At the end of February, we welcomed back the Atlanta Outdoor Club for their second service trip to Cumberland Island. After the dedication and hard work they showed during their Halloween service trip we couldn't wait for them to return!

This time we had 16 volunteers travel down from Atlanta, some returning and some fresh faces. Arriving Thursday, we shuttled them to Hunt Camp and got them situated, ready to begin project work all day Friday and Saturday. Friday morning, we awoke prepared for the challenge. With previous groups, we have cut back the sides of Bunkley Trail, but there is a tremendous amount of undergrowth with a ubiquitous presence on the trail. Groups during the Georgia Conservancy MLK weekend trip and SOAR alternative learning had lopped most vegetation that was higher than waist level. With the AOC we brought in fire rakes to turn up the tread of the trail and kill the vegetation before it grew up and overran it.

Now fire raking is no easy task… it is probably the most strenuous job we have volunteers do. Often, we only have a few group members rake and then we switch because it is so exhausting. But with this group, almost all of them were fire raking. And they didn’t give up! We had them raking in the sun ALL day as Bunkley offers little shade. Several times when my arms started to feel like jello, I’d look around and see every AOC member hard at work toiling away, and I felt so inspired to keep working. Not only were they relentless fire rakers, but they consistently expressed how excited they were to be here giving back to the trails. Each of them was so enthusiastic, passionate about the outdoors and its conservation, and filled with positive energy. Getting to talk and connect with each person truly was the highlight of this trip for me.

While we completed 1.6 miles of trail, Jim took a handful of volunteers to haul in materials and to build a small boardwalk at the Brickhill spur leading into Bunkley. These guys had an equally tough job, but built a beautiful walk along the old dike to prevent erosion into the wetlands, as well as to keep hikers from wading calf deep in mud!

The day before the AOC was set to leave, we welcomed the University of Florida Alternative Spring Break group, the first of seven college groups to stay for a week and volunteer with us. The AOC and Florida shared Hunt Camp that Saturday night, and it was incredible. Florida had accidentally left a connector for their propane tank with their stove, so an AOC volunteer gave them a collection of propane tanks and donated their Coleman stove! The camp magic the AOC brought to the table was so generous. For many UF students, it was their first time camping and to be welcomed by such an experienced and friendly group was an incredible sight. 

More on Florida and the other spring break colleges next week!