This started just like any other hitch; we were hard at work in the kitchen, packing the trucks and the trailers. Not long after we started, Cat had some awesome news to share with us about next hitch. That news was, drum roll please… That we will be hosting All-Corps. With being the hosts, that really changed our hitch schedule. The next couple of days were spent planning All-Corps, such as the type of work that we will have other crews do, how we will break up into groups, meal themes and of course we had to make an invite video. We worked long and hard on our invite video, so we encourage you to watch it via this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4FB4uhUIuc
This hitch was a lot of fun since we had a good variety of things to do once we were done with All-Corps prep. We got to spend a day at the China Lake Naval Base see the Coso Rock Art, which is the largest collection of Petroglyphs in the western hemisphere. Went out to Sand Canyon a couple of times, once for a dip in a watering hole, second time we were doing some trail clean up. Did some sightseeing at Fossil Falls and learned about the history of it. Cat coordinated with Leigh to have her helicopter fall over us and give our own personal air show in Grass Valley. The next day, Leigh came out with us to help us with fencing, which was nice to have someone new with us.
We had some inconveniences this hitch, we were ready to head on out into the field, we were heading to an auto shop to replace the headlight for one of our trailers. We had a little accident and ended up getting the tire for one of our trailers flat. Once we got that all fixed up, we decided it would be nice to reward ourselves with a Starbucks to give us that burst of energy we would need before going into the field. We got into the field, we set up camp with Kiavah and started cooking dinner. We were all fairly comfortable until we found out there was a wind advisory for our area, the gusts were predicted to be up to 75mph. So we packed up and went right back to town. At least it was nice to get another night in town.
We managed to do all this, plus we nearly finished lining up and sighting the rest of the fence in Grass Valley, built more H-Braces, rolled out more wire, and set more T-Posts. I can say with confidence that this was both a productive and fun hitch for all of us.
Our planned work has nearly run out for us, but luckily we had several other events to occupy us this hitch. The first was helping with the Sand Canyon Environmental Education Program (SEEP). Over several weeks, fourth grade students from area schools have a field to visit Sand Canyon to learn about the natural history of the area. Groups of students rotate through several stations set up in the canyon. In them, students learn about birds, plants, aquatics, and archaeology. Most students were especially thrilled to catch a glimpse of the Red-tailed Hawk that was nesting in the canyon.
Soon after SEEP, all of the DRC crews united to see the petroglyphs on the China Lake Naval Base. After undergoing a thorough search by military police, we were allowed onto the base. An hour long drive brought us to the canyon where all of the petroglyphs were located. Immediately upon entering the canyon, we were surrounded by petroglyphs. Every rock face seemed to have something chiseled into it. Our guides offered many explanations as to what the images were. These ranged from aliens to shamans to rams to medicine bags. Many were definitely aliens.
Our final foray was to the Maturango Museum for the annual wildflower festival. Docents of the museum had travelled all over nearby canyons to gather specimens of everything in bloom. We had seen many of them during work, but now we could put a name and family to the flowers; definitely the most helpful way to learn plants. We were also told by the docents that flowers this year are even worse than last year. The desert seems to be getting drier and drier.
The rest of our days on hitch were spent attending to the usual tasks of restoration and effectiveness monitoring. However, after closing an incursion that was already half finished, we reached our goal outlined in the grant. One of the trucks also had an exhilarating ride while monitoring. While marveling at the rampant destruction caused by OHV use in the Dove Springs Area, Andy began to tell us a tale of his 4x4 training. Pointing out the steep hill climbs, he told us of his instructor who tried to drive up a similarly steep hill and failed. Not even halfway up, his jeep began to slide down. Later on, Matt was descending a hill that at first seemed very manageable and nothing to worry about. Luckily, Andy suggested putting the truck in 4 low. A very wise call since the road seemed to drop off the side of cliff. As the wheels dropped, everything in the truck slid down with gravity. It felt as though the truck would flip over if the road became any steeper. This did not happen though and we survived only losing control of the truck and sliding off the road for a moment. Turns out, this was same hill that the 4x4 instructor failed to climb. Earlier in the hitch, we had another terrifying and exciting encounter with a Mojave Green Rattlesnake. Matt nearly ran it over, but Corinne spotted it basking in the road just in time.
Hitch was a success; we all survived and are ready for the final All-Corps that is on the way.
The past two weeks have been a whirlwind of activity and Mike, Sophie and I are in the eye of the storm. We started the month of April by getting down to business. The surveys for the Army Corps of Engineers have been going swimmingly as the weather perked up and the people peeped out of their rainy-weather holes. We have all been working, planning out the rest of the spring program as we’ve all realized we have a little over a month before it’s over. With that, we three put our heads together and locked in our conservation projects, our volunteer opportunities, as well as solidifying the mundane, but necessary, tasks of everyday life.
Mike and I met up with Denise Weyer from Shelby Bottoms Park, who has been an incredible asset in getting our Conservation Project up and running. Then Mike met with an avid birder- Ed Schneider, a bird photographer who has traveled the world and is probably the only one more gung-ho about our workshop besides us. Since we both have an interest in birds and wanted to partner up with Shelby Park to facilitate a workshop focused on the impact of humans to birds and vice versa; as well as understanding that birds are integral to developing the richness and diversity of this earth. We have a workshop scheduled at the end of May where we will both be leading a group of homeschool students! I continued to meet with Denise, as Mike met with a man about “Saving the Cumberland”- an initiative to raise awareness surrounding the rising pollution in the Cumberland River through education and research. Mike also had his own volunteer adventure food sorting 7,000 lbs of food for family in needs for the Second Harvest Non-Profit in Nashville.
The other Conservation Project that I, Sophie and Mike all have been making moves on is our vermicomposting, or as it’s commonly known: “worm bins.” Worm bins are a self-sustaining composting system that we will be experimenting with as none of us have done it before. Although we have all had experiences in composting, we are interested to see how worm bins would work as it would be self-sustaining, more efficient for a shorter time period given to us, and we get to play with worms! As we are trying to do all of our projects on as little of a budget as possible, kind people, donations, gifts, and friends come in amazingly handy. I was able to scrounge up some a truck, shovel, buckets, a drill, and soil from my boyfriend, who is as manly as he gets. We all have been saving up our compost and once we get the worms, we’ll be all ready to go!
In preparation for getting up close and personal with worms, Mike, Sophie and I had the rewarding experience of volunteering with The Nashville Food Project (http://www.thenashvillefoodproject.org/)-. A very inspiring organization, this small group of people plant, harvest, cultivate, prepare and cook meals, then deliver them to various locations throughout Nashville to those in need. It was fun getting dirty in the ground: we helped gardening and stirring the compost. It was even more enjoyable knowing that the people who run The Nashville Food Project clearly care about the love that goes into growing and making healthy, fresh food for the people in need.
This gave us some ideas for our little house Garden. Our Garden came into fruition starting with me and Sophie trekking over to haul 50 cinderblocks into a truck and then from the truck to our back lawn. Needless to say we got a work out that day. After that, our kindly neighbor lent us his rotor-tiller, and I, having no prior experience of this strange contraption, researched and learned the ins and outs of the Mantis. I then started it, tilling the ground, at first having a momentary sense of panic rise in me when I realized I had a death machine in my hands. That quickly subsided as I tilled the earth, gaining control and creating a little plot where we will plant our food.
The two week whirlwind ended with a visit from our supervisor, Alex, where he was able to observe us in our survey skills and sit down with us to play a solid game of “Munchkin”- probably one of the most addicting, complex, and bizarre games out there (and for full disclosure: I won!). Mike and Sophie got to see Shawn Camp, a country artist who has captivated their hearts, and I got to dance to Elton John singing Tiny Dancer. All in all, the month of April is shaping up to be a promising one. Spring has officially arrived: and with that a fresh new excitement in rounding out our Conservation Projects and visitation surveys!
Written by Eva.
Greetings from the Army Corps of Engineers, Visitor Use Survey team here in Cumming Georgia. We have been hard at work these past two weeks with our surveys and gaining all sorts of insight into the public use of Army Corps Of Engineers’ recreation sites. In our off time and conservation work days we have been even harder at work, getting involved with the local community and parks.
On my drive down to Georgia from New York I stopped by a beautiful site known at Tallulah Gorge. The sites at the gorge took my breath away, as did all of the amazing rock climbing and bouldering available. My only problem with being trained in trail construction is you can never hike a trail without seeing work to be done and I sure saw a lot of work that needed to be done on the climbing trail at Tallulah Gorge. After gaining insight from the park and local climbing community, I got to work on a previously abandoned trail. It was in desperate need of re-blazing and when following the trail I found in many places social trails had developed due to obstructions from years ago. With a great deal of care I re-opened the original trail, covered social trails. I also blazed the trail carefully, and made sure to keep a primitive back country look to this spectacular climbing site’s approach.
Clayton was hard at work this week with the American Chestnut Tree restoration project at Allatoona Lake. They are working hard to protect the trees from viscous predators like the infamous white tail deer. Ok, so not the most dangerous of beasts, but they can sure chomp down on young trees. So Clayton worked hard at putting up nets to protect the programs young trees and the future of the American Chestnut Tree as a species. In other updates the garden is growing nicely and both Michael and Clayton have had an easy week of maintenance due to good design there are no weeds to pluck and lots of rain has made for little watering to need to be done.
Leah has been hard at work as our program manager, Alex Olsen, visited our site for mid program evaluations. While getting Alex up to speed about everything we have been doing, she also managed to set up a great conservation work day we could all do together. On the Chattahoochee River two enormous trees fell on a hiking and mountain biking trail. We came on site armed with chainsaws and rigging equipment ready for action. To our surprise the trees were much bigger than expected and suspended by a stump 10 feet in the air. Talk about safety hazards, we had to pull out all the tricks to make a safe area of this trail and not jeopardize our own safety in the process. With some fancy chainsaw work courtesy of Clayton’s experience in the desert restoration corps, and some unique rigging courtesy of Michael’s leader team experience in Lake Tahoe we were able to help the park staff and SCA intern Justin and very knowledgeable volunteer Lynn, drop cut and move those trees off the trail in just one day. We thank Justin and Lynn for the opportunity to help the community and all of the skills we learned from them about tree removal and poison ivy control (some of us are still a little itchy despite best efforts though).
We look forward to our next conservation projects and more surveys as the weather continues to improve here in Georgia, the recreation is increasing as well. Hot, busy, and getting rained down on by pollen… we will send another update soon on our adventures with The SCA.
We started this work week at the Audubon center where we learned how to do MIMS and the woody plant line transect. We then finished our day at Phoenix College like we usually do. On Tuesday morning we headed out to Agua Fria National Monument River Bend to collect data using the methods that we learned at Audubon. We also did the ripple to pool ratio on the river to find out more about the residual pools. The monitoring we did will help us find out the health of this riparian habitat which in turn will help management make decisions on this land. Finally, on Friday we went to Table Mesa to rehab some old roads. We restored 3 roads and even exceeded the quota for this project!