Tuesday, May 21, 2002

May 21, 2002: This week, it will have been four months that we have been in NCCC. Doesn't that sound like a long time? AmeriCorps time is very different than Real Time.

Last week we sent off Seth and Joe to disaster relief in Virginia. We miss you, guys! Could have used the claw the other day on raking duty.

Last week was spent getting ready for Operation Muscle, which was this weekend. Food was prepared. Got small camp canvas and bedding started, got some raking done, got some latrines cleaned and stocked. We finished scraping the girls' side dock. And oh my, that was a terribly exciting job. Some folks also spent some time working on the library, getting all those piles of books organized and shelved. It's going to be a long process, that. Operation Muscle itself went swimmingly, even though it rained on Saturday. There was a lot of cleaning done. We also got bed frames out to most of the small camps. Fire 4 was excited to be joined by most of Fire 2, who visited for ISP hours. It was a great time, to see our compatriots and work with new folks. Yay. Realized again how isolated we are. But really, it's okay. On Sunday, it was sunny but still quite chilly, and we got to do some raking. More small camp set up, more cleaning of buildings. Lots of basic work, but with forty people a lot got done. We felt very good about that. Plus we got to meet more TrailBlazers people, both staff and alumni and boardmembers. What an amazing program this is, I was floored by the depth of people's loyalty to and faith in TrailBlazers Camp. I am so honored to be affiliated with it, even peripherally.

So Monday and Tuesday have been our days off. There were a few town trips and even our first ISP event of this project round. The work was filling potholes to the road leading to the Poconos Craft Center, a few miles away. This week is a short week, and then there's a holiday weekend. Woo!

Saturday, May 11, 2002

May 11, 2002: On Friday, the weather was perfect, sunny and warm, cool under the shade of the forest. More progress was made on the docks, pressure spraying and scraping to get rid of the paint. That was the intention, anyway, the scraping didn't seem to work so well. Another group continued clean up the small camps, throwing around bucked trees and branches and the like.

And then it was Friday night! We went out to Milford and painted the town Fire 4 Red.

Thursday, May 09, 2002

May 9, 2002: Yesterday, Wednesday, our short work week commenced. We began the task of cleaning up the small camps. Jean taught us all to do square lashings and we re-lashed the camp's kitchen tables. It was great fun. We also raked some leaves. And then we raked some more leaves. After that, we pushed around fallen tree bits with garden implements. We finished up the day with some leaf-raking.

Today it rained, so we split into a few groups and did some random work around the camp. We pressure-sprayed the docks on both sides of the lake, built a fence for the new donkey pen, and cleaned up debris and dead wood from some of the small camps. What a shame, to have an entire day void of raking.

Wednesday, May 08, 2002

05/08/02: For a more complete description of what I and the rest of my team have been doing, look at our team website journal.

In short, we have been here in New Jersey for a week now. The camp is great, but definitely rustic. It's a short hike just to get to the shower house. We are literally in the middle of the woods, so it's very pretty. It's also very tick-infested. One day four of us found ticks feeding on us in the shower. Gross! There is a bat and a family of flying squirrels living in our cabin (it's called Chimney Corner, who wants to guess why?), not to mention all the little bugs we don't see. So it makes for interesting evenings. It gets really cold here at night, we all have sleeping bags and piles of wool army blankets. Recently we had some nicer weather, it was quite warm.

We are indeed out in the middle of nowhere. My cell phone doesn't get service anywhere except the Wal-Mart and the Shop Rite, so far. Milford, the nearest town, is small but very cute. We've explored it a teeny bit. I got my hair cut there this weekend. There is a movie "theatre" that shows one movie at a time. Even a pizza place.

I like it here, it's definitely an adjustment: Hard work (raking leaves til my brain explodes) and not showering every day, no hot water or heat in the cabin (brr!), a communal food supply that dwindles amazingly fast, daily tick checks. Adventures aplenty, I love it!

Tuesday, May 07, 2002

May 7, 2002: On Wednesday, May 1, Fire 4 left Perry Point (eventually) and began the arduous journey to the outback of New Jersey, to Camp Trail Blazers, located in Montague and just across the Delaware River from Milford, PA. Upon arrival, we met one sponsor, Jean, a witty Brit. She showed us around part of the camp, including our cabin and the shower house on the 55-acre Lake Mashipacong (I think that's what it's called, anyway). We are living in Chimney Corner, which is the infirmary when camp is in session. There are critters running around it--bats, flying squirrels, spiders--but that just makes it a more authentic experience, don't you think? That evening we met Steve, another sponsor, and his family, who cooked us all a great dinner. Just after dinner we had our first bear sighting! This part of the forest is heavily populated with black bears, so we knew to expect them, but I don't think we figured we would see one right away, and at such close distance. We cannot keep foodstuffs in the cabin or anywhere except the kitchen, because the bears will smell it and break in. And that would not be good news.

Friday morning we had breakfast and met the young people in the Leadership Training Program. These folks are regular campers who came from the city for the weekend to plant the gardens. As the weather was too wet on Friday, our group and their group split up into teams to clean out some buildings and tidy some of the trails. Saturday was a gorgeous day, and we got both the boys' side and girls' side gardens planted. On the boys' side, our group had to till the soil by hand (well, by hoe, really) and put in rows for planting. Both gardens got tomatoes, peppers, onions, carrots, herbs, squash, cucumbers, corn, and some flowers too. We were very proud of our work at the end of the day.

Sunday morning all of us successfully did the Challenge Wall. We hope to do it again, as a team. After lunch, the LTPers returned to New York, and we started a big list of clean up. More building cleaning and lots more raking. It wasn't the most exciting or fulfilling work, but it looked awesome when we were done. That sense of accomplishment is great. I'm all about tangible results.

Monday and Tuesday were our days off. Just after noon on Monday, seven Fire 4 members set off down the highway for three miles. We finally met up with the Appalachian Trail and hiked about two miles to the lookout on the top of Sunrise Mountain. It was a long, not-exactly-easy-but-not-difficult hike, and the vista at the top made it worth the exertion. It was as amazing as we'd heard from the campers. We are hoping to rise early one day to actually see the sun rise from Sunrise Mountain. When we got back to camp, after hiking about 12 miles altogether, the seven of us devoured four boxes of mac and cheese, and crashed a few hours later. Today most of us are pretty sore but feeling good.