Wrapping up the 2023 Trail Ambassador Season:
Intro by Lindsay Butcher, FOI Stewardship Director
Here we are, yet again. Somehow we’ve made it to the end of another trail season, despite this year continuing to pose new and adventurous challenges throughout the passing summer months, which were particularly wet, with trails remaining inaccessible until mid-late July! Once trails were melted out, downed trees rendered them impassible. Mid season monsoons washed roads away. Luckily fires were of little consequence (knock on wood, fingers crossed, hold you breath…. don’t jinx it!) Through it all the Trail Ambassadors persevered. Here’s what the All-Star crew has to say about wrapping up their season.
Jean: White Mountain Ranger District
The autumnal glow sheds light on how much we accomplished on trail this season. When I first hit the trails, I kept singing the Grateful Dead lyrics “Well the first days are the hardest days, don’t you worry anymore…” Wherever I hiked there were multiple downed trees, heavily overgrown brush, water or massive rocks in the trail, creating many obstacles to the destination. Sometimes it would take many days to saw, lop and shovel my way to some of the viewpoints or lakes. Ultimately, on the other side of the challenge is freedom. It’s so rewarding to clear barriers, open the way on trails, prevent riparian area social trails and it feels especially wonderful to receive gratitude from the Forest Service and hiking community. As aspens strip their golden leaves, the winds whip their cold bites and the brilliant light fades into increasing darkness, I recognize the beauty in the fading. I’m excited to see what winter creates, and when the darkness returns to light, we will again rise up to the challenge and witness the artistry of transformation.
Logan: Mt. Whitney Ranger District
As trail work begins to wind down here in the Sierra Nevada, mother nature ushers in winter time. This year working with Friends of the Inyo has been a wonderful journey. Starting out in the summer heat things were quite challenging. Learning how to navigate and work smart throughout the day was important. It was wonderful to be working up high in the mountains during this time. As time progressed spring began to bloom and blossom. Wildflowers popped up in the wetland areas followed by green topped pines blanketing the alpine. This scenery quickly saw the first snowfall of the season. As things progress towards winter, I am trying to wrap up and finish any last projects left in the backcountry.


Brian: Mammoth Lakes Ranger District
There isn’t much ceremony to the end of the season. The end doesn’t even have one date.  Seasonal Forest Service employees have their own personal end dates based on when they started (I think). It’s not like you really run into each other often in these vast wild spaces. The Friends of the Inyo Trail Ambassador program ended pretty late this year due to the snowy start. My last work night was spent camped at Royce Lake at 11,700 ft. It could have been too cold, alerting me that the season needed to end. But it was a hot and sweaty day of hiking that might have occurred in August. The cold did wake me up near dawn, so maybe that was a sign. But, also, my last trip was unsuccessful; I didn’t find the trash that I was sent out to retrieve. You might hope that the wilderness is well funded and sufficiently staffed, that all maintenance efforts are wrapped up each summer. That is not the case. The 1 worker per ranger district that the Friends of the Inyo contributes is a significant help.
Colt: Mono Lake Ranger District
This season has been full of high moments – moments run through with themes of satisfaction, gratitude, nourishment, and humility. Satisfaction. There are few things as satisfying as seeing muddy water flow through a drainage you carefully dug, or seeing a well-groomed trail corridor that cost you several hours and some minor abrasions. Gratitude. There are few jobs (or places) that provide more moments for quiet reflection on nature’s grandeur, or more praise from those we meet. Nourishment. It comes from a real connection with community and nature – drinking fresh water, eating tart berries, and sharing this life with others who have come here for the same reasons. Humility. It means seeing our small place in the big picture, while realizing the importance of our actions.
The rose of this season bloomed every time I remembered that I am not separate from the plants that I trim, the people I greet with a smile, or even the dirt I dig in. The plants are necessary for my living. The dirt under my nails also supports me as I walk across this teeming globe. Those that I greet in passing are truly my neighbors and kin. We are all in this together, and nothing can ever change that. What a gift.
The bud growing in me is the knowledge that I am always enough, and that I belong to a great community that includes all of nature and human experience. The beauty of a freshly unfurled flower is the beauty in you and I, and the innocence in a fawn’s eyes is a reflection of our own nature.
The thorn was the long, hard hours of work in the backcountry with no soft bed or bug-free house to return to at night. But those experiences showed me what is essential, and what I’m really capable of.
Being a Trail Ambassador has shown me that following your heart does not mean a life free of difficulties. It means a life of continued exploration, perseverance, and reflection. It means showing up for your values even when it would be easier to turn away or compromise. It means finding joy even in a world of pain and contradiction!
To everyone who makes this such a special place, thank you. You are so important.
Kelly: Humbolt-Toiyabe- Bridgeport Ranger District

In mid-June, I went into Buckeye Creek Canyon to scout the trail and start some trailwork. What I found were LUSH and inundated meadows, filled with irises, lupins, mariposa lilies, and green plants and trees everywhere. I took so many photos because I was not sure if it would ever be that wet again. The record-breaking winter was exciting and it was just as exciting to get out onto the trails this summer and see what the snow brought us. Other big highlights of the wet summer–many pollinators including bees and sphinx moths, water flowing on all of the trails, willows growing big and tall, huge aspen leaves, and many wildflowers I’ve never seen before this season. It was a super bloom season for the flowers. My favorite part was the countless sphinx moths! From the big green caterpillars with a spike on the end to the moth form of brown, white, and pink. They were all over the woods and high alpine, pollinating plants all day.

As the summer went on, the trails started to be less wet, the flowers started to die off slowly, and eventually we arrived here, in October. I was out in Buckeye Creek Canyon my last weekend in the field and we could see and feel fall nipping at our heels. The aspens were turning yellow, the shrubs and bushes were brown, the iris and most flowers were gone, and the field was turning brown. We’ve hit that change in the seasons, where you start to feel the mountains telling me to head home. It’s time for winter. Thank you to the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest for a beautiful summer and I enjoyed the trail work and backpacking and meeting people. It was rad!

Photos are of Buckeye Meadow from June, July, and October of 2023
That’s a wrap folks!
Thanks to all of our awesome volunteers and supporters that made this season the success that it was!
Measure U logo mammoth lakes