Monday, September 24, 2012

Ice Age Trail Mobile Skills Crew

I was a volunteer with the Hoofer Outing Club for the Ice Age Trail Mobile Skills Crew event at the Plover River Segment by the Dells of the Eau Claire River County Park near Aniwa, WI, this past weekend.

We left on Friday night. I remember heavy fog on WI-52 and CoHwy-Y, actually having to slow down while driving through the fog. We reached there sometime like 10:00pm. There was a campfire going already, and so we joined in. I was happy to find some people I knew there like Teresa from the Wisconsin Outdoor group. Also made some new friends; Wanda and Rachel who are also part of the Ice Age Trail alliance.

The night was cold. I had mentioned that my tent was a two person tent, and was expecting someone else to be assigned with me to my tent, but since mine was a 6x5 tent, and the two that needed tents were 6' and 6'1'', that didn't work out. Anyhow, I set up my tent, and donned 3 layers of clothing and jeans, and went to bed around 12:00pm.

There was dew in the night, and as always dew creeps into my tent. Talking to others I hear that using a rain-fly helps with dew. Anyhow, I need to get a new tent; something better than the cheapo walmart tent that I have right now. Plus it must have a rain-fly I suppose. And I should make note not to set-up camp close to the restroom, not that it bothered me this time, but it was something I didn't think about and was probably just around the borderline. I also need to get a new sleeping bag; one that's not so bulky as my current one but instead which will pack down nicely. Ideally a mummy bag, that can stand some cold weather - it doesn't have to be an extreme weather one since I can put on more layers. A sleeping pad would also be nice.

The first day, woke up at about 6:00am to find my tent and everything moist with dew. It was cold outside, so I decided to stay put for a while, and got out only at about 6:45am. There was no showers, so just brushed my teeth quickly, and changed into the old clothes that I had brought with me as work-wear. There was breakfast, and everyone were bundled up in many layers whereas I was not all that bundled up and therefore shivering a little. Anyhow, dew in the morning means clear skies ahead; and the sun did indeed warm up the day. They did some stretching/warm up before the drill, which I thought was rather lame. I'd have done my own warm up routine rather.

Work involved lopers, McLeods, Pulaskis, and pickmatics as well as some hand saws. We would go first with lopers to cut away the denser vegetation, followed by a McLeod rake to remove leaves etc and then pickmatics and Pulaskis to remove stumps, and finally another McLeod rake to level everything and flatten it out.

The trail was divided into sections about 200 ft long, marked by white crossing flags on the ground. The path itself was marked by yellow flags tracking the middle of the path. And every once in a while white / yellow ribbons marked trees/shrubs on the edge of the path, with the knot pointing towards the path to make clear which edge the knot was marking.

Anyhow, I must say it was not environmentally concerned citizens but just recreationaly concerned citizens that build the trail. the flags used had metal wire for the staff and plastic for the flag (!!!), ribbons were plastic, and trees that could have been gone around were often removed just for the leader's aesthetic whim. I felt more sad than happy about the Ice Age Trail. Plus of course, it brings more humans into the pretense that they're close to nature, when they're walking on a trail that was cleared completely of fallen leaves and the good part of top-soil; and there's no fear of getting lost or the need to know one's bearings. In a certain sense, to me this is abuse of nature.

I must also mention getting pissed at their way of carrying tools. I'd prefer to carry a pickmatic over my shoulder but they recommend carrying it in the hand, with the hand about the neck of it, the pick side pointing down, and the handle waddling behind you in the air. I find this ridiculous, and not safe. Why? first, if you drop it, your toes/feet is hurt. Second, the handle waddling around can hit the person behind you rather badly; you don't see the handle, and you don't think about 

Anyhow, that night involved another campfire, and I heard some fun songs like the Scotsman ( ), and a song titled "Mike's Love Truck" that the artist "Randy" aka "Cliff" had himself composed. That was another great night.

I retired earlier, about 11:00pm. The night was cold again, with a frost warning, so I added my rain jacket and rain pants and a pair of socks to the sleeping attire I already mentioned. This night was not so bad since there was no dew.

The next day, we did a morning's worth of work, and then at noon, took down our tents. Later, we went for a walk about the dells of the Eau Claire, which is a beautiful sight with many rectangular pieces of rock in the path of the river (apparently there's three Eau Claire rivers in Wisconsin; the name is french for Clear Water). And then, we called it a day and headed back home.


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