A few things to mention from the past few days, and all in relation to service.
First, a brief mention of 2 student-initiated service projects on campus. Another great thing about the forestry program at Reedley College is that they permit and encourage student-initiated, forestry-themed service projects. One such project a few friends of mine are spearheading is the thinning and management of the on-campus eucalyptus grove. Yes – eucalyptus are a non-native species to this area. No – eucalyptus are not without use to the school. The grove is often used for forestry labs or chainsaw practice.
However, the grove was getting a little unwieldy, so my two friends proposed that they do work in the grove on their days off from class to thin it out and get it to a more manageable state. I got to help for a few hours last Thursday by helping lift and load some of the bucked logs into a trailer to then transport to the wood pile site on campus. Thus – this eucalyptus grove service project benefits another student-run service project: the chopping, bundling, and selling of fire wood to the public.
(**more updates on the eucalyptus grove coming soon**)
Last Friday, the forestry department helped support a golf tournament fundraiser with the agriculture department. The request for student volunteers went out during our classes, so several of us showed up at the Sherwood Forest Golf Course on Friday and stayed most of the day to help with various components of the tournament. My task was to keep watch of one of the holes to see if anyone got a hole-in-one (a significant prize would have been awarded to anyone who got a hole-in-one…no one did however).
This would have been a less-than-thrilling place to stand for hours had I not been located under an oak tree filled with wood peckers busy at pecking. In all honesty, I was quite content to watch them for hours (and hours I had) : there is an awe inspired to the flight style – bullet-like fashion, tucking their wings in just before they land in the tree’s canopy; there is a certain soothing nature to the sound of the determined pecking as they attempt to force acorns into holes for safe keeping; and there is a comedic quality to their heckling at golfers as they attempted but fell short of getting a hole-in-one (in all seriousness – the woodpeckers seemed to know when the golfers were about to putt and when they were just mingling about because they would be quiet as a golfer swung a club but would then dissolve into chattering as soon as they were done. They must be secret golf fans).
However, the detail that takes the cake for the day was the raffle at the end of the tournament. This was a true “Toto, we are not in Orange County anymore” moment. Prizes from the raffle included: a leaf blower, 2 HUGE bags of dog kibble, 2 weed sprayer backpacks, and a chain saw. Now, all such raffle items make complete sense here, where most people have farms or ranches, work in agriculture or forestry. However, in Orange County, most people would be left being a bit confused as to what they could do with such “prizes.”
Holidays Awarded for Service
So, today, November 11th, was Veterans’ Day. I am not a veteran, but because veterans gave service to our country, we were awarded with a day off from class 🙂 And, what do forestry students do on a holiday given off to honor servicemen? We go to the forest.
Two friends of mine and I went for a day hike in the San Joaquin River Gorge Management Area (BLM land), just northwest of Auberry, California. We chose to do the Pa’san Ridge Trail, which was a 7.8 mile round-trip with about 2,000ft of elevation gain. We parked at the Yo Gub Weh Tuh (good luck with pronouncing that one) parking lot and hiked in to the bridge. The trail is easy to spot and stay on, you really can’t get lost (that goes for the whole loop actually).
The bridge crosses over the San Joaquin River, giving great aerial views of it, and once across you hike up a bit and then you begin the Pa’san Ridge Trail loop. The first part is a steady two miles of climbing: switchbacks and steps. The weather, although humid, was cool and overcast, so it was rather perfect hiking weather for us today.
When we stopped for a rest and snack, we were greeted by a new wildlife friend: a tarantula (not sure of the species ). He kindly endured our photo shoot of him with graciousness. It was my first spotting of such a friend in the wild.
The loop winds through oak groves, through cattle gates, past grazing cows, and along grasslands. The oaks were losing their leaves and the briskness of the air coupled with the overcast sky made everything feel so properly autumn-like.
Make no mistake, we felt we’d gotten a work out, but it was a great way to spend a holiday. And, in many ways, the day was so intertwined with what we are learning in our classes, that we felt almost as if class had been part of the outing. Concepts of silviculture, watershed ecology, and forest recreation / trail maintenance all came into our conversation as we spotted things on the trail. Being in a forestry program means you can never look at trees or trails anywhere the same ever again, not even on a holiday. And, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Before we got in the car to return home we chatted with an older gentlemen that had spent several of his younger years in the Forest Service before moving on to other career opportunities. He is retired now and was loading some rather impressive camera equipment into the back of his car as we walked up. He had spent the day photographing a few local species of birds, his favorite being the tufted titmouse. He sets an oak branch on a picnic table with pine nuts stuck into crevices and then he just stands there and photographs birds when they come to nab the pinenuts. A rather clever tactic. He showed us a few shots, which were really rather good.
In parting he said “In retirement, everyday is a weekend…but today, enjoy the day as much as you are allowed.”
Solid life advice.