Week 3: Hitting the Trails (May 30 – June 5)

I apologize for my lack of postings, I’ve been busy now that all of the orientation and training is over and I am finally getting out on trail and getting some work done. Even though it’s been keeping me busy, and it’s somewhat difficult work, I have really enjoyed everything that I have gotten to do here so far.

On my third week here we had Monday off for Memorial day, unfortunately it was a rainy day spent here in the bunkhouse doing some cleaning, laundry, and relaxing with the crew. We spent our Tuesday completing our ATV training course that was instructed by Cordova’s only Law Enforcement Officer, Andy. It was a fun day spent riding in circles on the silt and sand that had been deposited along the delta. The basic gist of the training was to make sure that everyone, no matter what their experience level, was comfortable on the machines, knew how they work, and knew how to safely operate them.

After we finished that up on Tuesday we are now done with all of the orientation and training which means we were off to finally do some trail work! On Wednesday we gathered up in the morning at the compound here and briefly discussed our schedule for the day. We found out that we were headed to Power Creek trail where two rock slides had covered sections of the trail that needed to be cleared out. Each of us were given tasks to do to get ready such as gathering pulaskis, picks, rockbars, and handsaws, and then we jumped in the trucks and we were off.

As a quick side note, everyday we always start off by gathering up in a group at the compound to discuss what our schedule looks like for the day and to divvy up responsibilities for gathering equipment.

When we reached the trailhead parking lot we all unloaded the trucks and packed our gear for the hike in. Everyone carried a pick which, as you can see in image A below, is a wooden handled tool with a metal head. On one side, the metal head is angled to a point which can be used for breaking apart rock or anything else that may need a little persuasion to help move, while the other side is tapered into a blade which can be used for prying as well as removing debris from the trail. A few people also carried a similar tool called a pulaski which can be seen below in image B.  A Pulaski is also a wooden handled tool with a metal head. On one side of the head is a sharpened axe head and on the other side is a blade that can be used to scrape debris from the trail.  I was one of the lucky people who got to carry the thirty-some pound rockbar up the trail. A rockbar (as seen in image C.) is simply a long solid metal shaft that is used to pry large objects from the trail. And finally we also carried in a few small arborist handsaws such as image D.

A.   B.   C.                                          D.  

 

Our work was pretty simple and pretty well laid out for us, we simply had to take much of the material that had fallen down the hill and blocked the trail, simply throw it over the downhill side of the trail to create a nice walking platform that is cut into the side of the hill. So we spent the day with our picks and pulaskis and rock bars removing loose material. The hardest part of the work was that everytime we removed material, it was immediately replaced by new material that slid down the hill, but all in all it was a good day.

In the middle picture here you can see members of the trail crew working on clearing a section of the trail from the rock slide behind Kim.

In the far right picture you can see Kelly, Ryn, and Kim taking a quick break from working on a section of the trail.

On that first day out at Power Creek we had an interesting experience, as we were working we heard the sound of a helicopter which isn’t too uncommon. But as the sound grew louder the helicopter suddenly rounded the corner and we realized that he was pretty low and flying pretty close to trees and the sides of the mountain. But the pilot buzzed right by us and down the creek about 100 yards from where we were working, he circled an area once, and next thing we knew he landed on the creekbed and was powering down. A few people jumped out with a bit of equipment in hard cases and the helicopter left, the whole experience happened in just a few minutes. Later the helicopter returned but only to drop off some more equipment. We weren’t sure what they were doing but our best guess is that they were collecting data in or along the stream there for a study.
20160601_144341  The rest of that day went smoothly, it was my first time doing any trail work and I can definitely say it’s no rocket science. Just dig into the hill to make a trail that slopes slightly away from the mountain to allow for water to drain well, and make sure its solid ground and not loose duff.

We spent the last two days of our week back at Power Creek, only instead of packing in picks and pulaskis and rockbars, we were packing in brushers, brusher kits, chaps, brusher helmets, and gas to use to knock back a bunch of the brush and shrubs that were starting to encroach on the edges of the trail. The brushers we are using are basically weed whackers with a metal triangular blade on the end, they clip into a harness that disperses the weight on both of your shoulders pretty evenly. They’re quick and efficient when it comes to cutting anything with a diameter up to that of a half dollar coin.

here’s an idea of what it looks like to pack in a brusher, gas, helmet, and then all of your personal gear in your pack in the picture on the left. On the right Kim is showing off the brusher gear

We spent all day Thursday brushing and swamping (swamping is just raking up and throwing all of the cut and dead vegetation off the trail out of sight.) further down trail from the rockslides, and then we spent all day on Friday brushing out between the rockslides and the trailhead.

After work on Friday a bunch of folks from the Forest Service were going out fishing and I jumped on my boss’s boat and headed out to the Prince William Sound to hangout while some people got some halibut fishing in. I didn’t have a license so I was just there to hangout and have a good time.

It may be hard to see, but the black dots in the top two pictures are sea otters, we passed probably 50 of them on our 40 minute ride out to where we were fishing

In the bottom picture is a commercial fishing boat being harrassed by seagulls after it unloaded it’s catch at one of the fish canneries in town.   The three smaller boats in the foreground are the three boats that were all part of our little fishing excursion.

 

That’s my boss Robert Scribner, but everyone calls him Bobby, and that’s his pup, smoke dog. I swear he’s way nicer than that picture makes him look haha, he’s a very entertaining guy and a great boss

On Saturday we all slept in after staying up late the night before fishing and in the afternoon we decided to stretch our legs so we went for a quick hike up the ski hill that looks out over Cordova and out to the Prince William Sound.

Ski Hill pano over CordovaSki Hill Trail Crew

And that was my first week of actual work here with the Forest Service trail crew out of Cordova. It was a great first week and a great introduction to the summer. Stay tuned for the next update!

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Nicole Collins says:

    Great work with your blog Collin! Very professional and amazing pictures.

    Like

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