November 4, 2020 | This past hitch, Crew 976 made the long 8-hour journey to the South Carolina coast, to Francis Marion National Forest. We were posted at Buck Hall Recreation area and campground, which was directly next to the Intercoastal Waterway. Working with a large number of Forest Service and volunteer partners, we were able to partake in a few worthwhile projects for the forest over the course of our 10 day hitch.
During our first three work days we helped Joanna, our Forest Service contact partner, install about ¼ of a mile of metal Jack fencing at the Wambaw Cycle Trail, with the intent of keeping motorized vehicles from expanding trails and creating new social trails. The original wooden fencing had decayed due to environmental stress, and Joanna wanted a more sustainable alternative to the old rotten fence. Jack fences are predominately used out West for livestock, as it is too large for larger animals, such as cows, to pass but has gaps for the smaller ones. We removed the posts and boards from the original fence, saving all decent wood to replace other posts, and installed the Jack fence like a puzzle. Among other tasks, we added a gate to the entrance of the trail, and replaced a few of the old wooden posts with non-rotten wood in places the steel material wouldn’t cover. Joanna received a grant to fund all the materials for this project, and our service hours will be used to fulfill the grant regulations. As this project was at least 6 months of planning in the making, it was a privilege to be a large part of such an important improvement to the Wambaw Cycle Trailhead. One of the most satisfying aspects of this work was the ability to see the progress at the end of the day, and the fence looks fantastic.
Next, our crew headed onto the Palmetto trail for some brush clearing and corridor work. We worked over a 7-mile section of the trail close to our camp, and got to see the beauty of this trail along the way. Folks we talked to down at Francis Marion mentioned that the stretch we worked on was the most scenic of the Palmetto trail, and they did not lie. This trail was very wide and full of Palmetto trees, marshes/swamps, and passed along the waterway. I never anticipated lopping a palm leaf in my life, and I appreciate the opportunity to explore and aid new ecosystems.
Our final project involved working with the Palmetto Conservation Foundation on a few bridges in a section of the Palmetto trail about an hour away from Buck Hall. The foundation’s lead, Marie, as well as the construction lead, Jose, guided us to screw in floorboards, install curbing, dig sill pads, and drill in large screws to posts on two bridges. I personally do not have a large amount of experience with power tools or construction, but I learned quite a bit over these two days and feel much more comfortable with a drill. It was very interesting to learn about the mechanics of bridge construction on a trail, and how the marshy environment could affect different building materials. My time at Francis Marion has been thoroughly enjoyable and I feel like our crew was able to accomplish some worthwhile work over our time there. Seeing the ocean, and learning about wetlands, has been a unique experience that I will not forget. I look forward to visiting again in my future.