25 and counting… We begin with a chilly 25 degree morning. We had 18 people sign up and I expect that only half that will show up. Much to my surprise, by ten after nine we had around 25 people ready to work. We were buoyed by the presence of members of the Environmental Club from Cedar Ridge High School and their advisor, Lynne Gronback. Part of a Trail Crew day with TLC is a lesson in sustainable trail building, a lesson in the history of the TLC property we are working on, and a lesson in what we want to accomplish on the day. The latter two lessons are quick and easy, people are anxious to get moving.
Walt Tysinger, TLC’s Senior Land Manager, taught us how to build trail and then took us to a section of recently completed trail to show us what the final product should look like. I was, of course, distracted by a Yellow Bellied Sapsucker, banging away on my favorite sapsucker tree on Brumley Forest. This old Eastern Red Cedar tree has hosted innumerable Sapsuckers over the years. On this day, two were working away opening holes to feed on the sap (hence the name). Many other birds feed on the sap flowing from holes and also on the insects that get stuck in the sap. In addition to the Sapsuckers, I saw Tufted Titmice, Carolina Chickadees, and Yellow-Rumped Warblers on the venerable Cedar tree.
As we hiked along the finished trail Walt used as the example, I found myself distracted… again… by the ice formations in the frozen ground. In very cold weather, the freezing of the water in the soil creates little pillars of ice rising like stalagmites to the surface, striving to reach the warmth of the sun. Frozen soil is, in fact, pretty easy to remove and not much of a hindrance to sustainable trail building.
Our lessons were not complete until we had demonstrations of all the varied tools we use and the proper use thereof. Safety first y’all, ignore the staffer waving around the McCleods and Rouge Hoes. These things are great for proper trail maintenance and are truly purpose built to maximize efficient trail building.
On the way to our site, we ran into a stray dog who TLC staff had noticed earlier in the week, but had not been able catch to try to find its people. On this day we were able to make friends with the dog and acquired another happy trail crew member. Once on site, we made quick work of over 800 feet of new trail. The therapeutic benefits of ripping a recalcitrant stump out of a trail bed cannot be underestimated.
As we made our way back to the parking area, the Environmental Club’s advisor volunteered to take the dog home and make efforts to find its people. True to her word, Ms. Gronback contacted the local shelter and was able to determine who had lost their dog. As she drove up the driveway, the dog’s pack of grandparents, parents, and children were tearfully waiting in the front yard. You see, this dog had only been with its family for a few days and had wandered off into the unfamiliar forest. The family was effusive and generous in their thanks to Ms. Gronback. Ms. Gronback, in turn has made a donation to TLC of the money the family gave her for reuniting them with their dog.
All in all, this is about as good as a Trail Crew day can be.