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.