A sunny, windless day. An orange bucket filled with dirt pods, shoots of pine needles poking out. A heavy metal rockbar. For eight hours a day for five days, our world was as small as this. Talk about tunnel vision, am I right?
Purple Crew spent January 23 to 27th on hitch in Bastrop State Park. We were lucky enough to be camping with the Bastrop crew for the duration of the hitch, and it was wonderful to be able to spend more time with them as a crew now that training is over.
Of course, we were completing a separate project from the Bastrop crew. Every morning Purple Crew would pile into the car, hot morning beverage of choice in hand, and drive out of the park to a patch of grass featuring several truck containers. There we would stretch, answer the question of the day, and wait for our TreeFolks to come.
TreeFolks is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to providing members of its communities with free trees. Of course, the main goal goes much beyond the physical planting process; a tree, once grown, does incredible things for its environment. In the Bastrop area’s case, our M.O. for planting trees was basic: to replace the trees lost in two bad burns from 2011 and 2016.
The schedule was hectic and involved a lot of travel. Since we were planting on residential property, there was a lot of drive time built into the day, not only at the beginning and end but throughout the day. Some days we would visit as many as 12 or 15 properties in a day; other days it might be more like 6 or 8.
We would pull up opposite the property, distribute trees and little orange flags into nine buckets, and head out into the field wielding rockbars. Over time, we each individually perfected the technique: shove rockbar into the ground, wiggle it around a bit, drop the tree in, cover it up, flag it, and move on. Over the course of those five days we were able to plant 8,227 trees.
However, just because we were planting like the wind didn’t mean we were soulless machines. We played many a game of Inky Pinky and had the types of conversations unique to a conservation corps crew that will make us think back fondly on these days. Our TreeFolks, Derek and Camille, took us to the river most days for lunch, where Joshua showed off his rock-skipping talent and we’d try to even out our farmer’s tans.
I consider it incredibly lucky that Purple Crew was able to hitch out for that week, since the original plan was for it to be a commuting week. Because we nixed that travel time every day we were able to plant more than even our TreeFolks expected, and we were also able to get a real test run of our new gear. This is not to mention the bonding that happens when you isolate a small group of people in the woods . All in all, the hitch was wildly successful and a great way to start the season.
-Kaleigh Choi – Field Crew Member