A Summer Building Trails
The Mojave National Preserve, Blue Ridge Parkway, and Kenai Fjords National Park are three of the places I have spent much of my summer working for the Student Conservation Association. I was a coleader for two crews and a member of one of the SCA staff crews. I built a bridge, designed new trail, chopped out that trail, moved huge rocks for a rock staircase and pulled hundreds of alder roots. These experiences have taught me quite a bit about trail work and a whole lot more about myself.
My first project early this summer was as a coleader of a 6 student SCA high school crew in the Mojave National Preserve. Our work was to be concentrated on new trail construction as much of the trail had been wiped out by fire and floods. We built over one mile of new trail and fixed the tread of almost another two miles in 21 days of work. The desert heat wasn't too bad and we only had a few days where it became an issue. Here are some photos of our work showing the new construction of trail:
For our recreational trip after the work, we traveled to Sequoia National Park. It was a long drive but I felt as though we needed to get out of the desert and find some water and trees. The crew also had a great time in the mountains and climbing up to high passes. Here is a picture of the crew:
After my crew in the Mojave National Preserve, I flew back home for a day and the flew out to Roanoke, Virginia to lead my second high school crew with my girlfriend, Ashley. This crew was going to be working much more frontcountry and deal less with the harshness of the environment I had in the Mojave, but we had terrific projects with the Blue Ridge Parkway NPS unit. The first and main project was replacing an old 26 foot bridge with a new, wider, and stronger bridge. The bridge took a little over a week to finish and was a terrific project. Here are some of the pictures at different stages:
After completing the bridge, we found another project building a rock staircase on a steep section of trail. The 16 step staircase took 5 days to build but should last for years. The crew did a great job making crush around the stairs and using heavy and appropriate rocks for stairs. Here are a couple pictures:
I am very proud of this staircase and think the crew did a tremendous job and put a lot of effort into a very difficult project. After completing these two projects, Ashley and I took the crew to the Great Smokey Mountains and Shenandoah National Park for environmental education and recreation. The crew participated in fish shocking in the Smokeys, backpacked in Shenandoah, and traveled much of the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was a great experience for all of the members.
When I started my first two high school crews, I was unsure what I would be doing when fall came around. One opportunity that Ashley and I had was to be a member of a staff crew working at Kenai Fjords National Park. The staff crew would be made up of six crew leaders from the summer and we would be putting in 1500 feet of new trail to relocate part of the Harding Ice Field Trail. The project would require working in temperate rainforest removing hundreds of alder stumps, walking through devil's club, and swatting biting red flys. Here is a picture showing the vegetation after a chainsaw had already gone through:
We worked extremely hard and made great progress. We knocked out 1500 feet of new trail and removed hundreds of stumps with nothing but a pulaski, pick mattock and loppers. However, I greatly enjoyed the lack of responsibility of being a crew member and being allowed to concentrate on work for several hours at a time. It was also a great opportunity for me to enhance my trail building skills, specifically designing trails. Here are some pictures of completed trail:
The opportunity to work in Kenai Fjords National Park was amazing. Every morning we had a view of mountains and glaciers such as this, taken 100 yards away from the cabin we were staying.
Working in Alaska also afforded us the opportunity to see much more of the state than Kenai Fjords National Park. Ashley and I made a week long road trip through Alaska traveling to places like Denali National Park and Wrangell St. Elias National Park. These two parks were two of the most beautiful places that I have ever been to. Snow covered mountains and wide open spaces could be seen in the distance at any point along our route. Here are a few of the most beautiful photos.
Overall, I had an amazing time and traveled to awesome places this summer and fall. I definitely think I could continue doing this for a few years as I have no expenses while doing these jobs. The projects are also extremely fulfilling, especially when I had an opportunity to make an impact on a high school crew member. There isn't a much better feeling.