November has come and went. The month started with The River Town Outreach Corps heading to Georgia for a fun filled weekend at the Outdoor Nation Atlanta Summit. Fellow Green Cities Interns came along for the trip from Pittsburgh as well.
The weekend was full of activities, trainings, and camping. I met people from all over the country who were all connected by one common value: the outdoors.
One morning after camping on the lake in Stone Mountain Park, we woke up before daybreak to summit Stone Mountain. It was beautiful to watch the sunrise from the quartz peak. On the final day of the conference, we were to present the projects we had been working on all weekend. The group I chose to work with consisted of Ryan and three other friends we met from Georgia. Our group was one of five to win a $1,000 grant to continue on with the projects we proposed. Go us!
Ryan, Sam and myself spent an extra few days in Georgia after the conference to visit the Fielden family, during which we went to the big Georgia aquarium. Neat!
Upon returning to Pennsylvania, it was time to squeeze in a bunch of work before the turkey-eating holiday commenced. We had two trainings on resume building and the basics of how to use LinkedIn, which were very helpful for what soon awaits us in December: applying for new jobs! Other events for this month included wrapping up loose ends of projects, attending meetings, and a fun hike in the Laurel Highlands and a Climbing Party at REI in Pittsburgh with TTOC to get out of the office and enjoy some of our last days together. Here is to one more month with the River Town Program
This hitch our crew finally got to work in our namesake, the Kiavah Wilderness. We managed to clear out all the incursions in Cow Heaven canyon, and when our BLM contact Marty came to visit she was quite impressed.
We had a strange first to days in the field. Our crew camped in the Jawbone Butterbrette ACEC, and as it turns out that is the place to be on the post Thanksgiving weekend. We soon became accustomed to the sounds of dirt bikes, gun shots, and even a few explosions. We were told afterword that the explosions we quite illegal.
All the interesting events aside, we got a good deal accomplished this hitch. Along with the four incursions in Cow Heaven we also started work on turning a large trampled area into a legal campsite as well as closed off the attached incursion. We also worked on a larger incursion further up the canyon and walked it's line of sight over a mountain to the next canyon where it finishes. On top of all this we found and dismantled a shooting range made of from I-beams sunk in the ground just outside of a campsite. it took us an hour to clear out the site, but it looked a whole lot more habitable afterwords.
Overall the work was hard, and at times the weather wasn't the most fun; but it's safe to say we're happy to in Kiavah.
Although we are called Jawbone we spent our third straight hitch not in but in the THC land once again, our last time working there. We camped at a different site than our previous two hitches. Our campsite was situated behind a knoll that hid us from the main road. Contrasting with the campsite from our first two hitches where we would see amazing sunrises, this campsite let us view marvelous sunsets of beautiful colors.
Some shocking, bizarre, and unfortunate things occurred on this hitch. Our first day of arrival was the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend. Thanksgiving weekend is a haven for OHVers. When we turned on the main road that led us into the THC land, the landscape was littered with white dots from RVs and a cloud of dust hung over the area from the OHV use. They prominently left on Sunday to return to civilization.
For the first time on hitch we experienced the wonder that is called rain. Some of us had forgotten what rain actually was. At midnight of one of the nights we heard the magical raindrops on our tent. None of our belongings got wet due to the durability of our pup tents. The rain provided the morning with tremendous fog. Vegging (where we go out and get dead branches for vertical mulch) in the morning was like walking in a horror movie; we could hardly see our surroundings. It did not rain the rest of the hitch, but the desert would be coated with a layer of moisture in the morning and the morning skies would be dark, cloudy, and ominous. Hopefully, this will lead to beautiful wildflowers in the spring. Even with the rain and cloudy days, the weather was much warmer than our previous two hitches. It never got below freezing which was a blessing and provided for some nice nights of rest.
One of the most bizarre and unusual encounters happened on the evening of day 10. Coming back from a long day of work, we saw a Toyota Prius on the side of the road and remarked how odd that was. Later that evening, the Prius was parked near or rocket box and eventually the Prius rolled up to our camp site. Andy and Emlyn were the first to talk to him and the rest of us were soon to follow. This man loved hearing himself talk. He was out there to hunt coyotes by attracting them with various animal calls. When asked if he ate the meat, he claimed that he didn’t but he hangs the pelt on the wall and says to himself “well there’s one less coyote.” Then he proceeded to bust out a few packs of cards and show us magic tricks for at least 20 minutes. Some of things he talked about were how his wife and child were “weak,” prison wine, his experience on pain medication, and making fun of us for doing this job. He never gave us his name but I nicknamed him Magic Mike. He shall never be forgotten.
This hitch was plagued with sickness. I was the first one to get sick with a sore throat and the sickness spread to some of the other crew members. Because of the sickness, and because we were done with the work that the THC set out for us, we were able to leave the field a day early.
For the actual work part of our hitch we worked on incursions in the area for the first seven days. On day 8-11, we went back a check out previous incursions we worked on in our previous hitches. We found that some had been run over by OHVers which was a huge disappointment but most of the incursions we worked on were intact. The THC land was interesting and provided us with many bizarre moments but it will be comforting to return to Jawbone, a place we have not been since Septoberfest.
I started playing Pokemon Red to catch all 151 Pokemon. My Pokemon count is at 45.
The past two months have been great! I started October on vacation in the northeast. Marah and I camped and hiked throughout the beautiful fall foliage in places such as Green Mountain National Forest, Acadia National Park, and Baxter State Park. Climbing Mount Katahdin, the highest peak in Maine, was a fantastic experience. I highly recommend it to everyone who has a chance to visit Maine.
Upon returning to work we had quite a few days in the field to get some things done before the weather got too cold. We were at Rices Landing to finish cleaning up the lock wall. It is now all weeded and swept up. Pt. Marion also needed some more work done at the park, so we finished up cleaning around the public docks.
I was on the radio for the first time in my life with Jeff on the Buy Local Radio Show. It was a pretty nerve-wracking experience to be live on the air, but I ended up having a blast. We talked about some of the projects we completed this year and some upcoming events that were happening in our towns.
There was a large amount of painting going on in October. We sanded down and painted the wooden fence and benches in Brownsville Central Park a dark red color. The RTOC crew also sanded down and started to paint the black cast iron fence at the park. Our group also painted the back of the Fredericktown borough building. It's amazing how just a couple coats of paint can really improve a fence or the side of a building and make the whole area look better.
The Pt. Marion public art project is now complete! We helped grout and clean the piece of art a couple days this month. While in Pt. Marion, we painted window displays to place in windows along the bike trail on our breaks from grouting.
Our Fall Paddle on the Mon at the end of the month was a fantastic time. We had around twenty paddlers join us for our final canoe/kayak trip of the year. The trip started in Pt. Marion, we had lunch at Two Rivers Restaurant and Marina in Dilliner, and our voyage ended at the boat ramp in Greensboro. We weathered a little bit of rain and chilly weather, but all enjoyed their time out on the water.
RTOC attended the Outdoor Nation Summit in Atlanta at the beginning of November. The summit consisted of several aspects including leadership training, grant writing, project planning, Leave No Trace principles, and professional development. We all had an amazing two days meeting new people and learning great tools that will be sure to benefit us in our careers in the future. After the summit, Sam, Marah, and I visited my parents in Georgia for a relaxing vacation.
Later in the month, we all went climbing on the rock wall at REI in Pittsburgh. This was a superb team building experience. We spent three hours together with our fellow Trail Town corps members climbing, having fun, and getting a great workout in the process.
Sam, Marah, and I attended the Water Test Interpretation Workshop put on by the Washington County Conservation District at the end of November. This presentation was very informative in teaching us how to interpret and understand the results of water testing that has been done by a lab whether for pre-gas well drilling or from routine testing of private water supplies.
Day one of Hitch 2 began with a delicious menu from our first Toco, and the motivation to bang out some pre-hitch duties, along with some giggles, naturally. Some members of the crew had already baked food in advance (bread, tortillas, veggie chili, cookies), so the tasks in the kitchen were minimal, thanks to the lovely Rands chefs. We were also able to stop by Home Depot to pick up lumber to install shelves in our trailer; hello organization! After getting to the field and setting up camp, we found time for some good ‘ol Rummy, never a dull moment in a crew Rummy game! Pre-Hitch day went off without hitch (no pun intended), although we did forget the hot sauce, to which many members of the crew were devastated. Although without Frank’s Hot Sauce, we still managed to enjoy a delicious hot meal after a long day.
Day two started by diving right into a long incursion, all of us excited to begin work again. Our first incursion included rock hard soil, a zombie lizard we named Randal, and 49 bushes. This was maybe one of our most physically and mentally draining incursions we’ve faced so far, but we still managed to kick butt and find times to goof around to keep everyone in light spirits. Every incursion after that seemed like a piece of cake compared to the first one, though there was one that we spent much longer on. During the longer incursions, we adopted a game called Virtual Hide-and-Seek, thanks to one of our crew members. Someone was found in the Derek Zoolander Center For Kids Who Can't Read Good And Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too, and even in the tire of one of our trucks.
Along with restoration, we also found time to spend an afternoon monitoring and recording abandoned mines in the Rand area we were in. There were quite a few, but we did a systematic sweep of part of the area and recorded about half a dozen.
During the midst of our restoration, one of our crew members had to be brought back to camp because he wasn’t feeling well. After a day in the quaran-tent, some rest, and delicious sweet potato soup, he was feeling back to normal and able to join us the next day for work. Although another one of our members wasn’t as lucky. He had to be brought to the hospital in the middle of the night with the stomach flu and spent the next day and night at the crew house with our project leader, Patrick. During their absence, the rest of the crew worked really hard and finished two incursions, despite there only being five of us. Our crew member who had fallen ill was given medicine and got well quickly and was able to join us the day after, although we think it was our lunch-time conference call that did the trick. With no other illnesses in the crew, we all finished the work plan, and some, in good spirits and good health.
During our last work day, our BLM contact Dana came out to help out with some restoration work in the beautiful Rand. She greeted us that morning bearing muffins, tangerines, and granola bars… WE LOVE YOU DANA! It was a fun day, filled with interesting conversations, a delicious lunch, and the enjoyment of our first visitor. Her presence was a great way to close out the last day of restoration, but the hitch wasn’t over yet…
On the very last day of hitch we spent a few hours with the other crews and the BLM for plant identification! We learned how to better identify the plants in the area for our data collection, while also being reunited again for the first time since the BBQ, also with the BLM. The day was cut short when it started to drizzle, a beautiful anomaly in the Mojave Desert. Overall, the hitch was very productive and satisfying. As we always say on the Rands… Keep calm and restore the desert.
By Alyssa Beck