September 10, 2011
My Day with the Youth Conservation Corps
by Paul Reichert
Following a brief visit to the Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) facility in July, I was invited to join a YCC crew for a day, thinking it would be fun. As the new Projects & Grants Manager for the Yellowstone Park Foundation, I wanted to get out in the field to learn more about this annual program we fund, while proving to myself I can still do dirty work. At 7 a.m. on August 16, I arrived at the YCC ready to go for “spike” -- the term used for in-the-field work projects YCC conducts throughout the Park. Our spike orders were to remove a portion of old asphalt trail at the north end of the lower Mammoth terraces.
The travertine terrace has been advancing in this area, and was starting to grow over the trail. The Park wanted this trail removed for visitor safety, to protect the hydrothermal features, and to allow the terrace to follow its natural growth path forward. The terraces have advanced about ten feet in three years, and will likely grow over the top of the old path. Due to the sensitive nature of the hydrothermal area, the YCC crew had to use picks, spud bars, shovels, and wheelbarrows to remove 10- to 12-inch-thick asphalt by hand.
Asphalt removal by hand is tough, heavy work that we learned got a little easier as the trail heated up later in the day. Our spike crew shared some laughs about how asphalt chunks look like Ohio, Illinois, and other states, and how “un-paving” a trail by hand means you can meet any other challenge in your life because it’s got to be easier than this...
But the YCC isn’t all work and no play. Throughout each one-month session, the teen participants take part in recreational activities like hiking and rafting, as well as leadership and environmental education.
Kristen and Sara were this spike team’s crew leaders, and Jenny was the youth leader. Youth leaders are YCC participants who are selected by staff for the opportunity to return the following year. Our leaders had us working and laughing all day. Their encouragement and team building efforts showed as YCC participants busted and hauled massive asphalt chunks uphill with smiles and cheers.
I ended the day sore and tired, and impressed with the teamwork, kindness, and dedication of the entire crew. The crew leaders who worked both sessions of the summer, showed true leadership and inspiration—doing one of the hardest jobs yet—on the last day of YCC 2011. I was awed at how their positive attitude kept us all going.
I’m looking forward to doing this again next year (maybe I can get an easier assignment…)
Thank you to the YCC staff for letting me join in for the day, and giving me a first-hand look at this terrific program!