA corps working for the Department of Environmental Conservation. My crew and I spent five months working around the park constructing and repairing trails for hiking and snowmobile use, as well as building bridges with both rustic timber and dimensional lumber. I like to spend my free time trying to defy gravity, although it does get the best of me at times. I believe that as a young and able-bodied person, it is my duty to give back to the planet for everything that it has provided me. I hope that this season will prepare me for many more years of service, and allow me to lead crews for the SCA so that I can help other people with similar beliefs as mine to give back to the planet.
Benjamin Dunphey 
My name is Ben Dunphey. I grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, PA. I graduated from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in May of 2012 where I studied Environmental Science with focuses on mapping and recreation. I have been doing conservation work since 2006 when I started with SCA as a high school member. Since then I have completed three high school crews as a member and two as a leader, spent a summer as an intern and most recently participated in the SCA Idaho AmeriCorps program. When not working I enjoy mountain and road biking, mountaineering and pretty much anything outdoors. I chose to participate in this program because I have not had the opportunity to build a trail to standards set by the Americans with Disabilities Act. I am very excited to have the chance to spend time learning to build trails to ADA standard and to have the chance to explore Northern California.
The tall tales of Pecos Bill hold nothing but a candle to the grandiose stories told of Ryan Hughes. Born on the golden plains and rolling hills of Eastern Oklahoma, Ryan grew up tangling with tornadoes and wrangling water moccasins. After toiling in the muddy waters of the Arkansas and Cimarron Rivers, Ryan first allowed himself to be called a cowboy upon enrolling at Oklahoma State University. After four long years, Ryan discovered that he had in fact graduated, with a degree in English, and like one of his favorite characters, Huck Finn, Hughes lit out for the western territories. Since he left his prairie home, Ryan has stared down rattlesnakes on a trail crew in the Blue Mountains of Oregon and Washington, his skin grew thick and rough under the blazing sun of the Mojave Desert, he took his licks as a wildland firefighter for the Umatilla National Forest, survived a winter in the snow at Steven's Pass Ski Resort in Washington, and caught his breath atop the Pacific Crest of California. Now he has set his sets on greener pastures among the grapevines of Napa. Shall the allure take hold of our hero and see him embrace the easy living of the bay or will this abundant country as well see his wide brim fade into the sunset.