I was a storm trooper for a day. This past Tuesday to be exact.
The Evert Memorial Trail Preserve is approximately one mile from my house as the land-speeder flies. And about three miles by road. As noted in this post, my company gives us each five paid volunteer days. So when the call went out for volunteers for a day of trail maintenance I signed up.
Our job was to walk the trail and clear it of any growth or debris that may have accumulated over the winter. There were troopers with chain saws, for trees fallen across the trail. Troopers with high powered weed whackers with circular saw blades to cut back the greenbrier growing up between the boards. And troopers with gas powered hedge clippers to trim back the brush.
I was given a hand saw. The one shown next to the chainsaw below.
If you look closely at the boardwalk in the first image above, you'll see chicken wire covering part of it. And further down a part with no chicken wire. The latter part is very slippery. And even knowing that I slipped and fell.
Maybe they were right not to give me a power tool.
I did ok with with the hand saw.
Ok, I only cut smaller overhanging dead trees and branches. This guy cut the log above.
Although I did get it started.
The "storm" in "storm troopers" comes from the thunder storms we worked between.
If you look closely at the water on the lower left above you'll see ripples from the rain drops. It was raining pretty much the entire time we were there.
As the preserve was so close to my house and I was without a car that morning (one was in the shop, and Patty had the other) I had planned to walk over. But when it was time to go the first downpour, complete with thunder and lightning, commenced. Not the best conditions for a three mile hike. So I called one of the fellow troopers and got a ride. The thunder storm was intermittent. The rain, not so much.
The trail system is quite nice. Much of it through wetlands. What we did was only the first part of the maintenance work. And we were able to do in one day that in prior years taken one or two people three weeks.
The next step is to repair and upgrade the boardwalks. Remember the boardwalk without chicken wire that took me down twice? It seems the problem is that the area occasionally floods, covering sections of the boardwalk, and rusting away the wire. In talking with one of the leaders I learned that they have a grant to address this by raising the problematic sections of the boardwalk. But before that can be done, the debris needs to be removed. And thus the storm troopers. And the power tools.
And one handsaw.
While walking the trails and looking for things to saw I spent some time looking about.
The combination of the rain and the soft light made the greens really stand out.
But not everything was green. This plant is a mystery. Even one of the best Pinelands plant uber-geeks couldn't identify it. This will require further investigation. The working hypothesis is this is the remains of cinnamon fern.
The only disappointing part of the day was the really week beer they served. I think the brewery was called "deer park" or some such. You can see my friend Russell holding a bottle in the image above.
A nice little preserve practically in my back yard. Somewhere I expect to visit on a regular basis.
~~~~~~~~~~Post title taken from Bill Scullion's thank you email to the folks that participated in the trail clean up effort. Bill is a Land Steward with the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, the owners of the preserve. And the guy that used to spend three weeks doing this by himself.