03/Mar/07, Environmental Education Center, Volunteer Appreciation Lunch

List of photographs are offered below

Today was Volunteer Appreciation Day in the San Gabriel River Ranger District, and it was also a work day for the San Gabriel Mountain Trailbuilders.

A large number of photographs were taken, some of which are posted below, and some of which will be posted later as they come in.

To begin the day, the SGMTBs continued to work on the tool bin at the Rincon Fire Station, making improvements on the bin and making the bin look nicer by getting it ready to be painted. At the same time a group of five volunteers did work on the Environmental Education Center's nature trail, including about three hours on the new bridge that's going in (see photographs.)

In order to build a new foot bridge across the stream so that children taking the hike can cross safely and perhaps pause a moment, the existing stream had to be revectored a bit so that the area where the footing of the bridge will be built could be drained and then excavated -- without the volunteers drowning.

Getting the stream temporarily revectored took considerable effort, more so since the dirt that was to be removed from the footing trench needed to be saved so that it could be restored once the bridge's footing has been established.

Tom (our engineer) wants the footing to go down at least four feet before the concrete base is built up and filled in, matching the depth of the footing that was built across the stream a number of years ago. (The new bridge should be capable of supporting the combined weight of ten thousand grade school students at a time, it looks to me.) Once both footings are installed, the actual bridge can be assembled and built.

The short little nature trail that runs behind and along side the Environmental Education Center is a nice hike for young children who might not have the opportunity to get away from the cities and get out into the mountains. The trail goes through a number of micro-environments, crosses the stream twice, and provides Sunlight and shade in a safe and easy walk which young children can enjoy. At the same time the trail is part of the forest and is home to deer, owl, squirrels, snakes, and other forest creatures.

After the bridge work was set aside, we all gathered at the Environmental Education Center for the volunteer awards lunch, joining what looked to be about 40 or 50 volunteers and Forest Service people (see photographs.) A number of volunteer organizations and independent volunteers were represented at the lunch.

I acquired a plate and a fork and stood around next to the cakes demanding slices of both of them and was informed that the cake wouldn't be served until after lunch.

Lunch consisted of a mountain of meat balls -- ground-up animal of some kind, I imagine, and there's always rumors about what the Forest Service does with the remains of the poachers they catch -- and a nice salad, complete with sweet pickles and green Spanish olives! Oh man, those green olives! There were three, maybe four different kinds of potato and corn chips also provided, and a wide variety of soft drinks as well as bottled water in ice chests.

After lunch I picked up my plate and fork and again stood around the cakes demanding large chunks of both and was again informed that cake wouldn't be served until after the awards were handed out.

The awards were great stuff: Volunteers who had accomplished over 100 hours this year got either an annual Adventure Pass, a really neat battery-powered LED lantern, or something else. There was recognition for the people who put in 500 hours or who managed to accumulate over 1,000 of volunteer time.

I got one of the lamps since I ride a bicycle up and down the mountain late at night, and Ben, Tom, or someone else from the SGMTBs carts me up and down when it's a work day -- so I couldn't use an Adventure Pass: No windshield on my bicycle. The lantern is good enough that I can cart it around in my backpack from now on and use it to read by in my tent at night -- great stuff! What a WONDERFUL present!

We also got to meet a forest volunteer who had donated time for many years and was then later hired as an employee. We all have a running joke about being allowed to drop dead of heat exhaustion without losing pay because none of us get paid anyway. Now the new USFS employee will get to do the same back-breaking labor, suffer the same sunburn, sunstroke, and heat exhaustion, but now that she's an employee she won't be able to drop without clearing it through her supervisor two weeks in advance first.

After the awards, I picked up my paper plate and fork and again stood by the two cakes, demanding half of each this time -- only to be told that the cake would be served after the raffle.

It's curious: I swear I must be the luckiest guy in all of Southern California. When ever there's a raffle or some free door prize or some give-away that I enter that doesn't cost be a dime, it seems I always win something. This time I won Ann Marie Brown's "Southern California Cabins & Cottages," a book about 350 pages long and stuffed with detailed information about a lot of places I've never heard of, and a lot of places I've known about and always wanted to visit.

Other people got really nifty prizes but I think by far the book I got was the best. Another of the San Gabriel Mountains Trailbuilders won a prize -- I can't recall what it was. Still, Mike took my photograph when I opened my present and I had to delete the thing because I look for all the world like the ugliest insane homicidal killer ever to climb out of the mountains with an ear-to-ear grin on my face and both knees torn out on my faded blue jeans (I'd caught my left knee on a shovel, my right on the corner of one of the ice chests.)

With the end of the raffle I was quickly in line when the cake started being cut up. I got a chunk of both cakes -- lemon swirl in the far cake, strawberry in the near cake, and by the time I walked from the head of the line back to the end of the line, my plate was empty. I got another couple of slices of cake -- bigger this time -- and walked around until the line disappeared, then I returned to the cake and - seeing as nobody was watching -- I cut myself a HUGE chunk of both cakes and had in all six helpings.

Then I went back for more Spanish olives and pickles.

Lois, Marty, his wife -- so many other names I can't recall -- did a bang-up job organizing the volunteer lunch and I'm glad that it took place this year.

We were given some numbers -- I can't recall the actual numbers but I think it was reported that over 32,800 volunteer hours have been recorded this past year in the San Gabriel River Ranger District, and I know for a fact that a lot of volunteer hours -- trash collection, rock dam busting, downed-tree removal, fire rock ring breaking, nature hikes with children, and other activities -- don't get recorded. Most hours get recorded, but not all.

Keeping volunteers motivated enough come back month after month, at times committing strenuous labor again and again -- that's a difficult job, and the River Ranger District's volunteer coordinators -- Lois, Howard, others I couldn't name -- seem to manage to keep volunteering in Angeles National Forest an enjoyable effort.

As an appreciation event for all of the volunteers, this day was a resounding success.

* The near bank's bridge footing gets some attention
* The dogbone blocks are a good temporary bridge
* Moving rocks, boulders, sand, gravel, digging a hole
* And trail work also gets done on the far bank
* It's fun to stand around doing nothing, watching others work
* Tom our engineer observes, measures, digs
* A look up-stream. The stream has been revectored a bit
* Digging through boulders that have to be removed: Tireing!
* Progress is made -- about two and a half to three feet
* Pick, shovel, crow bar followed by pick, shovel, crowbar
* Getting ready to end the work for the day
* Volunteer Appreciation Lunch! A first look
* There I am: a face only a gargoyle's mother could love
* Time for lunch!
* A wider look at some of the surrounding area
* One of our cakes! A cake that I got most of, I think
* Inside getting lunch -- poor lighting; sorry about that
* We didn't have to eat standing up: We got tables!
* Presents to raffle off. I won an excellent book
* Another view -- wanted to show pine tree in foreground
* Lunch still in progress
* And more of the same
* Lois and Karen offered their appreciation of volunteer efforts
* And more of the awards
* Lois sitting down for a bit
* And more of the same
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* I thought I'd walk around the awards and get photographs
* And more of the same
* And more of the same
* And more of the same
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* I trued to get the kid to smile for the camera: No way
* My camera is almost full
* And one last photograph before the camera stops

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