Follow Me: SCA member blogs from the field

Follow Me is the place to read field dispatches from SCA members serving the planet all over the USA.

BIG CYPRESS NATIONAL PRESERVE, Fla. (March 22, 2013) – How can one sum up the past week here with SCA alternative spring break? Gathered around a campfire, under a big clear sky, with Orion overhead, a mandolin strums. Bluegrass fills our ears. Songs of the mountains and the stars. Marshmallows are passed around.

Exploring a gator pond in a swampy cypress mound. Knee deep in water.

Photos by David Krantz

BIG CYPRESS NATIONAL PRESERVE, Fla.

Photo via Giovanni Paccaloni, Flickr

BIG CYPRESS NATIONAL PRESERVE, Fla. (March 19, 2013) — Nearly everybody here has a story of someone who has driven into a canal. That’s just life in the ‘Glades.

Canals cut along all the roads here; they always have. The roads were made by digging the canals and dumping the dirt to form the roadways.

Photo via carolinabirdclub.org. Woo!

BIG CYPRESS NATIONAL PRESERVE, Fla. (March 18, 2013) — Sandwiched between mangroves, alligators float on the water’s surface, manatees float just below, and a woodpecker works for its lunch: Tck tck tck. Tck Tck Tck.

“This is the woodpecker mecca,” says Ross Scott of Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Vivian Nguyen | March 21, 2013

Today, we got the insider view of some of the struggles the National Park Service is currently facing.

Pedro Ramos, the Big Cypress National Preserve superintendent, came to our campsite and joined us for dinner. After our delicious meal, we gathered around the campfire. He asked us what he can do to improve the National Park System. The main issue was relevance.

We begin by rubbing our fingers together. The sound, imperceptible, is obscured by a light breeze and the occasional bird overhead. Next, we snap our fingers. It’s hard in the cold, but the sound is persistent, an organized cacophony. Better still is the light clapping. The tips of our fingers on our right hands meet the palms of our left. With 42 campers the rhythm is undeniable.

After a restful Wednesday, my fellow campers and I visited Rio Sierra Vista State Park — one of only 5 Mediterranean climates in the world alongside the Mediterranean Basin, Chile, Southern Australia and South Africa. To say the least it was a rare sight to behold.

There were rolling hills, for miles it appeared, and expanses of dense green.

Hello, readers!

My third day of camping and serving with the Student Conservation Association (SCA) in the Santa Monica Mountains has wrapped up.

Yesterday was a day of toil well worth the exhaustion. We spent several hours at Santa Monica Beach Park removing the rest of the leafy carnations and clover weeds.

Tavon Betts | March 13, 2013

Today we picked up right where we left off at Malibu Lagoon State Beach. We picked up a ton of knowledge about native and invasive plants yesterday, and the Park staff was extremely impressed that we remembered pretty much everything. No reiteration necessary!

“Today, we’re ripping out weeds,” Mark, a mountain-of-a-man with weather-beaten skin, said this morning. Mine and my fellow camper’s toes were still thawing out.

Santa Monica Beach State Park, the host of an Alternative Spring Break with the Student Conservation Association is gorgeous, but deceptive. Mine and my group’s first day, Sunday, was warm.

Tavon Betts | March 13, 2013

Today was my first full day with the Student Conservation Association, and already I know this will be a memorable experience. I traveled from Atlanta, with a layover flight in Las Vegas, then to Burbank, CA. At the Burbank airport I was greeted by jovial and enthusiastic participants, project leader, and staff.

Tired and proud machete wielders.

There’s a reason I keep coming back to the SCA. The work is rewarding, the food is delicious, and the locations are beautiful. But all those factors combined cannot trump the best the SCA has to offer: its people.

The SCA draws its participants from a variety of backgrounds.

Over the course of today we got to experience what building a community is truly like, through the destruction of another. You may have seen in Justin and Kenneth’s blogs that they have already experienced the demolition site. Our main goal today was to help remove a house that, through acquisition, is now located in Big Cypress National Preserve.

History of fire at BCNP.

It’s Thursday night, Day 5. Hard to believe we arrived in Southwest Florida just five days ago. In less than 36 hours, our first members will be headed to the airport to catch their flights back north. An intense and fantastic week is in fact coming to a close.

Our project leader, Toby, expressed it best in welcoming us to the Alternative Spring Break adventure.

Today we found ourselves canoeing through mangroves, and trudging through Big Cypress National Preserve at the Gator Hook turn off (in case you want to find it because it’s awesome!), for a day full of sun, adventure, and exploring the wilderness.

The canoe trip entailed traveling down the little crest, and out towards the Gulf of Mexico.

Today was a recreation day, and it was amazing. First we went on a canoe trip on the Black Water River in Collier Seminole State Park. We learned a lot about the different mangroves and the Natives that used to live here.

Yesterday I shared some of the work that we were doing in Big Cypress protecting the RCW’s (Red Cockaded Woodpecker) which is an endangered species. The other thing that is really cool about the RCW’s that many people don’t know is that they build these awesome nests in live pine trees most of the time.

Jacob rests on the front loader following a tough day in the field.

When I signed up for the Student “Conservation” Association’s Alternative Spring Break (ASB), I thought knew what to expect. We’d be doing some planting, some harvesting, some taking care of the land.

So today was a lot warmer waking up, so i must say, I was in an incredible mood. Breakfast was great and I have to give it up to Elliot, our cook. I have a passion for cooking, but I can’t imagine rustling up some of the grub that Elliot does at our campsite. He’s been fantastic.

After breakfast we headed out to our designated worksite.

Just in case you missed the last one, RCW’s are red cockaded woodpeckers, an endangered species. Big Cypress National Preserve is a huge place, so to try and find these RCW homes (specific pine trees) is quite a challenge. Being out in the wilderness in Big Cypress is like being out in a maze; every direction looks the same!

Pages