SCA Idaho AmeriCorps Hits the Field


Only a month ago the Corps members of SCA Idaho AmeriCorps arrived in Boise to start five months of service in the Salmon-Challis National Forest. An unbelievable amount has happened in that brief month: everyone has moved into their new homes at the former Moyer Heli Base; all of the members have been certified by Aerie Backcountry Medicine as Wilderness First Responders; everyone participated in the American Hiking Society’s Twentieth National Trails Day and then completed SCA Work Skills; there have also been numerous smaller trainings and the development of a fabulous community as well as plenty of time to explore the surrounding area and enjoy life outside of work. The Moyer Heli Base was formerly occupied by fire crews. The Forest has provided the facilities to house the Corps Members during training and throughout the season. There is an office, kitchen, and community room, as well as living quarters for every member. The Members are able to make use of all the amenities and have turned Moyer into a comfortable home. As one member said, “It’s like a friendly forest neighborhood,” a neighborhood where everyone is working toward a common goal, but is still able to be themselves and pursue their own individual passions. When asked about life at Moyer, Ben Dunphey, an SCA veteran and former High School Crew Leader, said simply, “It’s amazing!” After a few days of orientation to SCA, AmeriCorps, and the Salmon-Challis National Forest the Members started a Wilderness First Responder (WFR) Course. Two instructors from Aerie Backcountry Medicine came out to Moyer to provide the training. After multiple days of practice and smaller scale mock scenarios, the experiential portion of the course culminated with a final incident involving multiple casualties. The instructors held nothing back and seven volunteers role played as victims of a severe lightning strike. Lisa Weidemann stated that “WFR training helped us build our community and work as a team. The Multiple Casualty Incident tested the leadership abilities of all of our members.” The team of rescuers deployed and put their training to the test. For the next few hours they provided care and managed the scene. The incident finished with an incredible real-time litter carry of a volunteer through difficult terrain. The instructors stood by to call a stop if necessary but never had the slightest amount of doubt in the Members. After proving themselves in the Multiple Casualty Incident, everyone passed their written test and became certified as WFRs. Chris Jackson-Jordan said, “I really enjoyed learning how to help people” and feels that he has the tools necessary to respond to an emergency in the wilderness setting. After a couple of well deserved days off, the Members started SCA Work Skills. Three of SCA’s Instructors made the long trek to meet them on Upper Yellow Jacket Trail in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness of the Salmon-Challis. The first day of work skills involved an introduction to the trails of the Salmon-Challis by forest service personnel, followed by an afternoon of tread rehabilitation. The next four days involved a range of trail skills including tread realignment, moving and setting large rocks for culverts and as anchor points, addressing drainage concerns, brushing the trail corridor to Forest Service specifications, care and maintenance of tools, turnpike construction, the philosophy of trail-building, obliterating boulders, and felling trees. After a couple of beautiful days, the weather turned sour and the Members persevered through the cold, rain, and even a little snow, and left with a strong foundation of trail skills in their metaphorical toolbox. Nicholas Larson later commented that it “felt good to learn how much work it takes to build a trail. I definitely feel more connected to the land having gone through that process.” There have been many other less intensive training modules: a four wheel drive course, radio training, vegetation identification, and Leave No Trace principles to mention a few. Through this melee of activity, the Members have made great use of their time off. Almost daily there is a group or multiple groups going hiking; folks are planting gardens and cooking; our resident yoga instructor gives lessons frequently; people are going to hot springs or venturing into town to make connections with local clubs and are becoming familiar with the community of Salmon; rock climbers, mountain bikers, and fly-fishers are finding ample opportunity to scratch their itching passions; a group of ladies often get together to play music together and learn new tunes from each other and many join in just to listen. It seems that everyone is able to express and challenge themselves and find rejuvenation in the activities they love. This year’s members are a stellar compilation of individuals. They are a highly motivated, diverse group of individuals that bring many different talents and interests to our program. As they start their first Hitch this week it is exciting to think about what they will accomplish and how they will grow in the next four months.