Trail Work and Ditch Digging at the Water Quality Protection Lands

When we arrived at the site, our usual contact wasn’t there. Instead one of his coworkers greeted and took us through what we would be doing after finishing the other tasks. For some context, there are natural caves in the area that act as places for recharging groundwater. Our new contact took us to one such cave, which appeared like a hole of rock that snaked down into an abyss of unknown depth. Years ago, people would use such holes for disposing of trash, sometimes leading to the hole filling completely and being covered by dirt over time. A depressed patch of dirt (around 15ftx15ft) has been found and is suspected to be a sign of one such cave. It’s our job to dig in the area and look for the cave and/or signs of disposed trash, or rather, it will be our job. There is still work to finish by the creek so we leave the cave site and follow the dirt road deeper into the property. Stretch and safety starts as normal, but afterwards we split up into two main groups, one to finish steps and trail clearing from last week, one to make a separate set at a different point along the creek. I started on the new staircase, but switched to trail clearing after lunch. Monday went by smoothly, with the logs on both staircases being set in and suitable rocks found to complete them. Tuesday started with setting the base rock for a composite staircase (with log steps, steps made from metal pieces found on site, and one stone later decided to be placed at the bottom) that went down to the creek. This ended up being fairly tricky due to weight of the rock and the placement by the creek bed. The dirt turned to mud that slipped at the slightest provocation at a steep incline. It felt like the creek was dragging you in. Even with waders, I was confident that my pants would not survive the day dry. Although the present difficulties made progress slow going, with some effort and a little craftiness we were able to get it in place. The rest of the staircase had also been finished being drilled and rebar-ed and the other staircase completed, so after lunch we all headed back to the dig site. We spent the rest of the day there making pilot holes in the ground. The dirt only goes so far until being interrupted by bed rock, and we were looking for areas that went deeper, or any sign that we could find. Being sick Wednesday, I don’t know many details except that the rain did not make it any easier. Thursday our new contact came by and gave us some pointers on the way we were digging, and we switched from getting single data point holes to digging trenches to get a bigger picture of the rock we were hitting. The day saw much dirt moved from the ground, to buckets, to a wheelbarrow, and finally to a growing pile 10-20 feet from the dig site, but no signs of a cave. Friday was more of the same. Near the end of the day a small plastic looking piece was found, though we’re unsure if it was anything significant. We never did find a cave, but we moved enough dirt to bury a crew and that’s rewarding in its own right!

James Moriarty – Conservation & Disaster Crew Member (Silver)

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