Life after Fernando and Kos: how to fill the void? Some of us took to merrymaking ’round the hearth, guitars in hand, voices rapturous. Others retreated to the creeks and hills for some much-needed solitude and refreshment under the starry Idaho sky. Still others mellowed out completely, sticking to their cabins, keeping house and recharging for yet more training ahead.
After our short break, we jumped back into skills training. The SCA expects the highest degree of leadership from its corps members, which means we neophytes must apprise ourselves of every imaginable talent, from washing a dish worthy of the envy of the most exacting OSHA official, to maintaining troop morale during a forced march through the Bitterroot Mountains in the dead of Winter. Wait. That was the Corps of Discovery, not AmeriCorps. But you get my point—if we are going to lead like Lewis and Clark (and get similar, if less grandiose things done for America), then we have a lot to learn.
Three days of general skills training and we were all experts at setting up camp, building a back country kitchen, smashing rocks, resolving conflicts, swinging tools (at least, the tools that are meant to be swung), navigating the byzantine pathways of inter-agency bureaucracy by way of paperwork, and tricking bears into eating someone else’s food. What’s more, each of us knows exactly how many steps he/she must take to cover 200 feet of ground—also known as “pacing” (this skill comes in handy later when quantifying your labor and reporting it to the aforementioned agencies). There is a sense that we are all committed to safe, fun and effective conservation of the Salmon Challis NF. Excitement is in the air; you could cut it with a baguette.
What follows after general skills training? That’s right! Work skills training, which really ought to be called “trail skills training” because it is basically four days of brutal trail work. Based on all the moaning and groaning and complaints of soreness and aching—myself included—I surmised that no one in this group had ever before lifted a finger to build or maintain a wilderness trail. Well, all that has changed. Thanks to the help of our friendly and talented instructors—Jill, Steve and Chris—our group now enjoys a privileged position amongst the vanguard of trail workers in the Moyer area. Our once puny, ineffective muscles and shamefully weak backs have been hardened to steel. They call us the Iron Trailblazers of Moyer. Our previously-acceptable normal eyes have been replaced with super-sensitive TRAIL EYES. We can never walk another trail without assessing the tread and drainage, the various angles and slopes, the surrounding corridor, the timber work, etc. I don’t really know what else to say about trail building, other than that it is very fun and very painful at the same time.
Oh, and that thing I said about work skills training following general skills training? That was a lie. A bold-faced lie. IMMEDIATELY following general work skills training, we celebrated National Trails Day by visiting the Sacajawea Center in Salmon. We spent the day assisting city recreation director Judy Barkley with various grounds keeping chores like weeding, shrub trimming, and scrubbing bird droppings off of statues and signage. The grounds are beautiful, and the center is full of useful and informative information [sic] about Sacajawea and her role in the Corps of Discovery. Also we were rewarded with cookies for a job well done. All around it was a great day.
After work skills training we had a few days off, and then we found ourselves somehow magically transported to the wonderful world of leadership training. We had a few very laid back days in which we talked more about managing group dynamics and supporting group efforts, interspersed with some specific trainings and certifications that were not for all, but only some—for example, crosscut saw training, and ATV training. We also learned how to operate hand-held radios, which was an invitation to mischief and misbehavior.
Ever-looming in the not too distant future: our first hitches. We received our final assignments a few days prior to departure, giving us just enough time to organize our groups and prepare. Following this blog post, you can expect to read a lot about specific work projects, as we shall not be gone but for two weeks. Until then, take it easy! (but for Pete’s sake, take it!)