Our last hitch was filled with pre-nostalgia and lots of memory sharing. We recalled the time we heard the terrifying sound of two alligators mating, the time we made up a dance mimicking sawing vines above the head, when we had a contest to see who could make grapefruit rinds into the trash can during break (picking up our missed shots in accordance to LNT principles, of course). Our primary project this week was building a bridge across a narrow creek. The worksite was beautiful; lots of mountain laurel and wild mushrooms. It only took us 2 days to build the bridge, exceeding the project partner’s expected timeframe by a day and a half. The finished product looked great! Like proud parents, we made sure to get a group picture next to our masterpiece. Other projects included: water bar maintenance, preparation for a prescribed burn, and invasive species removal. While doing water bar maintenance we made our way down a 3-mile trail ending in an overlook of a hilly South Carolina Valley. We’ve worked mostly in flatland or wetland this season so it was like seeing a whole new side of the park. We got to revisit our very first Kings Mountain work site for this week’s invasive work. The plot of land is already starting to revegetate new plants. Stalks of yellow flowers 5 feet tall covered the area. But of course, in its stubborn nature, some privet had resurfaced as well. It was mostly very small buds that you could just pluck out of the dirt easily. It goes to show that invasive species removal does really work, but needs to be closely monitored. Packing up on Saturday night was bittersweet. We enjoyed a dinner of chicken breast, beans, and rice and came up with trail names for each other based on inside jokes throughout the season.
Elliot: The Jabroni
Cal: Captain Tying Knots
On the drive home, I was starting to feel sad about separating from these wonderful people, but life couldn’t help but throw us one last adventure. We were one hour out from Chattanooga when the Van jolted. One of our tires burst, rupturing a coolant hose in the process. Cal did an excellent job of veering off onto the median to safety, but we were all pretty shook up. We sat underneath an overpass to escape the sun and waited for Joe to pick us up in a new vehicle and for the van to be towed. Once we finally made it back to the SECC office we had a speedy derig and then attended the graduation the office set up for us. We got some great gifts and shared many memories. I feel so much stronger than I did at the beginning of the summer, physically and mentally. I have learned countless skills and lessons. This will be an experience I never forget.
-Mariel Groppe, Crew 928