SCA Idaho Workskills 2009

I just finished up teaching SCA workskills along with three other instructors for the last week. I taught the tread and drainage station each day. We built waterbars(rock and timber), constructed reverse grade dips, cleared slough and reshaped backslopes. It was fun although as an instructor I would have liked a project that built on the previous days work rather than starting fresh each day. Here are some of the pictures of the SCA members hard at work. You can see more in my SCA Trail Workskills photo album.

Project Leader - Florida National Scenic Trail

I just accepted a fall/winter position with the SCA as a project leader for two back-to-back crews on the Florida National Scenic Trail. The first crew will be in the fall and have a variety of projects ranging from reroutes to boardwalk while the second crew in winter will be constructing a suspension bridge for almost the entire three months.

SCA Project Leader Training

I have spent much of this week in Boise, ID for the Student Conservation Association's project leader training. We have been covering topics ranging from conflict resolution to defensive driving and the 26 project leaders have had the opportunity to share experiences, challenges, and concerns about the upcoming season. I am always amazed by the growth and leadership that can be fostered in the SCA experience.

I am one of the trail project leaders(trail crews rock), but there are many other crews working in the SCA Native Plant Corps, Wildland Fire Corps and Desert Restoration Corps. Next Tuesday I will be heading off to the Salmon - Challis National Forest to meet with the forest staff and plan for the summer. Hopefully I will have the crew hired by May and ready to begin crew member training in June at Mt. Rainier. I'm excited!

I have also been given some cool toys to play with. Who would have guessed a trail crew leader would be getting a Blackberry with an unlimited data plan and a laptop? It makes sense though since internet access will be difficult at times and it does not make sense to drive somewhere to get internet access.

Anyway, this must be one of the best jobs working outdoors. The pay is great, the people are great, and the experience cannot be beat.

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:

Trail Construction

Trail Construction

Trail Construction

Trail Construction

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:

SCA Trail 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:

Trail Bridge

Bridge Construction

Completed Bridge Construction

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:

Rock Staircase

Rock Work

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:

Alder Stumps

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:

New Trail Construction

New Hiking 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.

Exit Glacier

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.

Lost Lake Backpacking


Wrangell St. Elias National Park

Denali National Park

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.

On the Road Again: SCA Desert Restoration Corps

Making a quick stop at an Iowa wayside with wifi on my way to El Centro California to work as part of the Student Conservation Association Desert Restoration Corps from now until the end of May. I'm looking forward to this job and experiencing the desert ecosystem. I'm not sure how I will handle the heat, but I survived the 90 degree 70+ humidity days in Virginia this past summer.

1. Desert Restoration Corps Training
2. First week of work in the Yuha Desert
3. Yuha DRC Photo Album
4. Pictures from a day in the Yuha Desert in southern California

Yuha Desert Restoration Crew

The Student Conservation Association

I would like to recommend the Student Conservation Association to anyone that wants to work for the National Park Service, Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management or Fish and Wildlife. At the very least, the internships are a great way to build experience, meet new people, and see great places.

I just completed a 3 month internship through the SCA at Shenandoah National Park. I spent the three months working in the Backcountry, Wilderness, and Trails Branch of the park with my duties being monitoring and restoration of backcountry impacts. I enjoyed my time at SNP so much that I have decided to do another SCA during the winter months and hopefully get a seasonal position for the NPS or USFS next year.

My second SCA will be part of their Desert Restoration Corps in southern California. I'll be working out of El Centro, CA in the Yuha Desert monitoring and restoring backcountry areas. This position is very similar to the one I had at Shenandoah National Park, but I will deal with a much wider range of uses besides day hikers and backpackers.

Again, I want to recommend the Student Conservation Association for any college student with an interest in the outdoors and resource conservation.

Student Conservation Association



Today I helped two of the north district trail crew guys clear the Pine Hill Gap Trail from the park boundary to a little past Short Hot Mountain Trail. The access road to the park boundary in the valley was quite a culture shock the way some people lived there. The one place was full of trash and basically a collection of tarps hung over a vehicle that an old man lived in...

We parked the truck on edge of this single lane road and began the day hiking up a steep trail. We had two corona saws, an axe with a wedge and a large crosscut saw that was probably 100 years old. Since this was wilderness area we couldn?t use chainsaws.

We made slow but steady progress up the trail a couple miles gaining something like 1200 feet elevation. The final count was approximately 60 trees that we cleared with some a couple feet in diameter. Right now, my arms and shoulders are dead, but at least it was a good time and I gained some experience with a crosscut saw. Luckily, I have three days to explore the park before I start work again on Tuesday.