The aspen leaves are making their annual change from green to orange/yellow/red, electrifying our Eastern Sierra landscape. Sadly, that means the all-important summer stewardship work of our Trail Ambassadors has come to an end.

September marked the last month our Trail Ambassadors (TAs) were out and about on the trails of our Eastern Sierra Forest Service lands, from Lone Pine to Bridgeport (a close-to-150-mile stretch of public lands).  Here’s just a bit of what they have been up to during the past several weeks:

Volunteers showing off their trash haul at Virginia Lakes.

Lily Emerson closed out the season with a super-successful cleanup at the fourth annual Bridgeport Trails Day. With a group of 14 volunteers and partners from the Bridgeport Ranger District of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, Lily led a day of picking up trash and fishing line around the Virginia Lakes Basin. Over the course of the day they collected over 40 pounds of trash and fishing line from the area, a truly staggering amount of refuse! Thank you to Mono County for helping promote this and other events to those outside of the Eastern Sierra.

Tess Irving-Ruffing, our TA on the Mammoth Ranger District of the Inyo National Forest (INF), has spent a great deal of time and effort on the Duck Pass corridor, focusing on dismantling illegal fire rings, disguising non-system social trails, and restoring illegal campsites. She has been out there every weekend, and the whole trail from Coldwater Trailhead to Duck and Pika Lakes looks amazing! Go ahead and check it out on a fall hike while there’s still time, before the weather starts turning cold and snowy.

Lead Ranger Hannah Gern (L) and Stewardship Director Alex Ertaud (R) discuss rock crush and fill.

On the White Mountain Ranger District of the INF, Lindsay Butcher (also our lead TA) has been hard at work helping Wilderness Ranger Chris Engelhardt and his Wilderness Rangers “put the trails to bed” by clearing water bars, brushing back overgrown foliage, and giving things one last look-over before the snow starts flying.

Also on the White Mtn. Ranger District, Lindsay, Kayla Browne (Mt. Whitney Ranger District TA), and I joined Chris, his Wilderness Rangers, and Trail Crews from both the Town of Mammoth Lakes and Mono County to help install a stone causeway on the Lower Rock Creek Trail. We worked on a section of trail that gets quite muddy, and this causeway will help drain the trail and keep hikers and bikers out of mud’s way! Our Friends of the Inyo team was out there for only one out of the eight days that the INF, Mono County, and Town of Mammoth Lakes crews were working on the project. A huge thank you goes to those folks for not only doing the hard, back breaking work it takes to ever improve our trails, but also for inviting us to join in the fun when our schedule allowed.

Volunteers clean and dismantle fire rings in the Alabama Hils.

As mentioned above, the Mt. Whitney Ranger District has been staffed by TA Kayla Browne. Kayla has had a furious last month of work, with a wide variety of projects: from a log out on the very southern end of the Forest at Black Rock, to doing Trail Assessment and Condition Surveys at Mazourka Canyon in the Inyo Mountains. And in Kayla’s home of Lone Pine, she, Lindsay, and I partnered with the Bureau of Land Management – Bishop Field Office, the Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association, Inyo County, and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power for a National Public Lands Day volunteer event in the Alabama Hills on Sept. 25. It was a morning of sign installation, trash pick-up, and fire ring dismantling. We dismantled 22 fire rings, installed eight signs, and packed out over an entire trailer of ash and trash. Many thanks to our 14 selfless volunteers who attended, and to our partners for such a great day of giving back!

Volunteers install “No Camping” signs off the west side of Movie Rd. in the Alabama Hills.

All in all, it was a tremendous summer of work by our Trail Ambassadors! They made me proud with their hard work through the heat, smoke, monsoon rains, and long days. Hats off to them for a great summer.

Kudos, Lindsay Butcher, Kayla Browne, Lily Emerson, and Tess Irving-Ruffing!

Lastly, I would like to thank the following partners and funders for supporting our stewardship programs this summer:

  • Inyo & Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forests
  • Mono County
  • Town of Mammoth Lakes
  • Measure U Funding
  • National Forest Foundation
  • National Wilderness Stewardship Alliance
  • Mammoth Lakes Recreation
  • Rock Creek Lakes Resort
  • June Lake Trails Committee
  • Rustic Pathways