My name is Sam Otey and I am a strong proponent of the SCA. Conservation has always served as a function of progress. However, in this day and age its calling is more urgent than ever before. The SCA provides the paradigm of conservation a left and right hand in the world. I firmly believe it is the stimulus needed to carve out a foothold for a modern, more pragmatic transcendentalist school of thought in the world. For me, working with the SCA has provided unique experiential learning opportunities which have provoked my intellectual curiosity with their compelling content and substance. In my observation, the SCA’s tendency is to instill a deeper sense of consideration and self-examination. This reflection gives you a greater sense and understanding for the consequences of your actions, which prompts a higher degree of benevolence, selflessness, personal responsibility, and mutualistic behavior. After all, if these are my words, in order that I not be a hypocrite, how should my words affect the way I act on the Earth? I believe that asking myself this question on a consistent basis has made me a better human being, and such has been the basis for my understanding and practice of the concept of conservation.
My name is Ian Martin, I am 21 and from Wilton, New Hampshire. I have done two previous SCA internships before accepting this position with the Florida Trail Association. In the fall of 2009 I began my first SCA internship with the BLM in El Centro, California doing a vast signage project on OHV Trails in the desert surrounding the Imperial Valley. In the summer of 2010 I was a crew member on the SCA Adirondack Corps in the Adirondack Mountains of Northern New York. I have not gone to college yet, but plan on going to UNH and majoring in Forestry.
Originally from Paramus, New Jersey, Eileen graduated from Villanova University in 2010 with a BA in Political Science with a concentration in International Studies and minors in French and Peace & Justice Studies. In her time with Villanova University, she studied abroad in France, Switzerland and South Korea and has had the opportunity to travel extensively throughout Europe, East Asia and the United States. Since graduating, Eileen has spent the past year in service to Americorps through the Student Conservation Association doing environmental conservation work in the Adirondack Park in Northern New York and throughout Florida on the Florida National Scenic Trail. In addition to her passion for traveling and multicultural learning, Eileen’s interests include learning new languages, jam sessions, outdoor adventure and camping, swimming, tennis and snowboarding. She is fluent in English and French and proficient in Korean.
Hitch four started off with the entire crew recieving a Leave No Trace trainers course led by our project sponsor, and Leave No Trace Master Educator, John Bauer. For three days and two nights we hiked through the Econfina Water Management District along the Econfina River, discussing Leave No Trace priciples along the way. We hiked a total of 18 miles along the FNST in our three days in training. We covered all seven of the Leave No Trace ethics and finished the trip as certified Leave No Trace trainers. We returned to St. Mark's for the night of Feb 20th, then packed up the camping gear and tools for an F-Troop event in the Little Big Econ State Forest, near Orlando. We spent the 21st driving down the the Little Big Econ State forest, then set up base camp. On the 22nd and 23rd we prepped for the arrival of the volunteers on the 24th. We set up base camp and the information kiosk, and stagged all the lumber needed for the boardwalk project down at the work site.
On Thursday, the 24th the volunteers arrived, in F-Troop record breaking numbers, and we started working on the 500 feet of boardwalk needed on the FNST. We laid 200 feet of boardwalk on Thrusday, another 200 feet on Friday, and the remaining 100 feet on Saturday. On Sunday we broke down base camp and headed back to St. Mark's.
People certified as Leave No Trace Educators: 5
Boardwalk Constructed: 500 feet.
For our third hitch we headed south to Boney Marsh, about thirty miles north of Lake Okechobee and located on the Kissimee River. The drive from St. Mark's took us a whole day to complete. We set up our tents in the dark and waited for morning light to finish the rest. The next morning we finished setting up camp and met Jim, the FNST volunteer responsible for this section of the trail. We worked with Jim for the next six days; mowing, lopping, painting blazes, setting posts, and dismantling a bridge. On the 9th we dismantled an 80 foot bridge that needed to be replaced and mowed, brushed, and painted blazes on two miles of trail. We spent the next morning pulling nails from the old bridge and discarding the scrap wood. After lunch we mowed, cleared, and painted another mile of trail. The following day we finished the last mile of trail at Boney Marsh and moved to Avon Park Air Force Base. We spent the afternoon of the 11th, the 12th, and the 13th mowing, lopping, and painting at the Air Force Base, finishing a total of 5 miles of trail. That evening we moved camp again, as the Air Force Base was closing for a training exercise. We moved to the River Ranch on the Kissimmee river, which claims to be the largest Dude Ranch in America and also contains a few miles of the FNST. We spent the moring mowing, blazing, and dropping in sign posts on the Ranch, then packed up and headed home to St. Marks.
Bridge Dismantled: 80 feet
Trail mowed and cleared: 8 miles
Blazes Painted: 8 miles
Sign Posts installed: 12
Our second hitch took us out to the western side of the Apalachicola National Forest, not far from Torreya State Park. On the 29th we traveled from St. Mark's to the Camel Lake campground in Apalachicola National Forest. From there it was only a short drive to our project site on the FNST. We were sent to Camel Lake to construct a boardwalk leading up to a bridge built by volunteers recently. We constructed 50 feet of boardwalk, 30 feet on the south side of the bridge, and 20 feet on the north side. It took just over half a day to haul in the materials the quarter mile to the bridge. We used eight four foot long 8x8's for the sills and ten 12 foot 4x8's for the stringers. Despite the relatively short hike it took quite a bit of work to get the lumber to the site as it was all waterlogged and extremely heavy.
After hauling out the lumber the next challenge was to set and level the sills in six inches of standing water. Leveling a sill can be a delicate and time consuming task on dry land. Figuring out how to level them in muddy water that can't be seen through was an extra challenge. We soon realized that the best method was to stand on the sill and use a sledge hammer to position it in place. With this method the sill burried itself in the mud and laid flat. After getting the sills laid in the rest of the project was a sinch. We laid out the remaing for sills and constructed all of the boardwalk the next day.
The next day, Feb 1st, we packed up camp at Camel Lake and moved to Porter Lake, also located in the Apalachicola National Forest. After setting up camp at Porter Lake we scouted the first two miles of trail that we would be working on. From our scouting we determined that painting blazes was more important than cutting corridor, which was in pretty good shape other than a few problem areas. For the next two days we painted blazes and cut corridor on the FNST from Porter Lake heading east. Ian, Tony, and Eileen painted blazes while Sam and Scott cut corridor. In the two days we finished painting blazes and clearing corridor from Porter Lake to the western boundry of the Bradwell Bay Wilderness, a distance of approximately 6 miles.
On our last day of hitch, Feb. 4th, we packed up camp in the morning then hiked 6 miles through the Bradwell Bay Wilderness. None of us had ever hiked through a swamp before, and all jumped at the chance to do so. After our 6 mile hike through thigh high water we jumped back in the truck and headed home, all of us soaking wet but in good spirits.
Boardwalk: 52 feet
Corridor Cleared: 4 miles
Blazes Painted: 6 miles
On January 18th we started our first workday on the Florida National Scenic Trail (FNST). From our home base in St. Mark's (located on the FNST) we headed east along the trail, parralleling Coastal Highway 98. The trail was badly overgrown (you can imagine how fast a trail can become overgrown with a year round growing season) so we went to work establishing a corridor. It took us three days to bushwack and paint blazes on three miles of trail. The undergrowth was thick!
After finishing that three mile section we packed up our camping supplies and headed to Torreya State Park to put finishing touches on an F-Troop (the FNST's volunteer program) project completed in December. The F-Troop cut a new trail leading down to the Rock Bluff campsites, and a spur trail leading to each of the four primitive sites. They ran out of time before finishing all the spur trails so we went in to finish the last bit of trail and put the detailing work on. Torreya State Park is located on the Apalachicola River in northwestern Florida. The bluff's along the river are a unique site in the usually flat state of Florida. Torreya State Park is also home to two of the rarest plants in the United States, the Florida Yew and the Torreya Pine, which grows no where else.
On our last day in Torreya, after finishing up the detail work on the Rock Bluff campsite trails we decided to take a hike through the park in order to experience this magnificent place. That night, Jan 23rd, we returned to St. Mark's and our cozy doublewide trailer. For the next three days we commuted from our home base to Sopchoppy, 10 miles west, and cleared corridor along the FNST from state road 319 to forest rd 356, a distance of only 1.5 miles. Despite the short distance it took us the next three days to cut through the thick vegetation, although we did loose half a day when a thunderstorm rolled in and forced us to retreat to our trailer.
Corridor Cleared: 4.5 miles
Blazes Painted: 3 miles
New Trail Constructed: 1/4 mile
The 2011 Winter Season kicked off on January 10th with the arrival of the members at our home base in St. Mark's Florida. We spent the first week conducting trainings and getting to know the area. On our first hike as a crew we walked the 6 miles from our trailer in St. Mark's, along the Florida National Scenic Trail, to Shepard Springs, where we saw our first alligator. Shepard Springs, and dozens of springs like it, is fed by an expansive cave system carved out of the limestone stretching under most of the state. The caves keep the water in Shepard Springs at 70 degree's Farenhiet year round.
On January 14th, having completed our training, we took a paddling trip up the Wakulla River, located only a 1/4 mile east of our residence. The Wakulla river starts at Wakulla Springs, just 6 miles upstream from our location and only 9 miles from the Gulf of Mexico. The river is abundant with wildlife, especially water birds. Sightings included, great blue herons, double-crested cormorants, anhinga's (a snake necked diving bird), great egrets, yellow crowned night heron, and white ibis, as well scores of common cooters (a turtle) and red ear sliders (also a turtle).
Our paddle trip up the Wakulla River inspired us to visit Wakulla Springs the next day. The constant 70 degree temperatures of Wakulla Springs attract Manatees in the colder winter months. Since Manatees do not have the layer of blubber that most marine mammals have they seek refuge in the warm waters in winter. Wakulla Springs, being so close to the gulf coast, and having a large deep river accessing it, has become a gathering spot for wintering Manatees which may stay from November to March. On our visit we saw over one dozen Manatees and even got the chance to get in the water with them. Under the watchful eye of park rangers of course.
We had only spent a week in Florida but quickly came to the conclusion that Florida is one of the premier places in the world to see wildlife. The subtropical climate and abundant water allows life to flourish here.
Last April, I traveled to Boise, Idaho for the start of a 5 month temporary position as a Project Leader in the Finger Lakes National Forest. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, otherwise I would have packed a lot more clothes. By the end of this winter season I will have spent a year with the Student Conservation Association, and traveled over a significant portion of the country, spending summer in the Finger Lakes National Forest in NY, autumn in the Mojave desert in CA, and winter in the subtropical climate of Florida.
I got my start in trail work in September of 2006 as a member of the Middlesex County Conservation Corps. In 2007 I was made Middlesex County Conservation Corps Crew Chief, a position I held until 2009 while studying Environmental Policy at Rutgers University in New Jersey. After graduating in January of 2010 I joined the Student Conservation Association so I could continue to pursue my passion for being outdoors and continue the trail work which I love so much.
My relationship with the natural world started early in life. As children my brothers and I spent our summers catching frogs, crayfish, snakes, and box turtles in the streams and ponds around our house. As a child, I dreamt of being an explorer and photographer for “National Geographic.”
My thirst for adventure took me to Africa in 2006 when I had the fortune of spending a summer in Kenya on an archaeological dig sponsored by the Rutgers paleoanthropology department and the National Museum of Kenya. For eight amazing weeks we trekked through Kenya stopping to work at many famous archeological sites. I had the great fortune of helping to uncover the oldest known anatomically modern footprints ever found, dated to 2 million years old. Other discoveries included evidence of early stone tool butchery, primitive stone tools, and partial forearm and hand fossils.
I am excited by the opportunity to serve nature, and give back to the forests in which I enjoy spending much of my time. I hope that my work inspires others to do the same. It is my aspiration that visitors to the forests and parks in which I work leave not only with a better understanding of the natural world around them, but also a better sense of themselves and how they fit into it. It is my pleasure to provide our visitors with exciting recreation opportunities as well as the prospect of personal growth.