Alternative spring break – 2014

26 03 2014

We had sunshine. We had short sleeves. We had the flush of sunburn on winter-white arms and faces. We had, uh, shale?

No beaches, but we had hard workers and fantastic attitudes. As usual, Mizzou sent some – 10 – excellent students to continue the fence-rebuilding project on Spring Creek Basin’s southeastern fence line as part of alternative spring break. Leader Chalen said the number of groups working this spring break is 52 – up from 38 last year. If all you’ve heard about the next generation is a not-so-hearty endorsement, these students made myth of such statements.

They ranged from freshmen to seniors, from undecided majors to finance, to animal science/pre-vet to fisheries and wildlife, to journalism.

Every year, we’re grateful and excited to welcome them, and every year, a new group of students humbles us with their willingness to work on public lands very far from their Missouri campus.


The sweatshirts didn’t last long. It was a gorgeous day in Disappointment Valley, and we were down to T-shirts in no time at all. Right to left: Grace, Sam, Chase, Sophia, Casey and Kyla.


BLM range specialist and former herd manager Mike Jensen helps Mizzou student Jake set a cross piece into an H-brace at the start of the project.


Students Chase, left, and Mark attach boards to a tree to protect it from wire fence strands biting into it. This is just up the line from the H-brace Mike and Jake are working on in the previous pic.


Student leader Chalen – who also was last year’s group leader – drew the short straw in digging this post hole with Sam. See all that rock? See the tamp bar? The only other tool they used was a post-hole digger.


Same post hole – post in! Sam, right, tamps it in while Chalen and fellow student Sophia admire the work.


MK Thompson with San Juan Mountains Association carries out old wire strands that the students removed and rolled. A local Girl Scouts troop will pick up the old wire to recycle and earn some money! How about that for both recycling and partnership among local groups?


Herd manager Damon Corley pounded his fair share of T-posts. Part of the fence line was relocated to a straighter route, so posts were lifted out and reused or replaced. The lower wire strand was left in place temporarily to help align the new posts.


Sorry, Dustin! While he was hard at work with a shorty tamp bar, Kyla bombed his photo – but gave his hard work an enthusiastic thumbs-up! They and Casey (whose foot appears at bottom left)  – and Sophia helped, too – dug two holes for an H-brace at the bottom of this steep little arroyo toward the end of the day’s work project.


Sophia, right, and Kyla set the cross piece into the notches of the posts they dug holes to place. Kathe Hayes, mastermind of the alternative spring break week for many, many years (did I hear 17 years, Kathe??), supervises.


The Forest Service’s Tom Rice helps Dustin drill a hole for a spike to secure the soon-to-be-upright juniper post to the cross piece, as seen in the previous pic. Remember, in McKenna Peak Wilderness Study Area, no mechanized tools are allowed.


On this end of the brace, Dustin hammers home the spike while Casey steadies the cross piece.


NMA/CO executive director and volunteer Tif attaches a clip to a T-post to secure a wire strand. Only the top strand to go! The top and bottom strands are smooth twisted wire, and the the middle strands are barbed.


We’re using wildlife-friendly wire spacing on this entire line (I think that’s usual now for Forest Service and BLM fences). Jake holds one of the measuring sticks used by students to  attach the wires at the right spacing while Casey attaches a strand to the T-post with a metal clip.


The students were so “on the ball” that hardly had a wire strand been tightened and tied off at the H-brace than they were attaching the strands to posts and staves to wire. Wow, they were fast! Some of the students have fence-building experience, but most don’t. Quick learners, these college students!


This shot is a little out of order, but it’s a good contrast to the previous pic, which shows the nearly-finished fence. In this pic, taken from about halfway up the steep bank of the arroyo at the end of the day’s work section, you can see Kyla and Tom drilling a hole in one of the juniper H-brace posts while Dustin, Kathe, Casey and Sophia have set their post and are getting ready to tamp dirt in around it. When the H-brace is completed, wire will be strung – from the bottom wire up – clips will be placed, staves will be set, and we’ll call it a day well spent!


One of the last things to do was to dig a hole and place this tall, stout juniper post (cut Saturday during work prep) about midway up that steep arroyo bank. Sophia, Grace and Damon carried it to its place, and they and other students dug the hole and placed it and tamped it steady before we hit the trail for the trucks …


… where we took the obligatory group shot. Back row from left: Damon, Mike, Kyla, Sophia, Dustin, Casey, Chase, Grace, Chalen, Sam, Mark and Jake. Front row from left: Tom, Connie, Kathe, Tif and MK.

We really can’t say “thank you” too many times. Mike, Tom and Connie won’t be joining us for the second day of work, but the students, Kathe, Tif and MK will return along with a couple of wildland firefighters Kathe conned encouraged to come.



8 responses

26 03 2014
Prairie girl

Kudos to everybody out there!
Hard workers with smiling faces. What a success!

26 03 2014

The kids are always smiling. Every year, amazing students! They always put in a fantastic effort, and we are so grateful for their hard work!

26 03 2014
Puller Lanigan

WOW! Great job and thanks from the East Coast!!! TJ, are those t-posts capped?

26 03 2014

No. That would be a ton (probably literally) of caps, an incredible amount of money and next to impossible to keep in place. The mustangs are pretty good about leaving the fences alone. The visual alone seems to be enough.

26 03 2014

They worked hard! While all of this work is going on do any of the horses get curious and check it out from afar?

26 03 2014

No. 🙂 But the horses probably don’t know it’s going on because it’s in a fairly isolated area that they don’t frequent very often.

26 03 2014

Great job to the Mizzou Crew!

26 03 2014
Lynn and Kathy

FANTASTIC guys! All of us who love the horses of SCB thank each and every one of you so very much!!

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