Hitch 6: Coming to a Close….

Our second to last hitch began with the summer days starting to wind down, and cool air beginning to envelop Nashville. Well, cooler air. It’s still been in the 90s most days, but the low 90s. Which means
our shirts aren’t as soaked at the end of the survey period. And sometimes, if we’re up early enough, or stay out late enough, there’s actually a little chill in the air.

As the summer dwindles, so have our visitors. School began a couple weeks ago, and with the start of school we have seen fewer and fewer faces. I believe this summer I have spoken to more people in a
three month period than I have in a usual year, even two year period. There have been many busy days this summer, when I have had to barrel through a survey, speaking as fast as I can while still being coherent. With summer visitation winding down, we can take surveys a little slower, talk to people a little more, and let some kids ramble on for a little longer. Some days it feels as though visitation is down to just the regulars. People who have done the survey, six, seven, ten times already this summer. While there are quite a few grumblers, lamenting about the number of times they have done the surveyand not wanting to do one more; it’s been a pleasant surprise to see the regulars who will take thesurvey without one complaint. Some even give their e-mail each time. And most always want to say how much the park means to them.

Although we have become fully familiarized with our surveys (we are now able to put out cones and signs blindfolded at each site, as well as repeat survey questions in our sleep); it feels like we have just barely scratched the surface of getting to the know the area we are in. It’s been pleasantly shocking to see how beautiful middle Tennessee is. These past couple weeks we’ve been trying hard to visit as many of the parks, Army Corps and State Parks, as we can in the area. While working out at Cordell Hull, Sam and I took the opportunity to camp out at Defeated Creek, an Army Corps campground on the lake. We must of seen at least fifty deer in one night. The following week myself along with Brenna and Sam headed out to Fall Creek Falls to spend a couple nights camping. We climbed down a cable trail to get to the base of a falls you could swim under. Hiked to another falls, the tallest falls east of the Rockies.
And spent the night within skunk heaven. Fully habituated, a couple skunks were running around the campgrounds, visiting each site, trying to get into our coolers and garbage cans.

Another great break to the routine came when our project manager, Alex Olsen, came to visit us for a couple nights. He joined us for a conservation day of hauling rocks. He also brought us a rap that has
been traveling to each of the ACE VUS teams. Our sick (sick in all its meanings) project leader, Steph, finished most of it (maybe all of it). I think we can honestly say, we got you all beat VUS teams. Bestof all, we were treated to a nice meal for all our work for the summer. If the next Nashville team is reading this, you all need to head to Mas Tacos Por Favor. They have amazing pulled pork tacos,
veggie tacos, horchata and elote.

My time as hitch leader came to a close with just one week left of surveys. I think there is an overall anxiousness among the group right now. Most of us took this position in order to explore career
options, and hopefully find a full time position afterwards. Which is exactly what we all got out of this summer. After finishing our internships, we are all going to spread out across the country Our group will be heading to the Mojave, Chicago, Cincinnati, Massachusetts and one of us will be staying in Nashville. There’s also a little anxiousness to try and see as much as we can before most of us have to leave this place. It’s been amazing to have Nashville so close by, while still having plenty of parks to
explore, hike, swim and camp at. We still a couple more weeks of exploring, which is by far not enough. I hope the next group takes full advantage of all the beautiful sites and great music Nashville
has to offer.

Written by Erica Mutschler