June Stewardship Round Up Compiled by Alex Ertaud, Stewardship Director

The solstice has passed and summer is truly here, which means  Friends of the Inyo’s Trail Ambassadors have a month of work under their belts and are firing on all cylinders out on the trails of the Eastern Sierra.

I could tell you what our TAs have been up to, but why not let them tell you themselves? Below are some updates from the field where our TAs share some of the highlights of their season so far.

  • Our lovely TA Crew out at Warren Fork.

    Lindsay Butcher, Trail Ambassador for the White Mountain Ranger District of the Inyo National Forest: “One of the biggest highlights for me this year is our incredible team! FOI was able to hire a Trail Ambassador for each specific Ranger District on the Inyo National Forest, plus the Bridgeport Ranger District of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, freeing up our fearless leader Alex’s time, so he can better orchestrate things and run the show behind the scenes. The stewardship crew of awesome people who make up the Trail Ambassadors are passionate about public lands, capable, compassionate, and all around neat individuals! I am stoked they have joined the “stew-crew” this year, and excited to hear what their highlights are so far this season. In honor of our amazing team, I have composed a short haiku :)”

    What a great stew-crew!
    Work is productive and fun!
    Co-workers? Nah, friends!

  • Will, (L) the Mammoth Trail Crew, and the American Alpine Club volunteers at Crystal Lake.

    Will Young, Trail Ambassador for the Mammoth Ranger District of the Inyo National Forest:  “I’ve been mostly focusing on early-season trail maintenance in and around the Lakes Basin. I’ve been on trails every weekend, clearing them and ensuring that they’re in good condition for all the hikers this season. In mid-June, I helped with an American Alpine Club volunteer event, organized by the Mammoth Lakes Trail System, the goal of which was to clear out snow from the Crystal Lake Trail so that visitors were encouraged to stay on the trail bed. I’ve been reporting any downed trees across the trail that I’ve encountered, so hopefully we can get those cleared out soon. I’ve also spent a few days cleaning up some fire rings around Valentine and Arrowhead Lakes. Just a reminder: The Inyo National Forest is under full fire restrictions at the moment, so please do what you can to keep our lands safe for recreation throughout the summer! Special thanks to the Town of Mammoth Lakes, Measure U, and Mammoth Lakes Recreation for funding my work in the Mammoth Area.”

  • Bradley enjoying the sunshine at Virginia Lakes.

    Bradley Olson, Trail Ambassador for the Bridgeport Ranger District of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest:  “I’ve witnessed the snow consistently recede and give way to the rainbow of wildflowers that replaces the white blanket of winter. The mountains seem to be bursting with energetic life. The newly uncovered trails have revealed a plethora of work to be done including removing rocks that block paths and logs that have fallen, and bringing the trails back to a good condition. It has been an honor working with Friends of the Inyo out in the wilderness, having conversations with hikers and visitors about these mountains we all hold so dear, and having the best “office” I could ask for. One of the most memorable (or should I say exciting) moments so far happened on a day earlier in June while I was working in the Virginia Lakes drainage high up on a pass. I was clearing some Whitebark Pine that had grown too far into the trail, and was so focused on trimming the tree, making it look as natural and beautiful as possible, that I forgot to look overhead and notice the clouds growing rapidly above me. When I finally did look up, the all too familiar rumble of thunder met my ears. It was time to go. I grabbed my shovel with a nervous excitement building inside and took off down the trail to the cover of trees. It never ended up pouring rain on me, but it did provide for a moody and magical sunset turning some of the mountains a dark hue of purple and blue. The large masses of clouds billowed high in the sky over them. I smiled, and only felt gratitude for where I was and the amazing opportunity to work on these magnificent trails. If any of you are ever up hiking in the Hoover Wilderness or Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, come say hi!”

  • Jean pointing out good social trail blocking.

    Jean Redle, Trail Ambassador for the Mono Basin Ranger District of the Inyo National Forest: Jean spent most of her workdays lopping new growth encroaching on the trails, dispersing campfire rings, removing large rocks from the trail, enhancing water or wetland crossings, removing trash, and clearing water bars. She focused on popular trails like Fern Lake, Yost Lake, Parker Lake, Saddlebag Lake, Reversed Peak, Bennetville and Panum Crater, as well as some lower use areas such as Warren Fork, Gardisky Lake and Nunatak Trail. She is now offering two different Interpretive Programs: a) An Interpretive Yoga Program every Friday from 8 to 9:15 am at Gus Hess Park in Lee Vining. Participants are invited to join her afterwards on a Naturalist Walk/Stewardship Trail Cleanup at a different trail each week. b) The “Fire & Ice” Interpretive Hike happens once a month, with the educational talk as we walk focusing on how glaciations, volcanoes and drought have changed the landscape. The four-hour walk meets at Junction Campground at 10 am on 7/1, 8/5 and 9/2.

  • Cordero (crouching) practicing his under-bucking technique at the Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) Skills College.

    Cordero Chavez, Trail Ambassador for the Mt. Whitney Ranger District of the Inyo National Forest: Cordero has been hard at work with the rangers from the Mt. Whitney Ranger District, working on the popular Cottonwood Lakes Basin, Kearsarge Pass Trail, and, of course, the Whitney Zone. He’s been making lots of contact with Pacific Crest Trail and Mt. Whitney hikers, reminding folks to “pack it in, pack it out,” respect the current fire restrictions, and be “bear aware.” He’s also been taking care of the trails, clearing waterbars, joining Forest Service staff on the crosscut saw, and picking up more “Charmin Flowers” than he we like to admit. He was particularly excited to travel to Truckee with the other TAs to take a crosscut course with the Pacific Crest Trail Association. He learned a lot and is excited to use the skills he gained in practice out in the field!

Wow, so much done and we’re only a month into the season! I’m so proud of all the hard work and dedication the TAs have exhibited so far. They’re truly a pleasure to work with. If you see them on the trail, say hi, and sign up for one of their interpretive hikes or volunteer events today!

And last but certainly not least, we want to extend a HUGE thanks to the National Forest Foundation for supporting all our summer stewardship work!