Student Conservation Association - Summer 2001
With much urging from my parents I took off for my first summer program at the completion of my junior year of high school. The five week trip to Virginia in the forested Blue Ridge Mountains marked the beginning of my summer projects and for that reason - among others - it holds its own place in my heart. I volunteered with the Student Conservation Association, a program focused on "changing lives through service to nature."
My project area was trail obliteration. Or as I like to say 'revegetation'. At the base of a rock summit - Humpback Rocks - hikers had, over time, created a non-designated path on a hillside. Causing erosion, The National Park service, with whom I worked closely, deemed it a scar on the hillside. Set near an Appalachian farm exhibit, the rogue trail was an eyesore.
Trail obliteration is a serious work and takes planning and tedious execution. The first stage of the process is to remove any obtrusive objects such as rocks, gravel, and other large obstructions. Next the ground must be entirely dug up and turned. Afterwards a new layer or dirt is laid on the surface to help nuture new vegetation. A seed layer is then embedded in the soil. Finally the ground is tamped and covered by a thin degradable sheet in order to keep the seeds from blowing away.
Although we technically completed our project the final touches could not be observed. The nature of our mission - revegetation - necessitates time for the final process of regrowth. Returning would bring back many memories but also allow me to see our consummated effort.
Project Photos, From top left, clockwise: Our dirt used to cover the trail arrives, we construct a fence to keep hikers on the designated trail, the crew digs up the rogue trail, Lauren makes measurements in construction of water bars (used to prevent erosion), three of us return down the hill from unloading dirt on the trail, Rainer and I stand triumphant atop our dirt.
My Work Crew
The group I worked with in Virginia over the summer consisted of six high school students and two university graduated crew leaders. We volunteers came from all over the United States, which was one of my first experiences with a group of non-Californian peers. And the time we spent together was great with virtually no disputes - especially impressive considering it was the longest most of us teenagers had been away from home.
The crew, From left: Officer Wilson, Dan, Natalie, Kathleen, Rainer, Julia, Emily, Lauren, Me, ____ (note: my immediate crew and official SCA group excludes the two men on either side)
Getting out of my home for more than a couple weeks for the first time in my life was a great experience and motivated me to indulge in subsequent summer programs. Meeting such a considerate and enjoyable group of people encouraged me tremendously. Specific to the program, the setting was majestic and serene. Living in an elevated site atop a peak in the Blue Ridge Mountains and working along a densely forested hillside gave me much time for sincere appreciation of nature. In terms of my life in general, my SCA trip remains a solid benchmark from which I compare my experiences.