During last month's workday, students were able to complete the first ditch-spanning bridge, build multiple smaller foot bridges, lay down a gravel trail through a low area, construct an outdoor classroom, and continue trail clearing. Unfortunately, two of the four power poles generously donated by South Carolina Electric & Gas could not be moved into place before the workday. Yesterday, the heavy poles were dragged by truck to a location close to the west end of the trail.
Once the poles were as close to the ditch as they could be moved by truck, staff from the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest, environmental studies teachers from Ashley Ridge High School, and several environmental studies students used rope and handles to carry the poles down the slight incline to the ditch. More ropes and some muscle power got the poles to span the ditch. Students used post-hole diggers to dig into the ditch bank, then attached some anchoring lumber, and finally filled the holes with cement to securely set the power pole supports in place.
Later this month, students will conduct a mini-workday to attach the decking to the bridge, which will allow safe access across both the east and west ends of the ditch and complete the nature trail! Even though the trail has yet to be completed, a math class was already walking the trail and using the outdoor classroom space.
As we prepared to depart, we noticed that some of our trail leveling work had uncovered the nest site of an Eastern Mud Turtle (Kinosternon subrubrum subrubrum). The four young turtles had hatched from their eggs, but had not yet departed the cavity in a high ground that had become part of the trail. With plenty of oohs and aahs, we removed the turtles from the cavity and released them in a nearby low, wet area.
Maybe while studying all the other plants and animals along the trail, students will come across the turtles they helped get started in the world just south of the campus.
Images by Mark Musselman