Well, it’s official. The calendar page has been flipped to October, the leaves they are a changing, and our Trail Ambassador season has come to a close.
Reflections and a Compilation of Staff Reports by Alex Ertaud, Stewardship Director
Closing out the season is bittersweet, as I am so proud of the amazing work the TAs have accomplished this summer, and yet I am sad to see them go off into the fall, no longer helping us lead interpretive hikes and volunteer events, do important trail work out on the ground, and be a friendly presence out on the trails. In our last installment of their monthly reporting, the TAs have chosen their favorite day or moment from the season to share with our readers.
- From Lindsay Butcher, Stewardship Programs Manager and Trail Ambassador on the White Mountain Ranger District of the Inyo National Forest (INF): The nature of doing a seasonal, physical, manual labor job is that it takes its toll on the body. Friends of the Inyo does its best to give the Trail Ambassadors some “R and R” and we are never pushed beyond our limits, but little by little the body gets strong yet tired—and the same goes for the mind. That’s the blessing and the curse of seasonal work. So I had not “low,” but let’s say, “realistic” expectations for our late-September workweek slated for the Cottonwood Basin in the White Mountains. Four of our Trail Ambassadors were accompanied by two volunteers and one USFS Wilderness Ranger into Cottonwood Creek. This project was a continuation of last year’s expedition into the North Fork of Cottonwood Creek to remove old obsolete cattle fencing. This year we explored the South Fork in early August, doing the same work, and we found even more fencing up by Granite Meadow! So we returned in late September to remove the remaining materials. We backpacked in for four days, shuttling old barbed wire, metal posts, and abandoned materials back to our cars at the wilderness boundary. All in all, we hiked 110 pounds of wire, 27 metal posts, 25 wood posts, and countless bits and bobs of fence out of the wilderness. We accomplished a lot, avoided injuries, kept our spirits high, gave the effort 100%, and had tons of fun. T’was a fantastic culmination to another great TA season!
From Bradley Olson, Trail Ambassador on the Bridgeport Ranger District of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest: The light is different in Hoover these days. The mountain faces pop with incredible depth during the clear, crisp mornings, and the frost on the meadows glitters as if with delight. Even with the season winding down, the workload has sustained a steady pace. One of the most memorable days this month was hosting the Bridgeport Trails Day Volunteer Event a few weeks ago. Five volunteers from near and far joined my fellow Trail Ambassador Lindsay, Erin, a Hoover Wilderness Ranger, and myself in lopping the overgrown sage up in Horse Creek. This has been a section of trail I’ve avoided for a majority of the season due to its exposed nature. But the cool September breeze had us in a lighthearted, lovely mood. Thanks to our coordinated teamwork, the hours passed like minutes, and we worked up quite the appetite by lunch time. We all decided to get lunch together at the Mono Village Cafe, and headed down the trail that we had just cleared with smiles on our faces. There’s nothing like the camaraderie of fellow stewards after a day spent in the beautiful Sierra Nevada working on the trails that are enjoyed by so many.
From Will Young, Trail Ambassador on the Mammoth Ranger District of the INF: I started getting out towards Deer Creek a bit more in September. Some really stunning sights await if you’re willing to put in a bit of work to get there! As September was winding down and our season was wrapping up, I was struck with how wonderful it’s been to explore this beautiful part of the Sierra, and to have helped other visitors deepen their appreciation for this region as well. I had a great time learning and teaching about the geology of the area on my interpretive hikes, and it’s been great to hear how many people appreciate the work that gets put into maintaining these trails year after year. Thank you to all the friendly folks out there exploring the Sierra!
From Jean Redle, Trail Ambassador on the Mono Basin Ranger District of the INF: When there are so many wonderful summer workdays, it’s truly hard to pick just one. So I will pick two. I really enjoy Interpretation and educating people about the Natural History of the Sierra Nevada. This summer, I created a nature-based yoga program centered around the geology, bird life, wildlife and plants of the Mono Basin and High Sierra. Yoga Practitioners consisted of locals, visitors and many other “Friends” of the Inyo National Forest. Many people attended the yoga practice held every Friday morning, followed by a stewardship hike. I sometimes had over 20 participants breathing, stretching and experiencing the natural history together. Building community really makes you feel like you are part of something beautiful. Another day that stood out was when USFS Jameisha Washington and Eric Rios-Bretado joined Trail Ambassador Will Young and me on the Yost Meadows Trail to crosscut saw several large downed trees. While we were crosscut sawing the trees beyond the wilderness boundary, the USFS Fire crew sawed trees before the boundary. Together, we cleared six large trees from the trail. Many hands and saws working together made for a very productive day and a tighter-knit partnership with the Mono District. I am already looking forward to next summer!
- INF Mt Whitney Ranger District Trail Ambassador Cordero Chavez had a tremendous season, and had a really hard time picking just one day. From leading interpretive hikes on the history of Mt Whitney and sharing Leave No Trace best principles to the throngs of folks headed up to summit the mountain, to log-out trips at Tunnel Meadow and interacting with Pacific Crest Trail hikers on Kearsarge Pass, Cordero accomplished a great deal of varied work in southern Inyo County, and had a blast doing so!
Well there ya have it folks, a season of Trail Ambassador work measured by our TAs’ favorite moments out on the trail. But we also have some concrete figures to paint a picture of the work our amazing team accomplished these last four months. So I’ll leave you with some stats:
- 231 volunteers (191 adults, 40 youth) engaged, for 1,393 volunteer service hours.
- 2,804 hours of staff time worked.
- 196 interpretive hike participants.
- 853.3 miles of trail monitored.
- 54,787 feet (10.37 miles) of trail maintained.
- 2,345 feet of illegal trail restored to a natural state.
- 153 downed logs removed from trail.
- 283 campsites cleaned, and another 21 illegal campsites restored.
- 167 illegal campfire rings removed.
- 2,127 pounds of trash removed.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t thank the generous foundations and organizations that funded our Trail Ambassador work and projects this summer. A huge thank you goes to: