Two Weeks as a TXCC Crew Member

Limericks of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve Experience

Monday morning the van traversed
Rocky roads, with each bump an outburst
From crew members who arrived
Excited yet sleep deprived;
With eager eyes and laughs they conversed.

Enveloped in a new atmosphere
Away from the fatigued highways austere,
Robins danced in the treetops
Singing and flying nonstop,
And a collective peace became clear.

The project partner explained their role:
“Chop down some cedar!” he said as he strolled
Through the dense forest of green,
“Create space for birds to preen.”
He gazed at the woods with love for its soul.

The crew members surveyed the territory,
Ready to fall some trees with glory.
They assembled the saws
And began without pause;
For they knew this would make a good story.

Soon, facts were discovered commonly;
Chainsaws liked to break constantly,
The mud never left the “road”,
And gloves became wet and cold.
Yet not much harmed this ragtag family.

Self-improvement goals were undertaken,
Forging smiles and spirits unshaken.
But while encouragement was bountiful,
Expletives were uncountable,
As some trees felt directly forsaken.

Bumps and bruises swiftly appeared,
One old back injury interfered,
But the crew trudged onward,
Driven to work unbothered,
As the project completion neared.

The crew looked back with fondness
On their achievements despite such novice.
With just some tools and hard hats,
They preserved the habitat.
It was time to head back to the office.

Caroline Fangman – Conservation & Disaster Crew Member (Purple Crew)

Silver on the Greenbelt

This week Silver Crew continued removing invasive species at the Barton Creek Greenbelt. We worked at the Gus Fruh trailhead on the opposite side of the creek from last week. We have gotten more efficient at removing Ligustrum and Nandina each week and worked our way down the trail quickly. Our main challenge these past few weeks has been removing Nandina. While Ligustrum can simply be cut down and sprayed with herbicide, in order to properly get rid of Nandina, all of the roots have to be removed from the ground, as any that are left will grow new shoots. We came across a few examples of this where new shoots were growing next to previously cut shoots and the roots had become a monstrous clump. The roots also like to grow under any nearby rocks, which added an extra level of difficulty in certain areas. Luckily, we found that weed wrenching can usually get out most of the roots, which sped up our removal time drastically this week. Having lived in Austin for nearly five years and frequently visiting the Greenbelt, it has been awesome to learn what goes into trail maintenance for the area.

Amanda Schwark – Conservation & Disaster Crew (Silver)

Mansfield Dam Park

During the week, Red Crew had spent most of their time building box steps at  Mansfield Dam Park in a picnic area to prevent further erosion and provide better footing to park-goers that would use the space. Throughout this project, a number of different factors attributed to both our setbacks and our timely completion of the steps. From leaving behind crucial tools and either improvising or changing focus on to different task  to cooperating with the nearby Green Crew to aid one another with our obstacles. In this particular project, many different skills were tested as we did everything from sawing and measuring the lengths of our boxes for our steps, digging out the square and trenches for said steps, creating crush to properly set in logs for the steps, firmly planting the steps with a drill and rebar, and finding the most efficient method for debarking rotten wood. After completing the steps with a day to spare, we set our sights on replacing a wooden railing near the steps and helping Green Crew with general renovations and corridor clearing in a different area of the park.

Despite the number of different bumps in the road we encountered with this project, it was a joy to see the camaraderie among Red Crew as they all managed to keep a smile in the face of it all. As breaks were spent cracking jokes and skipping rocks along the river. Everyone had preserved through the cloudy, cold winds that had eventually turned into unbearable heat for the sawyers in their chaps. All resulting in a box-step stair case that they were all more than happy to admire and walk upon. Not only that, but as Red Crews’ first time installing Box steps and working so closely together, it admittedly was a rocky start, but as the week progressed, the end goal became clearer as did their communication and cooperation with each other. In their inexperience and mistakes, valuable lessons were taken away that will surely be applied in future projects and it aided their bonding as a crew. #RedCrewBestCrew

Ivan DeLeon – Conservation & Disaster Crew (Red Crew)

Hitch #1: Guadalupe River State Park – Bauer Unit – Curry Creek Trail 1/28-2/6

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“May this fast vibrating frequency stay on its tune or higher” wrote Yuliya Semenova in our hitch journal on February 2, the halfway point. Reading back through the journal to catch up on what others had felt, especially Yuliya’s quote, signaled to me that we are composing a symphony here. The pluck of crew leader Amber’s ukulele and the twang of member Cassidy’s banjo, the squish and slice of hazel hoes and McCleods in the mud, sawtooth to wood, pick-mattock on rock, cutter to stump, laughter by way of silly jokes and fun pranks, sizzle of fried potatoes in the cast iron, the whine of the spigot as we fill our bottles, a sigh at the end of the day, each tired “good morning” at the beginning.

We cheered and hooted in the van on our way to the trail when we saw the wild pigs running so fast in the pasture, we awed and cooed at the cows and bulls almost every trip, we shouted and booed the raccoon when he so brazenly stole the chips off our picnic table. Our song is metered in feet and drainage dips, hummed in the key of our sweat, and counted off by our tool inventory each morning and afternoon.

This composition is imperfect as of yet, but we are taking the time to write it. Every foot of trail cut and every camp chore done reminds us of our commitment to the song. We stretch in the morning like we’re dancing to our own tune, and we debrief each afternoon like we’re listening to what we’ve written. It’s a peculiar thing to realize, seeing as how we never agreed to write a song at all. But here we are, a team of trail builders and maestros, creating our opus. Wish us luck!

– Samuel Walters – Trails Across Texas Crew Leader

LaCC Crimson Crew: Hitch 1

For our first real hitch we were sent to Kisatchie National Forest.  When we arrived we met a very enthusiastic man named David.  He was happy to see us and learn more about each of us and why we were here.  After we finished filling out paper work and talking with David, he showed us the house we would be staying in.  Yes that is right, we got to stay in a house for the duration of our time in Kisatchie.  The following day we went with David and another botanist named Chris, to the prairies we would be working at for our time there.  We were showed what we would be doing, which was girdling and herbiciding sweet gum trees to open up the prairies.  We then began the arduous task of identifying and girdling these trees with hatchets and brush knives, or if they were small enough just lopping them with the loppers.  It was quite warm during our time there, and more importantly humid, at least for those that were not used to the humidity.  However we still managed to get our first prairie done within a couple hours and were ready to begin our next and much larger prairie after our lunch break.  As we began this next prairie we realized that it would not be as easy as our first one, this one would take a lot more work and we decided that we would bring out our brush cutter to help get rid of a lot of the smaller stuff because there was just so much of it.  During this time it began to rain, most of us ran back to our stuff to grab rain jackets and cover our packs, but some of us were not as afraid of a little rain and just as quick as it came, it had left.  This would be our only time actually working when it had rained because we could not herbicide during this time and when it rained next it was not as small.  On day 4 of the hitch we started early because rain and storms were in the forecast for the afternoon.  When the time and clouds were approaching the silence and change in temperature were noticed.  At this moment we left the site and ended up finishing our day cleaning up our house so that we would not have to do this later.  Our final day of the hitch we started early as well because we had to leave before noon, and we wanted to finish the final part of the prairie we were working on.  Because of the rainstorms it was now much colder out and we were feeling it, we now brought out our chainsaw and were determined to get as much work done as we could before we had to leave.  When the time came to leave we were glad with what we were able to accomplish and we couldn’t wait until the next time we would be able to come out there again and work with David.

Thank You,

Mathew Humphrey

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