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)

UT Stengl “Lost Pines” Biological Station

Trekking through the woods
Crisscross applesauce
Oh man, I think we’re lost
That stump’s too high
Ouch! I stubbed my toe
Get it cut and get ’em low
Apply with caution
Sprayer full of herb
That straps done hit a nerve
My back really hurts
And my feet are sore
But it doesn’t really matter
‘Cuz we’re ready for more
-Lucas Lachica – Disaster Response Team Leader (Blue Crew)

Rock Work on the Water Quality Protection Lands

During the first week of March Silver Crew had a fresh mission at a spot
called Onion Creek Ranch. We were excited and primed for some new
adventures. We began the week by separating into teams to tackle the main
obstacles along the trail used mostly for water testing and to educate citizens
on the waters entering Barton Springs.

The first task was several rock steps on adjacent sides of the creek wash.
I had the pleasure of working with Chancey and Katherine on the rock
armoring crossing the bottom of the wash. We made a ton of crush and
arranged a puzzle path of rocks. After that duty was fulfilled Chancey and I
moved onto tread work down the trail. As our McLeods flew fresh trail
appeared hopefully, lasting for years to come.

Toward the end of the week I swamped for Kaitlyn as she cut down Ashe
Juniper to be used in the wood steps leading to the water. I closed out my
week by debarking those logs to be sectioned and utilized in steps. All in all,
an awesome week of new tasks at a new place with the same cracking crew.

Adam Newman – Conservation & Disaster Crew (Silver)

Red Crew works with TreeFolks

From Saplings to seedlings,
Planted behind us,
Flowing streams and calming rivers, teeming with Cypress.

Creeks and banks dotted with flags,
as we marched on,
carrying life within our bags.

Rock and soil, was no match for our tools, with spirit and determination,
we planted our green jewels.

In the hopes to restore the riparian zone
We dug to plant Mountain Laurel and Dogwood,
To give them a new home.

Bare-roots such as Buttonbush, needed extra care.
And to ensure their growth and wellness,
They were planted as a pair.

On the waterside we toiled, all throughout Wimberly,
Even as far as San Marcos,
We planted our trees gingerly.

As we worked and our boots soaks,
we cannot go without thanking our new friends, Valerie and Kayla from TreeFolks.

As we traveled, we passed many trees with amazing height,
looking at the seed in our hands, we can’t help but imagine the surprise we’ll find should we return to the site.

Ivan DeLeon – Conservation & Disaster Crew Member (Red Crew)

Trails Across Texas: Guadalupe River State Park > Curry Creek Trail

“Civilization shouts, gives orders, writes rules, puts man in institutions and intimidates him with a thousand irritating directives. In return it offers him protection, soul salvation and a living if he can find it. Nature looks down on him and broods in silence. Its noises of running streams and wind in the trees are its own, not directed at but soothing to him because he heard them before he heard the noises of civilization.” -Walter Prescott Webb

The new trail construction the TAT crew has been working on at Guadalupe River State Park is known as the Curry Creek Trail. This winding trail is moderate to challenging with a variety of terrains including meadow grasslands, woody cedar forests, and rocky cliff sides with the serene sounds of Curry Creek. Over the past 9 day hitch the crew has learned and constructed many different types of trail including crib wall construction, side hilling, tread work, rock smashing, grip-hoisting, and even some chainsaw operation before Golden Cheek Warbler season begins. Rock work seemed to be the most frustrating aspect of the new trail construction, but at the end of the day the result was well worth the pain and irritation it took to get there. You never know what you’re going to find underneath the soil. Usually it’s just rocks on rocks but sometimes you can even run into a patch of onions hiding underneath.

Every day the crew embarked out on a new adventure where they ran into numerous different types of wildlife along the way. On the drive to work every morning the crew had the pleasure to drive through loose livestock farms where they got to encounter horses of all kinds, hogs, deer, and cows. While out on the trail they encountered diverse animals such as salamanders, goats, and Golden Cheek Warblers. At the end of each work day the crew returned to camp where they had run ins with armadillos rustling through the brush, Raccoons doing what they do best, and the screams of ‘whaling women’ which turned out to be Bobcats close to camp.

One of the ways we entertain ourselves on the job is by naming our rocks. We had our biggest rock Betsy that you can see featured in the panorama of the crib wall at the top of the article, along with Rhonda and Bessy that got split up because their ears didn’t mesh well as a pair. Trail games are another way we pass the time and get to know one and others interests. Games such as the Green Glass Door, The Line Game, and Man Versus Monster seemed to be our favorites. Man Versus Monster topics included Steve Irwin, Cole Sprouse, Jerry Springer, Disney’s adventures through Star Wars, and the Jordan/Tristan drama. Humor is another way the TAT crew bonds together. One of the debrief topics from the week included our own take on the “I smell like beef” viral video. Each crew member picked out their own strange smell that matched them for the day including eggs, sulfur, Walmart, urine, dirt, fajitas, cheese, Joey, and Lysol.  

On one of the final days of the work week every crew member had a tough battle that helped them discover their strengths and thrived while doing it. We were split into groups. Cassidy, Joey and Amber worked with the grip hoist pulling out rooted trees and finished the day hiking out all of the extremely heavy equipment back to our van a mile down the trail all on their own. Sam, Sharla, and Taylor worked on the crib-wall, setting numerous rocks like a puzzle which resulted in Taylor smashing her finger between two large rocks, OUCH. Bre was working to take out a stump deeper than it looked to reveal a body sized hole that she filled with crush instead of a dead body. Finally Hayden and Yuli worked on taking out a monster Oak stump that truly kicked their butts.

The final day of hitch the crew trekked out on a nature walk to check out a new trail we would be working on the next hitch. Along the way we found a ginormous tree that of course we had to climb and take a group picture along with a beautiful riverbend where we spent some time with our feet in the water skipping rocks and picking up floating trash. Overall the crew managed to accomplish adding 0.15 miles of trail to total 0.75 miles constructed so far. This construction included a 27 foot crib wall that we managed to set over 20 rocks, many trees and stumps pulled from the ground with the power of the grip hoist and our brute strength in our short 9 day hitch.

“Trees and Rivers are green, Skies grey or blue. Trail work is so cool, you should do it too! Tribes eating well, N’ sunsets are swell. Us feeling all good, nighttime campfires lift up the wood. Learning new skills, toughing through morning chills. Let us all beam, we are the TAT team.” –Yuli

Breanna Hild – Trails Across Texas Crew Member


Greenshores, a Tale of Victory

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Our second visit of service at Greenshores, was nothing short of a victory! The cold, wet weather tried to act as a hurdle, but the working bond between Green and Purple crews took all of the changes and the given conditions in good stride. Even in the cold, we were always chipper enough for chipping with the chipper. Finally, with all of the trees and branches shredded and dispersed, we we’re now ready to come back home. All a little stronger, and a little closer!

Elijah Smith – Conservation & Disaster Crew (Purple)

Battling Ligustrum on the Greenbelt

This week Silver Crew fought gallantly against the Ligustrum’s attempt to take over the Barton Creek Greenbelt. We armed ourselves to the teeth with chainsaws, herbicide and weed wrenches. The crew then proceeded to the Gus Fruh front to end the Ligustrum’s reign of terror. We fought all week saving many allies such as Oak and Ashe Juniper. We also made foes along the way including one of our most challenging armies to vanquish – the nasty Nandina. Nandina grips the earth with very intricate root systems that make it next to impossible to eradicate. Herbicide had no effect on this species as it would just sprout new soldiers from the web of roots it clutched the terrain with. We spent countless hours working to remove every single root that could blossom into a new army. We had days of rain that made it tough to deal with our foes since it made two of our most useful weapons completely worthless and we would risk hurting our allies if we used them. At the end of the week we decimated a good chunk of the enemy their corpses were strewn across the trail to dissuade any more invasives from popping up. We may have had a small victory this week at Gus Fruh but we will always be reminded of the horrors that we saw any time we spot a Nandina or Ligustrum standing strong around Austin.

Henry Borowski – Conservation & Disaster Crew (Silver)