"Good evening ladies and gentlemen! And welcome to the first annual Umatilla backwoods talent show. We have a lot of talented young performers on the schedule with an array of performances for you tonight. We hope you enjoy! So sit back, relax, and enjoy the show!"
We logged out about 4 miles of perhaps the steepest trail known to man, woman, or beast, during perhaps the hottest days of the year; we sincerely loved every minute of it. Our final and shortest hitch gave us time to finish up a last bit of log-out on the Corral Creek trail loop and allowed us to finally get around to many of the things we had talked about doing all summer.
These plans included watching the Perseid meteor shower while laying in the middle of a field on our sleeping pads, fry night, which consisted of everything from backwoods deep fried veggie corn dogs to bread battered deep fried bacon, recording our soon to be number one hit single on Shawn's macbook and finally, a talent show, with a surprise guest appearance from our Forest Service contact, Janel Lacey.
Like all of our hitches, it was a lot of work, but even more fun. With the impending knowledge that we would soon be parting and going our separate ways, there seemed to be an extra charge of energy among the crew as we hastened to spend a few more days together and get the most out of them that we possibly could.
A talent show performance from Brock gave us a perfect summary of our summer together:
"A cool breeze edged with a slight nip tells that fall has already begun and that summer has already given its farewell. A distinctive smell in the air delivers the same message. A golden leaf with a touch of red flaps in the breeze, giving its all to hold onto its quivering twig. With a strong gust and a silent snap, the leaf is set free from its solitary bondage. With barrel rolls and somersaults, it travels carelessly in its unknown journey. As the gust dies down the leaf descends back towards the green grassy civilization, its motion erratic. A noisy grasshopper cruises by almost mockingly in its drunken flight. The leaf sways back and forth in the calm and lands gracefully on the crunch of the forest floor. The sun’s rays penetrate the haze and the forest becomes alive. A small army of ants march over the leaf carrying the wings of a disassembled butterfly whose life has since passed. The individual scales of the wings resemble reflectors, as the blue, orange, and yellow colors burn violently in the sun. Angels of the insect world. A current reappears to encourage the leaf’s journey. After minutes of floating through the kaleidoscope of colors, and observing others that resemble itself, the Earth seems to drop away.
Like a cartoon, everything shrinks down to toy-sized proportions. The leaf feels alone for the first time, sharing space with only the whispering wind. What were towering pines moments before are now just small pinecones in the distance. The breeze takes the leaf away from the canyon wall and it starts settling towards the river valley below. Recognizable objects appear as the surrounding environment grows back to familiar proportions.
A freight train chugs up an incline towards the leaf. Steam releases through the whistle and the leaf shakes in the vibrations, from its thick stem up into its thinnest veins. Their routes stay in line and the path of the leaf intersects that of the train’s smokestack. The thick, black smoke engulfs the leaf. The heat causes the fringes of the leaf to curve downward, and acting like a sail, launches the leaf back skyward. On its journey it gives and takes away. The leaf deposits part of itself on others and picks up new things that it adopts as itself. Twigs tear small pieces away from the leaf. A fuzzy dandelion top clings to the leaf and they travel as one. High in the atmosphere the Earth looks small. Now separated, the SCA crew are making their own realities and dimensions. The threads that connect them still remain, for they cannot be removed. The interactions they had together caused each member to become a thread in each other’s personal being. In the future, their realities may all align again, if only for a moment. The leaf descends again, continually shifting, changing, morphing. The leaf is hit by the bushy tail of a squirrel, chasing another as it chirps. The leaf suddenly shifts in its path and the Earth is rotated on its axis. Landing in powdery sand, the leaf throws up a mushroom cloud of dust. The dust bellows upwards and rolls inward on itself, leaving a void area around the leaf that resembles a moat. The leaf takes off again and travels anywhere the wind blows.
Though the leaf is no longer in sight, a perfect replica now lays etched in the sand."
Its yabba dabba doo time! This hitch was our first introduction to rock work and we would have certainly impressed the Flintstones and the rest of the inhabitants of Bedrock.
Our first stop was back to Olive Lake, which is the best campsite a worker could ask for. Our main issue was a swampy portion of trail that wouldn’t drain away water. It was decided that the best solution to help drainage was to put in French drains and bury grid-shaped cement blocks in the path. To fill the trenches for the French drains and to cover the bricks we needed to gather tons of gravel. This was no easy task, to say the least. There were gravel piles for the taking, but they were a mile away on the other side of Olive Lake. Luckily, we were working with the Forest Service and they were able to provide a john boat to help transport the gravel and cement bricks across. Unfortunately, the boat had a mind of its own and would only operate for about a hundred yards across the lake before sputtering out. Without enough material to work with we had resort to other means. We gathered rocks from around the area and brought them back to the site. Some people loaded and unloaded materials from the boat while others double-jacked the large rocks into smaller “crush”. Others went through the challenge of wheel-barrowing the gravel and bricks around the lake over grades, roots, and raised bridges. On the last day at Olive Lake, we were blessed with another john boat, provided by the camp host. We were able to make much faster progress and finish the job with satisfaction.
Although our work was grueling, we were gifted with many fun surprises. The first night of our hitch was Shawn’s birthday, which ended with the crew eating melon and watching the sunset fall over Olive Lake. The following night we were surprised to hear that we would be hosting a sleep-over with two SCA interns, Molly and Claire, who were working with the Forest Service in Ukiah. It was a pleasure spending time with two new faces and introducing them to our fun camp life. The same night we met a neighbor, Mr. David Wagner, who was a retired botanist searching for mosses and liverworts. After coming over and joining our campfire, he whipped out his harmonica and pleasured us with a mean version of “Oh My Darlin’ Clementine”, which was more savory than the melon he brought us. The night came to a close with the group huddled around the campfire, reading a work from “Goosebumps”, which was made even more amusing by Shawn’s enthusiastic reading style. Another highlight of Olive Lake was our crawdad feast. With our three crawdad traps we managed to gather around 50 crawdads, and then boiled them up until they were a bright red color. It was about everyone’s first time eating the critter and we all agreed the meat from the tail and pinchers was delightful. However, we would like to apologize to the cultures of the Gulf of Mexico who view the crawdad’s brain as a delicacy, because we couldn’t quite stomach the sour taste to consume the whole animal!
Our next destination was Oriental Creek Campground, where we worked on the John Day North Fork Trail. In the spring when the water was at its highest, the river was eating away substantial amounts of the bank, to the point where even ATVs could no longer pass the road. Our solution to this problem was to fill the bank with three gabions, two on the bottom and one centered on top. Our three days of moving rock was very physically demanding, but we all agreed it was a fun change as well. It was quite a change of pace compared to the cross-cutting that we’d all grown accustomed to. We searched the slopes over a hundred yards in both directions to find rocks large enough for the task. Many rocks needed rock-barred by two people at a time over great distances. Under much strain, others decided to flip the smaller rocks over by hand. Even smaller rocks that would fit into dirt bags would be loaded and then hauled off by a pair of partners. The demanding work was made more challenging by the high temperatures and the lack of shade to recuperate under. Our ability to cope with the elements may be partially contributed to what we like to call “bucket baptisms.” We would travel down to the river and then have a partner scoop up cold river water into our hard hats and then pour it over our steamy heads. It wasn’t quite a spiritual experience but it was definitely transcendent. The job required a great amount of determination and perseverance, and would be a sufficient tool for strengthening the mind of a marathon runner. After finishing the gabions and before continuing our next objective, we made a visit to a bridge to be inspired. We hiked to the extravagant bridge that was built by a SCA crew back in 1992. It was completed with rustic timber and was still holding strong. To see something amazing made by no machines motivated us the next two days as we brushed the John Day North Fork trail. We were graced by the appearances of two bears, both within the same hour! We came upon both of them and startled them, causing them to charge across the river. To see a bear look back at you and shake water out of its coat is unparalleled by almost anything else.
This hitch was a change for us as a crew and we were able to learn new aspects of trail work. As a team we endured work that challenges what the human body is capable of. It tested our minds when our bodies wanted to give up and forced us to work together. We fought through the punishing weather and we fought through a couple days of illness. I’m very proud of this team and its no wonder that we have the name “Umakillahs.”
“La Grande Dispatch, SCA trail crew.”
“Good morning. We will be in service at Cold Springs trail.”
“Dispatch copies, have a good day, 7:58.”
Well we've reached the end of yet another exciting hitch, and as always we had a great time! Our adventure of the past two weeks began when the crew decided to visit Portland during our off time. For many of us, this was a great chance to explore the city and try new experiences. Some of us stayed with friends in the city, while some tried couch surfing for the first time, and others stayed at hostels. While in the city we were able to see several sights and attractions that were unique to Portland: Voodoo Donuts, a tasty donut shop that imbued their creations with a bit of dark flair creativity, Powell's bookstore, the largest independent bookstore in North America, the international rose test gardens, which showcased over 6000 varieties of roses to the public, as well as many other fun things to do and see! Needless to say, we all had an amazing time in Portland, but by Monday we were all ready to return to the woods for our new assignment.
To our delight, we would be logging out more wilderness trails, this time at a group of trails near a site called Handy Springs. True to it's name, there was in fact a freshwater spring available to our use, which was indeed handy! The trails we worked this hitch were the Cold Springs trail, Glade Creek trail, Basin Creek trail, and Lake Creek trail, all of which were as beautiful as their names! Although they were nowhere near as strenuous as the trails from last hitch, we ended up working some longer days, the longest of which was almost a 12 hour work day! Luckily everyone is really into challenging themselves and getting stronger, and so we embrace those long days whole heartedly! We continued to use the crosscut saws to do the log out work that we all love and enjoy. We also learned to get really creative in our techniques and tool use when removing some of our problems logs. Overall, we removed over 300 logs from the trail circuit, with a daily record of 77 logs in one day!
A cool little venture that we were able to enjoy during the week was visiting Desolation look out and radio tower. While working in that part of the forest we were consistently using the Desolation radio station to get our messages across, and we often were able to glimpse the tower from afar when we were working the trails. It was a bit surreal to actually go and visit these places in person, and the view from the tower was absolutely breathtaking! Hopefully one day we’ll be able to visit some of the other towers that we use!
Of course, it wouldn't be a normal hitch for this crew without some crazy weather thrown into the mix! For the first half of our days at Handy Springs, we were hit by afternoon thunderstorms like clockwork. And while we haven't experienced any snow since hitch two, we endured some pretty fearsome hail during some of those storms! Luckily we had hard hats to protect us for the worst of it, but it was still odd to be pelted by pea sized pieces of ice in the middle of July!
Finally, to make an already awesome hitch even more awesome, we were visited by the great Trevor Knight, our SCA coordinator, for the last half of our hitch. Hanging out with Trevor was a blast, and working with him turned out to be really enlightening as he knew a lot of tips and tricks to trail work that we had never tried before. His super positive attitude and cool stories were an awesome addition to our lives! We all enjoyed having him with us and can't wait to hang out with him again at the end of our season.
Hitch 4 ended up being a challenging, and yet rejuvenating experience for us. We were so glad to be doing the work that we love and making a difference in our National Forests. We look forward to whatever challenges and fun things that the future may bring, crazy weather and all! Umakillaz out!
Hi! My name is Brock Bollen and I’m from a small town in southern Michigan called Hillsdale. Since high school, I’ve attended two years at Western Michigan University where I’ve taken many a class in biology and chemistry, working towards a Biomedical Sciences degree. My favorite class was more directed towards the interactions between plants and animals, so I’m quite hung up over pursuing my current degree or a regular biology degree concerning the outdoors.
I grew up as a kid entertaining myself in the wonderful world outside where I could “blow the stink off.” A day was usually spent climbing trees, fishing, riding bike, making forts, hunting for morrels, fishing, and whatever else the imagination could conjure. My appreciation for the outdoors has followed me as I’ve grown older. In college I would walk or ride my bike to school, use canvas bags at the grocery store, and hit the local farmers markets to get the real food. Revisiting the woods by foot or mountain bike helps remind me of the importance of the natural world left unadultered.
Working in the Umatilla National Forest this Summer in northeastern Oregon is a great opportunity for me to meet people who share the same interests and ecological values that I have. Most work that I’ve had has been manual labor oriented and getting sweaty on the trails so that others can appreciate and learn the value of the wild is getting me excited. A rewarding summer it will most certainly be.
The Pre-Hitch Break: An action packed and "off the chain" combo break with the Umathrillaz kept the Umakillaz quite busy for the weekend before hitch. The two crews took Pendleton by storm and rocked the Umatilla together. It was a time of great joy.
Ah it was finally hitch three and the Umakillaz were ready to start their first all log out mission in the Umatilla Forest. The journey to Moon Meadows and the surrounding trails would be one filled with cross-cut fun, but also one with a few surprises sprinkled in.
The first few days were spent on Packsaddle Trail, a roughly five mile trail that tours past burns and mountainsides of the southern Umatilla. The crew had an intense few work days on Packsaddle and cut more than seventy logs in just two days, not bad for before Wednesday! Then came one of the first trials of the trails…
Wagoner Gulch Trail was the next mission for the Umakillaz, a task that seams infeasible to some. Wagoner Gulch was only 4.3 miles, easy compared to the distance of Packsaddle right? WRONG. This trail is the steepest trail that these young trail workers had ever seen. Up and down the trail wove threw the Oregonian Mountains with extreme grade. The second day the lightning storm started to rolled in just as the Umakillaz got over the steep ridges, so they chose the path of safety out on another 7 mile trail, making an intense 12 hour Saturday. All along on the Gulch, a volunteer visitor by the name of Sean was along for the ride and kept up with the crew steadily with a positive outlook all the while.
The hitch of log out continued in this manner, chopping here and cross-cutting there, and the Umakillaz were enjoying the mission all the while. The past two weeks were full of intense work but physical and spiritual reward presented itself for the crew after each day. This crew is ready and willing for the next log out journey ahead.
Service to the land! Through snow, rain, rusted nails and waterlogged styrofoam, the Umakillahz have pushed straight on through it all!
The second hitch for the Umakillahz began in an all-too-familiar way--with rain, sleet, graupel, snow, and all other forms of liquid precipitation in between. Undaunted by the now commonplace Umatilla weather, we began work around Olive Lake on a series of projects.
Before we began the hitch, we welcomed our new member, Brock, to the crew with open arms and taught him the ways of the Umakillahz. His rapid education involved a crash course in our inside jokes, which required a full team effort to explain. Brock instantly became a great member of our crew and helped us immensely during our hitch.
Over the course of the hitch, we worked as a brushing crew, a tread and drainage crew, a campground rehabilitation crew, an ADA (a trail made to fit the specifications of the American Disabilities Act) trail crew, and a dock demolishing crew. With all those jobs, I suppose we should just keep calling ourselves an SCA crew.
Our major accomplishments for the hitch include brushing and improving the tread on the two mile trail surrounding Olive Lake, disassembling an old wood and styrofoam dock, resurfacing and compacting an ADA trail, rehabilitating a campsite to move the immensely heavy table and tent region out of the trail, replacing several signs around the Olive Lake Campground (definitely not as simple as it sounds), and doing some more intense brushing along the first few miles of the John Day North Fork Trail.
Through all of those projects, we had quite a few memorable experiences. We had the pleasure of reuniting with the infamous Paul Bunyan of the USFS once again. We also worked alongside an all-star group of well-versed forest service staff on the dock project. They had a unique approach to say the least, and we enjoyed seeing their camaraderie. On the return home from work one day, we even picked up a recently deceased squirrel which Nels and Shawn cleaned and prepared. Squirrel meat was a first for all of us! While that might sound strange to others, we do our best to embrace all aspects of the outdoors way of life here in the Umatilla National Forest. We also wrapped up our last day at Olive Lake with a brief dip in the snowmelt-fed waters. Shivering and refreshed, we enjoyed the thrill of having taken the plunge.
Through the intense weather and hard work, we grew closer as a team and we look forward to the rest of our hitches. We departed at the end of the hitch ready to meet the Umathrillaz (the other Umatilla SCA crew) in Pendleton for some awesome adventures as...MEGATILLA!
Straight on through. See the herd of Elk on the side of the road? Straight on through. You're gonne see a big rock on the left-- Straight on through. See that broken down barn? And Jimmy? Oh he's just out there mending his fences. Straight on through, all the way to the John Day River. Straight on through.
Our first hitch was... an interesting one. We we're faced with a few challenges that, while surprising and trying in the moment, without a doubt made us stronger and closer as a crew, inspiring us to adopt the mantra "Straight on through".
Right off the bat on day one we were introduced to Paul Bunyon himself reincarnated as Nick, a Hulk-like US Forest Service worker. Shawn, Nels, and Erika found themselves chasing after him down miles and miles of trail as he effortlessly sawed through logs using only one arm with an air of "If I used two hands, I'd kill you" (whereas us mere mortals prefer to use our whole bodies while sawing)and then would sprint off to find his next wooden victim. By the end of the first day we were all exhausted and soaking wet from the thunder storm that opened up on us in our last hour of work. With our first day behind us we concentrated on getting into dry clothes and warming up in preparation for day two.
However, Umatilla forest had a few more tricks up her sleeve. We emerged from our tents the next morning to see that it was, in fact, snowing. In June. Snowing in June. We were all pretty surprised to see this change in the weather, but I can assure you that this Native Texan never imagined snow would be part of this summer adventure in my wildest dreams (nor did I foresee my rain pants becoming more duct tape than pants). Be that as it may we suited up for work again (many of us in our still wet work clothes from the day before) and headed out to the trails. This time with just our crew in tow, we casually tried to stay warm by running and screaming as loudly and as far as we possibly could. You know, normal stuff. Once we warmed up a bit we worked on brushing the North Crane Trail for the rest of the day, removing tree limbs and logs that might have fallen into the path over the winter months.
The rest of the hitch went a bit more smoothly, weather wise, bar the select mornings when we would wake to find ice on our breakfast dishes or the day that we experienced snow, hail, rain, and sun all within a few hours.
Our main accomplishment and sole dedication of most of our time this hitch was the John Day North Fork Trail. At an estimated 7 miles in length, we ended up hiking 14 miles the first day we worked on it. As we worked our way from the back of the trail, clearing towards the entrance, our commute became shorter and shorter each day. Finally, on day nine of our ten day hitch we completed the trail with much excitement and relief.
We ended the last day of our hitch with enthusiasm, in sunny and warm weather, and headed into town for our first day off. It was then that we received the exciting and surprising news that we would be adding a new member, Brock, to our Umatilla crew.
We are all very excited to see the new dynamics and opportunities that will come with the addition of our most recent member and we eagerly await the chance to welcome him to the Umakillahz family!
First of all, I am completely thrilled to be working in the Umatilla National Forest this summer. I am looking forward to getting to know the awesome crew and spending the next three months in the great outdoors.
My love of the outdoors began when I joined the Boy Scouts in fifth grade. Ever since, I have spent my summers and countless weekends exploring the trails of Colorado. My backpacking and camping travels have also taken me all over the place over the years, including Alaska, Europe, and many of the National Parks in the Southwest.
I am originally from the great state of Colorado and I just completed my freshman year at Washington University in St. Louis. Even as a pre-med chemistry major, I hope to always find time for conservation and the outdoors. Backpacking and caring for the natural world have always meant a lot to me and will always be integral parts of my life.
I have truly missed the camping and hiking scene while attending school in St Louis, and I am looking forward to a great time with great people in the Oregon backcountry this summer with the SCA.
Hmmm... How to begin? Well, for starters I'm a Junior at the University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point, where I am majoring in Environmental Education and Conservation Biology. My hope is that one day I will be able to work for the National or State Park Service or possibly a wildlife refuge system.
Ever since I was little I've had a great love of the outdoors, which was fueled by my family's many trips to state and national parks during our vacations. I love spending time outdoors, whether it be hiking, camping, biking, or just lounging. Because of this, I decided during my last few years of high school to attend the School of Environmental Studies, which is an optional high school that focuses on environmental science and natural resources management. I figured it would be a great oppurtunity for people like me who preferred learning in smaller group settings and loved nature. However, my time there opened my eyes up to the importance of many environmental issues and the importance of managing our resources. This is ultimately what led me to choose my current school and major, and since then I've enjoyed learning more about our earth and what we can do to protect it.
Besides my outdoor hobbies, I enjoy reading all sorts of fiction, comic books, and watching movies. Essentially, I really love a good story. I'm pretty open to new things and ideas, which is pretty much going to be this entire experience for me. I've never really done much backpacking before, so I think that this summer will be a real exciting and beneficial adventure!
Well to get the basics out of the way, I am an out of state student at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque originally from the Dallas area of Texas. I am an Earth and Planetary Science major because I love geology but mostly I just wanted a degree that would help me get into the National Parks for my career.
I have several hobbies that consume most of my time, mainly hiking, camping, fishing and photography. I love being outside all of the time, sometimes to a fault, as I would rather go the Sandia Mountains than do my homework. I am a huge photography junkie and pretty much have a camera with me at all times, however I may have to make an exception this summer as my camera gear can be quite cumbersome.
This summer I will be working in the Umatilla National Forest with an awesome trail crew and I think that the whole experience is going to be a blast!
I originally fell in love with the national parks by going to Bandelier National Park in New Mexico as a kid. Then as my family took me different places such as Yosemite, Red Wood National Forest, and the San Juan Islands in the north west, I found my passion and I have known what I want to do with my life ever since.
I look forward to my work with the SCA and I hope to get to know all of the crew really well in the future!
Ever since I can remember, I have been in love with spending long days in the Texas summer heat, whether it be riding my bike along the street outside my house, or catching fireflies in the backyard. At a certain age, I progressed from backyards to summer camps, spending weeks at a time in the beautiful Texas wilderness. I then evolved naturally into working at these camps and quickly began to discover another love of mine- teaching.
I’ve just finished my fourth year at the University of Texas at Austin. I majored in Geography and the Environment and am currently working to finish my teaching certification in high school Social Studies.
I had the distinct pleasure this semester of teaching my 11th grade history students about the Environmental Activism movement of the 1970s. Much to their chagrin my lesson and I were about as thorough and excited as they could stand (complete with recycled sparkly leaves I presented as rewards for participation). My enthusiasm about the lesson reminded me that over and again I am rediscovering my passion for nature and teaching, as well as new and exciting ways to blend the two together.
Spending this summer in the backcountry of Oregon will be an amazing opportunity to discover more about myself, nature, teaching, learning, my crew, and so many other things I’m sure that I cannot even imagine yet. I am ready to embrace this 3-month adventure and couldn’t be more excited to get started.
Sometimes I think about time traveling to visit myself when I was younger simply to hand that younger me Woody Guthrie’s autobiography and a brochure about SCA.
These days you will most likely find me with a musical instrument in one hand and a trail tool in the other. Living outside, playing in dirt, getting to know great people, caring for the land while learning from the natural world: yes I have found somewhat of a home in the trail work community perhaps even more so with the SCA.
This season I will be project leading in the Umatilla National Forest for SCA’s Corps program. We will be working in the North Fork of the John Day Wilderness in Northeastern Oregon. I am enthused to get to know the high desert and to do some great work.
Beginning with SCA in an Americorps program in Massachusetts 2010, I knew I had begun a whole new book of my life. I continued to be on a Leader Crew in the Allegheny National Forest, Pennsylvania. Last season I had the privilege to lead a high school crew in Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior, another high school crew in the Bitterroot Wilderness in Idaho, and returned to the Allegheny National Forest, Pennsylvania to lead a Leader Crew. These have all been greatly varying and extremely rewarding experiences. It is such an honor to learn from all of the folks that I have been fortunate enough to work with and the woods I have been lucky enough to be embraced by.
With many hugs, many high fives, farm work, cross country travel, and concerts in between trail crews these have been quite a splendid few years, and I intend to keep the adventure abound. Be well and I hope to see you around.
|Gearing Up For the High Desert|
|N Shawn Newman|
|Hitch 6: Ummmmm.... You call that trail work?|
|Back to the Stone Age|
|Log out with a chance of thunderstorms, hail, and super positive people!|
|So I Gotta Ask Ya, How's the Hitch Three Coffee|
|Snow, Sunshine, and Rusted Nails at the Lake of Olives!|
|Niether Rain, Nor Sleet, Nor Herculean Lumberjacks|