Read some exciting progress notes from our Trail Ambassadors, with an introduction and post-note from Stewardship Director Alex Ertaud.
“We’re thick into the Dog Days of summer, hitting the midway point of our season, and the Trail Ambassadors (TAs) just keep on rolling! Alongside our Forest Service partners, our TAs have been up to some amazing work. But don’t take my word for it: Let’s hear it from the TAs themselves! Here are some highlights from their last month of work in north-to-south order depending on the Ranger District to which each of them is assigned.”
From Bradley Olson, TA on the Bridgeport Ranger District of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest: Peak summer has hit the Hoover Wilderness in the Humboldt Toiyabe National Forest, and the trails are starting to become like familiar friends. I greet them with open arms and a smile on my face every time I return. While the snow is almost completely gone, and the vegetation slowly turning to a browner palette, I’ve been able to celebrate the joys of summer by jumping into a lake or river during my lunch breaks, which refreshes and motivates me to get back to lopping the overgrown trees and shrubs.
This month has flown by like the wind, in part due to the various events I’ve hosted. The most memorable so far has been the Wilderness Week in mid-July, when I was joined by two of our very own board members of Friends of the Inyo. The three of us spent four days hiking around the West Walker River drainage in search of invasive species including Cheatgrass, Common Mullein, and Bull Thistle. While we didn’t find any of the above to report (which is a success in my mind!) we had a great time learning the characteristics and names of numerous different species of grasses, flowers, and trees. For the most part the smoke from forest fires that is unfortunately so typical of California summers was kept at bay, and we had a couple of nights with magnificent sunsets and were later treated with an almost full moon. With all the laughs, stories, and learning, I had to pinch myself to confirm I wasn’t dreaming. I feel incredibly grateful and honored to work as a trail ambassador who has the best office there is: the Sierra Nevada! (Our Wilderness Weeks are proudly supported by a grant from the National Wilderness Stewardship Alliance).
From Jean Redle, TA on the Mono Basin Ranger District of the Inyo National Forest (INF): It’s been wonderful to see the Lee Vining community and visitors come together for the nature-based interpretive yoga program every Friday morning from 8 to 9:15 AM. We move and breathe together in shapes related to the natural history of the Mono Basin and High Sierra. It’s very interpretive as I tell interesting natural history facts during all of the postures (or asanas): Tufa Towers, Crater, Glaciation, Paoha, Negit, Phalarope, Eared Grebe, Osprey, Clark’s Nutcracker, Mountain Chickadee, Whitebark Pine, Lodgepole Pine, Shooting Star, Sky Pilot, Granite, Rhyolite, Algae, etc., etc. I always start with an acknowledgment of the Kutzadika’a natives and how their way of life depended on eating the Kutsavi pupae fly. The yoga program has been well attended – average attendance is 12-15, but I once had as many as 21 participants! Afterwards, attendees are invited to join me on a naturalist hike and optional Stewardship such as a light trail cleanup or campfire ring dispersal. Other July highlights include Crosscut Sawing many downed trees on the Yost Lake Trail, lopping the encroaching Willow and Aspen in Lundy Canyon, rocking and brushing Glacier Canyon Trail, communicating Leave No Trace principles and Campfire regulations to backpackers on the Rush Creek Trail, interpreting Geology on the Bennetville trail, and trail work and sign repair in the Harvey Monroe Hall Research Natural Area.
From Will Young, TA on the Mammoth Ranger District of the INF: After getting a bit of saw training near the end of June, I’ve been putting those skills to use removing logs from many of the trails in the Lakes Basin. I also held my first interpretive hike of the season, chatting about the geologic history of the Mammoth Lakes and the areas surrounding it as we walked up to Heart Lake. Come join me for the next one on August 20th (RSVP today)! I’m still finding fire rings occasionally, and we’ve recently seen the smokiest days on the east side of the Sierra this season, which is a reminder that we all need to continue to use our forest lands responsibly. The mountain passes are lovely, but they’re so much more fun to visit when the air is clear! (Will’s work in the Mammoth area is supported by the Town of Mammoth Lakes and Measure U funds).
From Lindsay Butcher, TA on the White Mountain Ranger District of the INF: My July got off to a rocking start with the Cottonwood Creek Wilderness Week, removing obsolete cattle exclosures from the White Mountain Wilderness area. It was a great project to participate in alongside the Forest Service and our hearty volunteers. In our four days of work, we removed 700 pounds of barbed wire fencing, 50 T-posts, and 10 wooden posts.
July also saw the kickoff to the TA Interpretive Hikes, yay! The work we do out on the trail can sometimes get a little lonely, so it is a welcome shake-up to the routine to have a group of interested people join in on the fun. I love sharing interesting tidbits of information I’ve collected over the years with others, and vice-versa. My only qualm is that I wish I could attend the other TA’s programs, too. I can’t, unfortunately, but YOU can! Sign up for any of our events at friendsoftheinyo.org/events.
From Cordero Chavez, TA on the Mt .Whitney Ranger District of the INF: What a busy month! I got some good work done on the Mt. Whitney Trail, pulling out about 20 pounds of trash and wag bags. I really hope the interactions I had that day brought some awareness to the fact that our actions in the Wilderness can have negative consequences to not only the environment, but also to others’ experience. I also had a great time doing my first ever interpretive hike! It was a short hike focused on some early history and some general fun facts about Mt. Whitney. I really enjoyed and appreciated the group that came out. As a little bonus, we finished at the Whitney Portal store with some food and some souvenirs. I’m looking forward to the next one (Friday 8/26 – RSVP today).
Alex’s Closing Thoughts
“I may be slightly biased, but, my goodness, what great work these TAs do! And we’re only halfway through the season. Join them at an interpretive hike every week from now until October 1, and at the remaining volunteer events we have on our calendar. You can see all our events here.”