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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.]

Sawing with the JEFFs

Lane sits on a log with a chainsaw and smiles down from above.

This past hitch I had the joy of going out on a field visit with crew 3 from the Central Divide Region, or the JEFFs as we affectionately call them due to their main work areas being in the Jefferson Zone. Southwest of Great Falls in the foothills of the Little Belts we were bound, with pounds of gaycon (iykyk), cubies brimming with water, and numerous saws in tow. The project had shifted locations at the last minute and we would now be clearing out forest service trails to provide access for a nearby landowner to take his cattle to a different grazing area. Spring storms had brought down a plethora of trees, and they lay thick like a jungle over the trail. The steep sides of the gully that the trail ran through meant that the trees were hung up high, which led to more complex binds and difficult bucking situations that our new sawyers took their time to consider and take down accordingly. Ever the adaptable crew, they were fresh and ready for whatever challenges they faced.

This was my second time visiting this crew, and I was excited to see them bonding and learning together more and more as the hitch went on. We had the joy of staying in a barn on the landowner's property and discussed what foods we would swim in if we could (I stand adamant that orzo is the only correct answer), while watching feral cats skirt around the edges of the barn, keeping mice at bay.

The early mornings started with camp chef-warmed bagels and a cup of joe before we hit the trail and hiked up over the ridge and into our project site. Each day, I saw the members improve in their skills. As their confidence grew, so did their accomplishments. Each night we bantered over dinner and watched the sun set over gorgeous fields of dandelions, listening to the yaps of coyote packs and moo's of uninterested cows. The idyllic setting let me reflect on why I joined MCC in the first place: to get outside and see the beauty of Montana while learning new skills and meeting fun like-minded people! Each day I am more grateful for the opportunities that I have had to learn, grow, and lead here.

The trail work season is just starting to get into the swing of things, and I am excited for what the future holds as our crews work hard, get grimy, and do difficult things that push their perceptions of their own capabilities. As the saying goes, MCC truly is "tools for living, experience for life."