With our typical season timeline pushed back this year, we are a bit delayed in getting our first month of the Trail Ambassador season in the books. Despite all of the roadblocks (figurative and literal) we’ve hit the ground running! We’ve asked the TAs to give us a quick summary of their first impressions. Here’s what they have to say:
Logan: Mt. Whitney RD
I have been working with the USFS Mt. Whitney Rangers on local trails such as Mt. Whitney, Kennedy Meadows, Kearsarge Pass, Cottonwood Lakes. Lately there has been a lot of trail reporting. With this year’s heavy snowfall, lots of folks are trying to get up and into the high country. They are curious about snow levels and where they can make it. Trail work has begun and with the battle of snowmelt a lot of the work is getting done on the beginning part of major trail systems, waiting for snow to continue melting out. Water is very challenging!
The shovel is my best friend, I’ve actually gotten quite attached to it. I get asked a lot why, what, and where this shovel comes into play. I often tell people it’s there just for a workout. All jokes aside it’s a great tool and yes,mine has a name: Clyde, after self-trained naturalist and mountaineer Norman Clyde (April 8, 1885 – December 23, 1972). Clyde is also a reminder to me of old forgotten practices: Practices in ways of sustaining life, such as growing your own food, food storage, approaching wilderness/nature…living simply. Many of this can also be brought to our awareness from learning and looking back at our local native history. I find that holding a tool as simple as a shovel reminds me of all of these things. With this year’s snowpack and trail work, I felt it was important to have a little more character to get one through the day. It’s a way to remind myself to stay strong and rooted to the past traditions.
Lastly I’ve been enjoying the day-to-day opportunities of meeting people who are out here to embrace nature. It really makes me smile to see others out there appreciating the little things that Mother Nature has to offer.
Jean: White Mountain RD
This summer, we get to experience firsthand how snow and water shapes our landscapes, wildlife and plant life. I have been hand sawing and lopping my way up the Canyons and Valleys, removing an average of 10 downed trees per mile. In massive avalanche slide areas such as Little Lakes Valley, it feels like a tree-sized game of “pick-up-sticks”, where the slippery snow aids in sliding snapped trees off of the trail. Many people ask, “Why do you carry a shovel?” Often the trails are water logged, so we dig drainages to divert the water back to the plants, lakes and streams. Not only does this keep feet dry, it protects our fragile riparian environment around the trails from being trampled. We place stepping stones through wet sections and try to make stream crossings safer. We also remove rocks from the dry trail to keep your stride as smooth as possible. And this year, we are digging trail signs out of the snow so people don’t take a wrong turn.
One of my favorite things about being a Trail Ambassador is deepening people’s connections to Nature. I enjoy teaching Natural History to hikers on trail or through yoga at Rock Creek Lake (every Friday 8:30 am). The other day, I taught a couple of curious six-year-old girls about the Clarke’s Nutcrackers’ symbiotic relationship with the Whitebark Pine. When their parents caught up to them, it was a real treat to hear them teach their parents what they learned in their own voices. I am thrilled to be leading the Interpretive Hike, “Fire and Ice” about Glaciers, Volcanoes and this ever changing landscape at McGee Creek this summer (8/6, 9/9 and 10/7).
Brian: Mammoth Lakes RD
I love hiking in trail running shoes; they’re lightweight and quick-drying. But this year might be the year of the boots. I continue to encounter water, mud, and snow out on the trails. These conditions have given me a chance to sharpen my Leave No Trace ethics. Staying on the trail may have become second-nature. But it’s particularly relevant this year that the ethic is “walk in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy”.
When I encounter mud, a puddle, a small stream or a 6 foot high snow bank, I instinctively look for a dry path around it. It would be pretty reasonable if I was walking on a city sidewalk, but I’m not; I’m walking through one of the country’s only permanently protected wilderness areas. So I check that I can stay safe, and I walk through the obstacle on the trail. It turns out mud is just mud.
If the mud or water looks to be too deep and I really want to avoid it, then I take that as a sign that the trail isn’t ready for my use yet. This weekend, I was walking up the final switchbacks to reach Valentine Lake, and by that, I mean I was digging steps in the snow banks covering the trail. As I rounded a turn to find another steep mound of snow, I decided I was tired of cutting steps. And I wasn’t going to walk straight uphill avoiding the snowy trail, so I’ll see Valentine Lake in a week or two. I foresee muddy boots.
Colt: Mono Lake RD
Colt has been making the most of this unique season by focusing on the lower elevation trails in the Mono area and working with Forest Service crews to clear trees blown down this past winter. With most of the backcountry still inaccessible, there has been ample time to clean up popular trails such as Lundy Canyon and the June Lake area. Colt has been enjoying the solitude and satisfying work in some of the most beautiful places he’s ever seen, and he looks forward to more trails becoming accessible as the snow melts. He feels honored to be representing Friends of the Inyo out in the field, and he enjoys sharing interesting conversations with people from all over the world. Watching different wildflowers pop up has been especially delightful, and the Eastern Sierra never disappoints. Colt will be offering guided foraging walks in Lundy Canyon on July 15th, August 19th, and September 23rd. He will also be leading two longer interpretive hikes in August and September up the Lakes Canyon trail to the old May-Lundy Mine site, dates TBA.
Kelly: Bridgeport Ranger District of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest:
I have been scouting trails in the HT and trying to amass the trail issues that have popped up after the biggest winter ever. The trails are muddy, wet, and I am in awe of all the beautiful greenness and blasts of flowers growing everywhere. My favorite part of learning and exploring the HT has been seeing all the Woolly Mules Ears growing in fields with their yellow sunflower eyes, brightly shining in the sun. The second coolest part was then finding Balsam Arrowroot growing in the same fields! Another member of the sunflower family, they blend in perfectly with the Woolly Mules Ears, lupin, and Mariposa Lilies. The days are getting hot and I’m enjoying working on the trails in the sun and snowy mountains behind me.
Lindsay’s Closing Thoughts:
It is pretty apparent that this season is a wild one. The impressive winter we experienced has a lasting trickle down (ha! punny) effect. Our TAs definitely have their work cut out for them, but with this rockstar crew we will get it done!
If you want to get out and lend a hand, take a peek at our events schedule and sign up for one of our volunteer opportunities. (Raffle prizes from local sponsors and Patagonia to be won!)
And finally, we would be remiss if we didn’t extend a HUGE thank you to the folks that make our summer stewardship possible: National Forest Foundation, Town of Mammoth Lakes, Measure U, Patagonia, River Network, and all of our local sponsors.