This was yet another busy week for the SCA crew. It was a long eight day stretch full of watering, construction, goodbyes, volunteers, and trainings. We started the week with our normal watering schedule. We also spent time building fences around our plants and prepping for volunteers.
For some variety Cynthia, Jessica, and Molly helped other vegetation staff with a century milk vetch annual site survey. The century milk vetch is a rare, endemic plant that gets a lot of special attention from the park's staff. Our crew walked along the rim and counted how many milk vetches were present. We all also got trained to look through high-powered microscopes and search for tiny milk vetch seeds that are as small as soil particles.
On Friday we sadly had to say goodbye to Cynthia. She was hired on to the Fire Monitoring staff in Grand Tetons National Park. She was vital to the success of our crew during her time in the canyon. She became not only a great person to work with but also a dear friend that will remain in our lives.
Over the weekend we had a group of volunteers arrive. This meant spending some time planting. Once again they were a huge help in getting over a hundred plants in the ground.
We spent our last day of work getting recertified in CPR. After a lot of hard work we spent the next seven days having adventures. Jess and Christine headed to Zion National Park to play. There they had a final hoo-rah with Cynthia who was road-tripping north. Molly spent some quality time hiking in the Grand Canyon. It was a great way celebrate a successful week.
The crew spent the majority of their final hitch building Rock Cairns. What are Cairns? you may ask, well at their very least they are piles of rocks. At their very best, they successfully guide hikers and hunters through areas where the trail could easily be lost.
Our hitch was split into two different parts; the first half spent camped at the trailhead and the other packed 3.5 miles in. While we were at the truck, trailer and trailhead, the crew was able to get over to Olive Lake Campground and visit Umatilla 1 for some dinners and swimming. It was real nice to have another crew so close by. When we packed ourselves in, we camped at the junction on the South Fork Desolation trail. From there we worked tread about a mile down into an 800 ft valley meadow. After some final crosscut and log out, Umatilla Crew 2 was packing out and ready to move on.
Hats off to Mary G, Katrina, Chip and Dan for their hard work, and the successful and fun season!
Cairns Built: 73
Miles Brushed: 1 1/4
Miles Re-Tread: 1
Log Out: 9
Trail Brushed: Approx 2.5 miles
Program Manager Alex Olsen filled in as Project Leader for this hitch, and due to some various circumstances, was joined by a reduced crew of Ashley Resh, “J” Ramsey, and Josh Franklin. Next week Program Coordinator Shane Sheldon will fill in, and member Marion Wing will return, and the next week after that things will go back to a more regular pace with replacement leader Toji Sakamoto (formally of the Mt. Rogers Crew) will fill in for the rest of the season.
We started this week on Tuesday, August 3. Waking at dawn, we had a quick breakfast and drove to the Black Mountain Crest trailhead. The crew pointed a potential camp out to me on the map, and, after a 2.5 mile, 2000 vertical-foot gain hike in (phew!) we did indeed find a pleasant camp site on an old narrow-gauge grade: near water , with space for several tents, and off the trail enough to satisfy LNT requirements.
We then gathered up the tools we needed and began our push to brush out the section of trail from the base of the Black Crest trail up to Winter Star Mountain (about 6.5 miles). Though the original plan was to brush up to the tool cache left up on Winter Star peak (about 4 miles from the camp), it soon became obvious the severity of the brushing required would take at least the 4 10-hour days we had, if not more. Sure enough, we ended up just completing about 2.5-3 miles of brushing, from just below our camp up to about a mile short of the point brushed by Winter Star. We shouldn’t (and didn’t ) hang our heads about this- the brush on the top of the ridge was often shoulder to head high, and completely obliterating the trail. I estimate about 3 more days will be needed to clear out the remaining section.
We encountered just about every sort of weather- from scorching hot sun to torrential downpours, though we did get some absolutely superb views from the top of the Black Crest Trail, and the camp we lived in, seated as it was next to a babbling brook and nestled among some beautiful big trees, was rated by the members as “the best one yet.”
Many thanks to J, Ashley, and Josh for hanging in there and introducing me to this gorgeous section of North Carolina.
Due to the great work our team did on the last hitch, our Forest Service partners decided to place us on another section of trail with severe damage from running water. During this hitch we constructed several stone water channels and other reinforeced drainage features. We also completed a 100 yard re-route.
All this work was done in a area of forest that had burned the previous fall in a wildfire. It was eerie walking along the trail (which served as the fire line) to one side is healthy forest, the other side is the chard remains of trees, a forest no more.
Without the cover of forest the hot summer sun blazed down on us. The heat of the day was not easy to overcome in a area far from lakes or rivers. At camp we had to bring a one-hundred gallon tank of water in on our trailer for drinking & cooking. Luckily, this hitch was free of the pesky mosquitoes that had been swarming us at Moon Meadow.