We’ve spent our last hitch wrapping up earlier projects, observing wildlife, securing observation areas, and reminiscing on the past six months. During the past 10 days we assisted in painted the remainder of parking bumpers to finally close out that project. Last week we replaced spindles, and this week we removed the old ones from the recreational sight. The majority of our time though was spent replacing hurricane tabs which secure observation towers in case of extreme high winds. Two days on this hitch was spent with our project partner, she shared her long term hobby of bird watching with us. We all received National Geographic Bird books and binoculars to be able to spot and identify each species. After some time we all really got into it, choosing our favorite birds and calling them out when spotted! Van rides to work sights were spent with our favorite songs from the past months, sparking memories and laughs. We got creative in the kitchen creating meals we’ve yet to think of… all extremely delicious! After work we took walks along the path behind our bunk house, seeing sunsets, snakes, birds and enjoying our last few days. We’ve all learned so much and valued our time working within the Nation Wildlife Refuge system and all the connections we’ve made here.
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.
Our last hitch in Texas has been completed! And it sure was one for the books. By far the toughest hitch we’ve been through this season. But those are always the ones you remember the most. We had a 10 day spike camp hitch, continuing the construction of a 600 ft boardwalk at Turtle Bayou. An area covered in at least a foot of mud. We’ve been closely working with the Texas Conservation Corps with this project but got to take it on with just our crew this hitch. Through the mud, freak storm that ripped tents, and tool malfunctions, we managed to add an additional 95 feet of boardwalk! Doing maintenance of boardwalks is not new to us, but building them from scratch was. There was a steep learning curve for the crew but, by the end of this last hitch I think it’s safe to say we’re pretty close to experts now. We’re sad to leave Texas and say goodbye to our friends at TXCC but are very proud of the work we put in. Back to the SouthWest Refuges!
– LaCC Crew Leader, Courtney Gullo
This week was one of new experiences, growth and knowledge. Our goal this week was to make progress on the Turtle Bayou boardwalk, and clear out brush to plant Mulberry and Cypress trees. We worked alongside our sister crew, Aqua from TxCC, with so many hands work was light and after the first morning we found a perfect organization and rhythm. The mud and water on the trails was the most difficult and frustrating part of this week, boots got stuck, bodies landed in deep pools of mud and tools were easily dirty and harder to use. This slowed work, but we managed to make wonderful headway with helpful hands and positive attitudes on both crews! Later on in the week a small group separated to brush cut, in order to plant trees along a march road. The trees are to be planted to create better habitats for birds and protect the marsh and road from erosion. With well suited tools this job was simple and we were able to quickly see results. Thursday afternoon we joined Texas crews at a educational talk about the migration of monarch butterflies and their declining habitat and population. This was eye opening to many crew members and a wonderful reminder of the importance of our work. All three crews (pink,aqua and the new TxCC gold crew) debriefed together and shared our favorite part of this week. This hitch as a team we had to better our communication skills and assimilate to working with a larger crew. We learned how to properly deal with different and difficult working conditions and use all team members gifts as a tool to better our work.
-LaCC Crew Member, Olivia Bischoff
This week, Pink Crew crossed the border to join Texas Conservation Corps’ Aqua Crew in their work at Armand Bayou, outside of Houston, TX. Having previously trained in Wilderness First Aid and Wildland Firefighting with Aqua crew, we enjoyed getting the chance to work directly with them on their home turf.
We again camped at Galveston Island State Park for the week and were joined at our campsite by LaCC’s new Red Crew, as they started their term with Wilderness First Aid training. Camping right off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico provided beautiful views and a nice change of pace for us.
Our week at Armand Bayou was devoted to restoring the area’s coastal prairies to their natural state. We focused on removing Chinese Privet and Chinese Tallow, two highly invasive species. We used chainsaws, brush saws, and loppers to cut down the Privet and Tallow and, in drier areas, applied herbicide to the low stumps to prevent regrowth. Frequent rain in recent weeks left the prairie waterlogged, so hip boots were required to reach several areas. It was messy (fun) work.
One highlight from our trip was an impromptu visit to Johnson Space Center, just minutes away from Armand Bayou. After a long day of work in the prairie, we decided to check it out after seeing the Independence shuttle from the highway.
-LaCC Crew Leader, Ridgely Dorsey
Read about the hitch here: fountian hitch.rtf
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