by Natalie Cohen We're about 5 months into the AmeriCorps term and almost everyone seems to be bragging about the biggest trees they've taken down. Meanwhile I would pass on sawing in the morning and sometimes get away with not sawing all day long. I was just so impressed yet very intimidated by everyone's skill level I would just swamp all day, I thought it was great. Soon enough a project came where I couldn't just slip by not sawing all day with the length of the fire line and the amount of snags we needed to down. I would take down candlesticks with not much to it, or smaller snags I knew I could handle. Then we reached a part of the fire line with snags I would normally turn down and say "nope!" But this time I felt confident and ready to step outside my comfort zone. By the end of the day I had taken 6 down, that was a record for me. And throughout the month my comfort, confidence and skill improved. During the last week I got my highest daily record of 15 snags! I'm happy I stepped up and challenged myself. Now I know that feeling everyone had talking about the biggest trees they've taken and now I can join the conversation happily.
by Jake Nelson The month started off in the Lusk Creek Wilderness of the Shawnee NF. The ERT team met the mule team which came from Hoosier NF in Indiana. The mules names are Paul, Ruth, Bell, and Jack the eldest, who is 30 years old! We also took pleasure in learning how to put saddles on the mules.
The first day on the Indian Kitchen Trail, Oliver and I loaded the mules with 6 tons of gravel throughout the day! I don't know if I should be more impressed with Oli and I, or the mules because they are the ones that transported all that gravel.
The month has been an interesting variation of job and duties, including packing the mules, doing trail maintenance, maintaining campgrounds, building and replacing picnic tables, and clearing trails. The work has been great whenever the weather permits it. Temperatures have ranged between the low teens to the upper 60s. Some variation huh? Oh, and the snow and rain have made their presences known.
February 2016 has been a hard month for conservation work but I have pushed my limits, learned a whole lot about packstock, and worked in the coldest environments I have ever worked in! Some great memories have been made and I will not forget this project!
by Duncan Fuchise We left early Sunday morning, an unanticipated packout. I hadn't even showered or done laundry from the week before and here we were headed into another week. We packed, drove, and landed at the "Barclay Hilton" near Lebanon, MO. We were there on standby in case of wildfire, and there we sat, for four or five hours. Waiting...Waiting. Deciding the day was up we headed out to our project site for the week. On the way out of town we got a call, there was actually a wildfire. We drove out near Edwards, MO, and in about an hour’s time we got to the site: it was 8pm, pitch black outside except for the line of fire creeping its way across this Ozark landscape. I got put on torch and the next four hours I spent behind my crew or behind a dozer back burning from their line. After we protected the last house the IC okayed us to leave, and I got to ride alone in the bed of one of our pickups. Traveling through the dark all I could make out was the lines of fire that we lit traveling over the hills, smoldering snags slowly burning, and the stars through the leafless trees. I don't think I’ve seen stars that good since I've came to Missouri.
by Neil Tweardy Going on my first wild fire was an amazing experience. Whenever I talk to wild land fire fighters about how much they love fire and why they got into it I never understand where that passion is rooted. Now I do. The fire we went on was over 900 acres. It seemed like everything was on fire. It was like a really cool level in a video game where you might have to fight Hades in hell. Whenever we got there, there was initial confusion on where and what we should be doing. We called Burks. No answer. We walked up to his truck. We called him again. No answer. Suddenly as hyped as we were for the fire, it seemed like maybe we wouldn't get to do anything at all. We wouldn't be needed because the fire was already contained. Maybe we would get back in our truck and have to go back to Lebanon... Finally Burks got back to us. He told us to get in contact with Mike. We met up with Mike and charged through the forest putting in line. The whole world was on fire around us. We were actually fighting a fire. Once the line was put in we back-lit around some buildings. When it was all said and done it was around 1 in the morning. It was definitely one of the coolest experiences I have had in ERT.
Check out Fox 2's article about AmeriCorps St. Louis's sandbagging efforts.