Santa Fe National Forest Fire Rehab
Survival vs. Perseverance. Survival is born of necessity while perseverance is an ethic developed in the face of adversity. The difference became definitively clear to the RMYC Blue Crew # 1 on their backcountry spikes in the Santa Fe National Forest. The crew participated in two fire rehabilitation projects in forests that had recently burned. The remote nature of the project area provided the opportunity for crewmembers to have powerful learning experiences in a backcountry setting.
In backcountry trainings prior to the project, the crew learned wilderness principles such as Leave No Trace, water filtration, managing backpack weight, and backcountry food preparation. The ensuing projects were two-week intensive (called “spikes”), experiential opportunities to apply the skills they learned. They encountered many challenges including rain, illness, personality differences, uncertainty, and fatigue.`
The crew’s first backcountry spike took place near Polvadera Peak outside of Abiquiu, NM. The primary focus was to mitigate the violent erosion on the trail system that had gone unchecked since the forest burned. The existing trout populations were evacuated five years ago and have not been able to return because the trails have deposited an unhealthy amount of sediment in the streams below. With this purpose in mind, the crew established drainage structures and repaired existing tread throughout the trail system. The crew’s second spike took place in the active Pacheco Fire burn area near the Santa Fe Ski Basin. In this case, with the fire still burning and the seasonal monsoons on their way, the crew understood the urgency of the erosion control measures. Building off the skills they had already developed, the crew worked hard to fall trees and install structures that would prevent flooding and help maintain a heavily used trail system.
During their first spike, they survived. They learned that anything you don’t need should stay in the truck (their first pack-in was way too heavy!). They learned to always bring enough water (no matter how heavy it is) and that, when you get back to camp after a long work day, “hunger is the best sauce.” During the second spike, they discovered how to persevere. Hiking an average of six miles a day, crewmembers sculpted their calf muscles and learned how to control their breathing. The crew developed strict hiking protocols that ensured safety such as hiking to a destination as a group, not as individuals. Most importantly, the crewmembers learned that attitude determines outlook. As a crew, they were committed to maintaining a positive attitude which allowed them to persevere on their projects and will allow them to persevere in the future.