My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Monday, August 29, 2016

Sunhaze Meadows Gets a Boardwalk

August 16, 2016

Three refuges are managed from Moosehorn NWR. The other two refuges are Sunkhaze NWR and Aroostook NWR. I was scheduled to go to Aroostock NWR several weeks ago, but had to cancel when I had to transfer over 2000 of my seedlings into their growing cells.

But I got to visit Sunkhaze NWR as part of a volunteer group that came to Sunkhaze to start building a boardwalk on the Carter Meadow Road Trail. Sunkhaze consists of peat domes, grassy wetland meadows and flood plain forests along Sunkhaze Stream and other tributaries that flow to the Penobscot River. So this area is often very wet and easily damaged by hikers. The boardwalk will keep hikers from building new trail loops as they detour around very muddy spots and will make the hike easier.

After our over two hour drive, we arrived and waited for more volunteers to show up. We started our work day by taking a short hike to visit one of the wetland meadows, located about midway along the loop trail. Then we came back and sort of self assigned ourselves to various jobs.

The woods look very different than do the ones at Moosehorn- think they are older

A view of the large wet meadow  - but no alligators here -
 maybe in another 100 years of global warming

We were using recycled materials to build the trail. However, we had to break down huge, platform-looking structures to get the boards. I got on the demolition work crew. Some of them took sledgehammers and broke down the platforms while others took out all the nails. The nails were both rusty and were the kind that are almost like screws, with rings around them, making them VERY difficult to remove. I know that VERY WELL because that was my job.

It took several people to get the top platform drug off the stack so it could be broken apart

We used the boards currently laying under the platform - these are the deconstructor guys

Hammering out the nails

Mike gets ready to attack another nail

I got my boards organized so I could partially hammer out several nails,
then switch to pulling them out with the crowbar

The other team had two crews, one that hauled the readied boards to the crew that was actually doing the building. The design was simple. Nail pair of boards to a 6” X 6” length of wood, that was a few inches longer than the width of the pair of boards. The boardwalk started about a tenth of a mile away and then grew further down the trail from there. 

Some materials have reached the place where the boardwalk will start

The tough guys carried 3- 4 boards at a time - at least for the first few hours

Different haulers used different techniques

Kirsten was one of the fastest haulers

I took a break and sneaked off to see how the construction was coming

The guys in orange shirts - all from one company and, I think,
 did most of the actual building

We didn't finish, but can probably finish with one more work day. I was back there twice more,  those times  to help staffer Mike spray for purple loosestrife. It occurs along the road that runs along the east side of the refuge. It will devastate the wetlands, if it gets into it, and will be impossible to control. Mike is the only staffer with training in spraying for invasives. He and Bridget had just started spraying when her time ended. The spraying is done from a tank on the back of a pickup. One person has to drive the vehicle, while the other walks along and sprays the clumps of purple loosestrife. This requires a lot of jumping in and out of the truck since the clumps are often widely scattered. Other times, the sprayer just walks along as the truck stops and starts because the plants are spaced only a few yards apart. I worked two days with Mike. I was the driver the first day and the sprayer the second day. I ended up working fourteen hours that day, but I was just sitting in a vehicle for the four plus hours we traveled. But I had to get up at 4:30 to put out three sets of bee traps. When we got back, I took a half hour off to eat and organize another round of planting. I planted another forty milkweeds, watered over a hundred newly planted milkweeds and worked to clear more of our planting site of weeds. Then I had to stop and gather my bees, then process them. Before I got them processed, it was dark.

A view of (most) of the work group I really look tall because I'm standing on the boardwalk while everyone else is on the ground - I'm in blue shirt. 

I'm writing this on the Saturday following this workday, and plan to work at least twelve hours today, then get started by five tomorrow to get everything prepared for our milkweed planting work day. I have to distribute tools and flats of plants along the planting sites. One site will require hand watering, so I also have to fill a water tank on my work truck and pack up several watering cans. Life is good.

I'm hoping that with help, I'll only have a dozen to twenty more flats of forty each plants to plant by myself in the next two weeks. I will help Mike every work day until the end of August and will have to do my other jobs around that. I will then have to wait until at least next May to find out how many of the milkweeds actually survived.

And as this goes to press, I'm still planting milkweed - but I got a volunteer that has come back three times to help me. And she will probably come back a few more times before we get the last fifteen flats planted. The milkweed will completely circle the hill below headquarters and will also be the main plants growing on the sides of a ditch along the entrance road where the original planting failed.