So, we emerge from the wet, wild woods of the northwest and are flown to the opposite side of the nation. After almost ten hours of travel time (composed mostly of hanging around in the Chicago airport) we land in our promised land, the northeast. The next few days were ours to enjoy and explore the area we were to be working in. The White Mountains crew went there and we headed down to Mt. Tabor, VT, a forest service bunkhouse/garage on the northwest corner of the southern section of Green Mountain National Forest. We tromped through the woods and went riding on the backstreets of west-central Vermont. The White team showed up the next day and they joined us in our summertime revelry, well at least until agency training began.
Our peaceful serenity was broken one morning by the materialization of a number of Forest Service employees, ranging in hierarchy from local rangers to region coordinators, who had come to teach, and in some cases to learn, TrACS. The training was, for the most part, enjoyable; it was very little lecture and much more dialogue. Almost every ten minutes the flow was halted by some question or challenge, which was followed by a ten to twenty minute debate until a consensus, or ultimatum, had been reached at which point we jumped right back into the teaching.
We learned much in those few days, from the overall scheme of the TrACS process, to its creation, to such minute details as the code for a puncheon bridge with decking that needs to be replaced (TS-PUN-DCK-03a). The time was split between passive and active learning. Spending some time listening to lecture and some time actually TrACing a trail. The ‘hands on’ was by far the most educational part. Trails are varied and undefined by definition, so trying to ask hypothetical questions about their nature makes things all the more confusing. We soon learned that the key to efficiency was organization and memorization. If a TrACSer knew the location of everything s/he needed to TrACS the trail and was able to rattle off basic codes without hunting through the manual, then s/he could TrACS much more quickly and efficiently. We noticeably improved in these aspects as the week progressed. In the beginning it seemed like a juggling act of Trimbles (fancy GPS units), wheels (what we use to measure the trail), clinometers, and TrACS manuals, but by the end things were starting to fall into place and we were beginning to understand and use the system much more effectively.
The end of training was a bittersweet time. It was sweet to be done with all that learning and finally get to hit the trails, but bitter to be waving goodbye to Mt. Tabor and to the White Team (we, by the way, are the Green Team). But all good things must come to an end, so we packed up and made TrACS to New York for our first hitch in the Finger Lakes National Forest.