Thursday, September 25, 2014

From the Road


I hope ya’ll have been having a great start to a new NCC year. I have been traveling all along the west coast and have had some wonderful adventures.

I am writing this for a few reasons. Firstly, I would like to thank all of you for such an amazing year. When I began the program I had little experience with tools, especially chainsaws or jackhammers. I’m pretty adventurous but compared to a year and a half ago Daisy, it’s a pretty huge feat to get giant (they seemed giant in my mind, before) flesh-eating machines into my hands. Learning and becoming comfortable with these machines because of the guidance of Corey, Nate and Vince as well as general training has made me confident to face other fears as well.

I also learned about attitude. I remember the first week, when we were all sitting in monsoon rain, drenched to our guts in the downpour and immediately learning that you have to keep lighthearted when situations are tough otherwise you’ll just be miserable. Lindsey and Justin and I were yelling back and forth but none of us could hear over the sound of the downpour so it just turned into unrestrained laughter. Ever since the downpour this lesson in attitude has carried me through difficult times.

The people in this program are a huge part of why I grew. With everyone coming from different backgrounds, there were a lot of different viewpoints on life. I had the opportunity to have deep conversations about life and perspectives. Being in the field gives time for great reflection and idea sharing. The friendships that were created and the memories made together are an invaluable part of this program to me. I would like to thank you for this most of all.

End of Summer On a Trail Crew

Before even coming to Reno, I knew that this summer would be full of challenges. I had basically thrown myself into a program 2000 miles away from home and away from any support. Admittedly, I was quite anxious, but at the same time, I was exhilarated! Excited that I had the opportunity to do meaningful work and explore new places. I wanted to squeeze the day for all that it was worth and learn all I could. 

I soon learned that, despite my motivation, I was a true greenhorn in almost every aspect of what I dubbed the "NCC experience". Here I was, big city boy educated in a traditional sense, and with minimal exposure to the outdoors other than through pictures in magazines. I was a new recruit among veterans who had basically grown up with the outdoors. However, I saw this as an opportunity to learn and carried on.

My first real challenges came a couple of hitches in, after my initial excitement fell. The heat, long workdays, and the lack of a comfort zone had started to take its toll on not only my body, but my mind as well. I could handle my body aching, but this kind of mental strain was hard to bear. I became frustrated with the work and fell into a pit of pessimism. I didn't think all of the effort was worth my time and certainly not my health. On one hand, I wanted to quit, to give up and leave. However, deep-down, I also wanted to see this program to completion. By braving through tough situations, I gained a broader understanding of my limits and shortcomings. Not only did I have time to reflect, but also had time to face my faults. I began to see trail work as a character building experience and a metaphor for life.

Sometimes the earth is soft and smooth, making it easy to pave a way through; in these times one should enjoy the simplicity and perfect this section of tread -- life. Other times the earth is rocky and uneven. At times like these, even more effort should be invested in because this is where it counts. Just because work is harder is not a reason to be lazy; rather the opposite is true! Only when the tread is rough can your diligence polish it. At the same time, though, one must realize that tread can always be improved infinitely, bit by bit, but that one should not get caught up in this infinite improvement. Sometimes it is better to move on rather than getting caught up in little things. I also learned that talking about our hesitations and challenges is the best way to get through them, together. I could not have done this without my crew encouraging me and helping me pass the time, which is bound to pass no matter how slow it seems to be ticking at times. 

As I prepare for my last hitch, I will continue to seek meaning in my work. By no means have my hesitations and frustrations disappeared, I have simply learned how to be resilient and handle them in a positive way. I usually don't appreciate the work I am doing until after it is done, but I know that there is no other place I would have worked at this summer than here.

Omkar Kulkarni

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Welcome to the Nevada Conservation Corps!

My name is Nick Regalado and I joined NCC in hopes of having a hardworking, honest job and ended up getting more than I could bargain for. I was put on a front country crew located in the Spring Mountains just for the summer and couldn't have enjoyed it more. As an aspiring wildland firefighter, I felt that this was the perfect way to be introduced into working in all types of weather and terrain and the hard work that came with it. While cutting trail, I was constantly thinking about how I was going to accomplish being a firefighter and how I would go about it after my tenure was over, until my crew leader and I had a one on one interview. He told me I could join a sawyer crew and get experience which is needed to be a wildland firefighter. I found this immensely important and jumped on that idea quickly. I didn’t know NCC could offer such a vital aspect for me to accomplish a lifetime goal.

I honestly could not have asked for more to be put on such a well-knit crew with an outstanding crew leader. Our chemistry with each other was eye opening for me, because we were all there for the same reason which was to work hard and have fun and that’s exactly what happened. There was not a dull day that I could remember and we all grew as a family and it was simply amazing to me. We worked and camped for eight days and had six days off, but when it was time to pack up and go back to the office it was as if nature was drawing you back in to stay and almost sad to leave. We were dirty, grungy, tired and desperately needed to shower, but it was the most fun I’ve ever experienced and would recommend it to any young adult that is looking to have fun.

-Nick Regalado

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Bows to the Knees

I've been waiting for this week since I read the NCC position description: Chainsaw Training. Now let’s get this straight, I’m the type of lady who uses electric blowers and push mowers, so power tools, especially sharp flesh tearing power tools, terrify me. But oh my my are they exciting!

The week started with a day of powerpoints explaining the safety and maintenance. It was taught by Nick, a bald man with a great beard. It should be required to have a beard if you are teaching people to use a chainsaw. It wasn't until day 2 when we were in Toiyabe forest that we even touched a chainsaw. We learned how to start the chainsaw (harder than one might think), properly sharpen a chain, fix a flooded chainsaw and other basic maintenance procedures. We were joined by Pete, a Certified Stihl Silver Mechanic and Miguel, a class C sawyer. My crew leader of Team Flash, Corey, also has a deep passion for the chainsaw. If you are going to learn how to use a chainsaw, these are the best people that you can learn from.

The first day of sawing, the sky promised to bring excitement. By the time we began our safety meeting, snow had begun falling, the mountains were erased by clouds and the NCC crew began to shiver. I don’t think any of us had been thinking about the possibility of snow when packing. But what’s a better way to warm up than firing up a chainsaw and cutting down some trees?

The purpose of our work was to take down pinions and juniper trees that were below 5,000 feet, encroaching on the habitat of the endangered Sage Grouse. My crew, Team Flash, began with the largest tree on the site. Corey quite enjoys using the saw so he was happy to take on such a beast. The tree gave a good fight but in the end Corey prevailed. Justin and Lindsay took quickly to limbing and bucking the tree. Then it was my turn, I was still terrified but felt ready. I made some successful cuts, but when bucking the logs I hit a rock and the rest of the day I spent sharpening the chipped chain. It was less than exciting but I did improve exponentially at my sharpening skills.

The next day I was more comfortable with cutting. I also was able to swamp for Lindsay who is the friendliest person to swamp for. Every time she motioned for me to take the brush she looked so gosh dang happy to be sawing. We all got to practice felling trees, which meant we got to yell loud and proud “TREE COMING DOWN” and point in the direction it was falling. Something about making the calls made it seem more official that we were becoming sawyers.

Friday we had very little time to be out in the field. We had a quick hour to complete the quick week of sawing. It was a great experience that pushed us all out of our comfort zones and we all learned so much. On the drive home it felt like the general consensus was that we all wanted to saw more in the future.