Thanks to the generosity of donors and trip drivers, every WildLink Expedition and Exploration trip is 100% free to students (including lunch, gas, etc.) The club members pay that generosity forward by donating a small amount of sweat equity to help maintain parks, wildlife refuges and historical monuments. Such stewardship endeavors strengthens the bond between the students and their public lands and hopefully creates a life-long desire to protect and appreciate their lands.
Twenty-four awesome students from Turlock and Pitman High School WildLink Clubs spent a cool and blustery Saturday morning cutting and transplanting cottonwood branches into several marshes at the Merced National Wildlife Refuge. The drought killed many of the cottonwood and willow trees so we were there to help rehabilitate the area. Apparently sticking branches in the ground will cause the branches to root and create new trees! Perhaps in two or three years we can see the fruits of our labor, and hopefully in 10-15 years animals will be able to enjoy the cover that the trees provide.
Twelve great WildLinkers gave up their Saturday to plant milkweed seeds around the visitor center at the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge just outside of Los Banos. In a year, they'll be supporting monarch butterfly migration!
Twenty-three club members (and a few AP EnviroSci honorary members) have the honor of piloting a vernal pool phenology project. The members counted wildflowers along transects in the very full vernal pools to get baseline scientific data that will track the effects of climate change on the vernal pool ecosystem and the surrounding grasslands.
Seventeen WildLinkers dedicated their Sunday to helping the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge clear an abundance of quail brush from their fledgling demonstration garden. Temps soared into the high 80's (maybe even 90) by lunchtime, but luckily everyone worked so quickly we were done! Ranger Jack Sparks gave us a quick auto tour around the elk enclosure and gave the students several very informative and engaging presentations.
At the suggestion of several expedition members, the THS WildLink Club decided to enter the Homecoming Parade for the first time in club history. We stayed true to wilderness ethics by using only recycled or recyclable materials and created a "walking float" - no mechanized trucks or trailers (just a few stereos and bikes for pizzazz). The student club members worked hard over three days building a campfire on a wagon, multiple banners, a "forest" and tent to carry in the parade. We won the 3rd prize for club floats even though we had no idea our walking version qualified! We were just out to spread the word about how awesome our club is!
Thirteen WildLink Club members from Turlock High and Pitman High worked together to restore native riparian vegetation along the Merced River at Riverdance Farms near Livingston. The organic farm and the Audubon Society are working very hard to restore the balance of nature to help the farm thrive without the need for pesticides and fertilizers and boos the habitat for native birds. Our kids planted several hundred trees and shrubs on this day and helped install drip irrigation for the plants until they become firmly established. It was great to make a close connection to the river that we visit so much in Yosemite Valley and so little so close to home.
Twenty-three THS & PHS WildLinkers took full advantage of a beautiful day in Yosemite Valley by helping the Park restore the oak-studded meadows that have been overrun by conifers in the time of fire-suppression. The club was treated to lunch and a lovely stroll in Leidig Meadows while being taught the importance of black oak trees and their acorns to the Ahwahneechee people. Thanks to years of fire suppression, conifers have quickly started to overrun the meadows and thus threaten the black oak trees. Under the guidance of NatureBridge instructors Ruth & Elspie, our awesome students helped clear over 100 conifer trees near the Four Mile Trail parking area with the hopes of restoring the meadow. After the hard day of work we capped-off the evening with a little ice skating at the Curry Village Ice Rink. BIG FUN! A big thanks to Mrs. Chavez, Mr. & Mrs. Brown, Mr. Russel, Mr. Raumann and the Senior Hollisters for driving!
Nine THS WildLinkers participated in a weekend backpacking stewardship project deep in the Emigrant Wilderness to Bear Lake. Thanks to their efforts, many illegal fire rings we removed, along with lots of trash. Thanks for helping to preserve the wilderness! Photos from WildLink since Mr H didn't go on this trip.
Twenty-five WildLink club members (and their volunteer drivers) braved a blustery and showery Saturday morning for the privilege of planting the first several hundred plants in the last phase of habitat restoration on the San Joaquin River National Wildlife refuge near Grayson, CA. Thanks to the great prep work of the River Partners and Yosemite WildLink program director/coordinator, our club helped to put a small dent in the 549 acres yet to be planted in the reclaimed farmland that is within the floodplain of the mighty San Joaquin River. Volunteers planted a variety of plant species including, valley oak, blackberry & alder. Our plants should take root easily and mimic a wild area within five years. Our WildLinkers should be very proud of their hard work. It’s nice to know we’ll forever be a part of the San Joaquin river’s ongoing recovery!
Ten WildLink members had a weekend filled with adventure and stewardship in the Emigrant Wilderness. Camo Mike, Rapping Mike, Liz, Isidro, Kathy (Flapjack), Aaron, Dre, Maritza, Jeremy & Angelica helped WildLink Paul and several Forest rangers eliminate illegal campsites near Chewing Gum Lake. Several trail signs were installed, as were several large rocks to dissuade camping on once-flat surfaces. Way to give back!
Ten THS students, one PHS student and four Silva grandkids braved the foggy cold atop Pacheco Pass to help restore and create trails within the park. After five hours of work the group accomplished the following: 1. Repaired 130 yards of trail; 2. Created 155 yards of new trail; 3. Cemented six new metal trail sign posts; 4. Had a great time helping the park create a path that will be used for many generations of visitors to come. The park is quite beautiful this time of year and supports mountain biking as one of the main activities along its trails. This park should be a highly recommended stop for those looking to escape valley fog to enjoy a diversity of wildlife amongst the HUGE oak trees that dot the park.
Twenty-two!! Well-behaved students got to visit the only private water bank in the United States on a lovely November Saturday. The students were first given an overview of the site and shown how the farm stores water in aquifers underground for safe keeping until dry years. Explained by the farm’s biologist, Jason Dean, the complexities of water banking & exchange were made clear & relevant to the students. The students were also made very aware of the positive environmental impacts provided by the farm. Students were then led by through a series of great team-building exercises by Dave before having a lovely lunch.
With the help of Stanislaus National Forest Stewardship Coordinator Phyllis Ashmead, six students from THS helped volunteers from Sumerville High School restore a meadow that had been trampled by cattle and overgrown by non-native plant species. Our job was to cut willow branches and then plant them over a foot deep along watershed channels in the hopes that they will grow and prevent further erosion and trampling. Only time will tell, but our kids did an awesome job! Of note: We actually parked next to a small grove of planted Giant Sequoia trees that have several hundred years to go before they get huge.
This trip saw THS WildLink Alums Cody & Austin being wonderful stewards of the environment by helping to repair a problematic section of the Pacific Crest Trail between Eagle and Pennsylvania Creeks. The work was hard, but very rewarding and the camp food was marvelous. Austin & Cody got to relay their stories of hard work and stewardship to their peers in hopes of encouraging them to join WildLink in future years.
Six representatives from THS met with about 20 representatives from the Bay Area to discuss wilderness stewardship and promote youth leadership. Several very chilly nights were spent at the Crane Flat YI dorms (4 degrees F!) and lots of wonderful leadership exercises were conducted. Towards the end of the trip, the gang, myself and Mrs. H did some private sightseeing along the valley floor . The Frozen waterfalls were like nothing I have ever seen.