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Monday, June 1, 2015

Lessons on Wilderness

Trail Specialist explain how things work 
The Wilderness Skills Institute (WSI) is a great educational program that furthers the knowledge of wilderness stewardship and the wilderness.  The program is designed to provide volunteers, agency and partnership staff growth within their unique skill sets.  During the two weeks of WSI, I understood why classes like wilderness first aid, crosscut saws, and trail structures are important.  In addition, the opportunity to network and gain new friends by camping and learning side-by-side was life changing to me. These were the things I learned: how wilderness relates with my major landscape architecture, as well as, why we should be cognizant about safety and trail maintenance.

WSI introduced me to Wilderness First Aid (WFA). That course prepared me for unexpected in the wilderness because pretty much anything can happen out there.  I learned to look at the scene before rushing ahead to help.  After checking that it’s safe for me and my team, then I can check to see that my potential patient is alright.  Once the scene is safe, if I discover my patient is not breathing, I also can  perform Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) to attempt to save his or her life.  I learned this technique at WSI, too.   

WSI has also made me more cognizant about the need for trail maintenance.  It’s important to remove trees that might block the trail that might make people create a new trail to go around the tree.  I learned how to do this using a crosscut saw and axe.  In the advanced trail structures class, the focus was on using stones to help people get down steep slopes as well as reducing erosion that creates gullied trails. 
Making work along the trail look natural and undisturbed by the untrained eye is part of doing the job right.  In addition, I learned we can stop water erosion by digging into the dirt and making a runoff or building a crib wall using crushed stone and boulders which helps to dissipate water.

While at WSI I spoke with several landscape architects, who explained to me the need for landscape architects working in for the U.S. Forest Service. The works of landscape architects in the forests look at large acreages of land, many contour lines, the layout of trails, and focus on working with nature to keep it all natural because it’s a forest.  For landscape architects designing roads, they may spend time asking questions like: "should this spot be cleared for an overlook along this road?"  
To illustrate, imagine having nothing but trees to look at verses having breaks in the trees to see views of the mountains.  That's just one example of landscape architecture utilizing the landscape itself to the fullest by utilizing what's already here: native plants and mountain to accentuate the great spaces in the national forests. 

The Wilderness Skills Institute allowed me to gain many experiences.  It allowed me to increase the knowledge I know about the wilderness by taking several classes and to gain certification that will allow me to protect the wilderness and make a difference.  For this reason, I feel obligated to learn more about the wilderness by participating in something that will help the wilderness.  That’s why, I can’t wait to get back in college and see what types of clubs that relate to WSI.


Blogger: Patrick Slaughter
Title: Trail Skills Intern
@ Appalachian Trail Conservancy

Based out of Asheville, NC
Occupation: Student 
@ North Carolina A&T State Universtity 
in Greensboro, NC
Studying: Landscape Architecture