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Field Program

[Image Description: Two MCC members taking a brief break; one is sitting on a rock, the other is standing nearby. They are both in their uniforms, looking out at the expansive, mountain view surrounding them.]

Doug firs, begone!

A view of a gravel road through the center of the frame. There are three crew members climbing a hill to the left.

After the lengthy drive towards Hailey, Idaho, the saw crew was greeted by representatives of the Bureau of Land Management. Great guys - you’d love ‘em! They showed us our campsite, which, unfortunately, lacked level ground or shade. We could hardly believe this hillside was a campsite, but we made it work. They also introduced us to the project site and explained the importance of the work we were doing. We’d be removing emerging Douglas Firs from Aspen stands in order to protect deer and elk habitat that the aspens provide. In other words, we were weeding the babiest trees you’ve ever seen from a 200 acre unit. It wasn’t hard to spend upwards of an hour combing through a single patch. Despite the time-intensive nature of the work, we completed around 20 acres, making this land that much more habitable to the large game in the area.

We cleared trees that made it to teenagerhood, but not much larger than that, making this one of our less saw-heavy hitches. Since sawing wasn’t taking up much of our mental energy, we had to find our own ways to stay entertained. One night, while cooking dinner, a certain XL brown-haired crew lead was struck by the urge to crop his top! He rocked a borrowed tie-dyed number while chatting with the local hunters who passed by our campsite. Belly laughs ensued over dinner.

We didn't know what to do with ourselves, as we returned to our sun-bleached camp each day. Unfortunately, the only shade at camp was about 15 square feet cast behind the truck. So we huddled, knees uncomfortably close, to play cards or chat or simply be quiet together. One afternoon, we noticed the bag of grapes on the tailgate was unusually full. And what, we asked ourselves, was not unusually full of grapes? Our mouths! A friendly competition led to a tie (and some noises I hope to never hear again)! Mike and Declan both took the crown with 17 grapes in their mouths. Silly games, spotting moose, finding a lost arrow, and finding bones kept us entertained on our last nine-day hitch.

On the quick drive back to camp one day, we noticed a plume of smoke over the hill. Survival mode kicked in and we immediately made our way into town. Tensions were high as we checked the fire map. Ah! We were fine. The fire was 50 miles away, but was one of many in Idaho at the time.On the final drive home, we watched the bright red sun setting over a burning state. It was terrible, yet beautiful. A fitting goodbye to this eventful week.

Though we all prefer sawing, the crew grew closer through this work and made great memories. I feel very proud that I get to do restorative work for the ecosystem, and it is weeks like this that keep me excited to continue in this field.