The last weekend of September 2013, a group of 21 ambitious Trailblazers set off for the Chattahoochee National Forrest in Northern Georgia to join in the fight to Save Georgia’s Hemlocks. We camped overnight at Mulky Creek Campground, where the s’mores and bannock bread-cooked-on-sticks ran freely. We took a sojourn to a clearing close to our campsite to enjoy the starry, moonless, and clear night sky. The Milky Way was clearly visible and the power of modern laser technology allowed for a spot of astronomical education and pro stargazing.
After a restful (albeit chilly) night, we broke camp and joined a group of 30 or so volunteers and crew leaders to begin our project with Save Georgia’s Hemlocks. We split into groups of 4 under the guidance of crew leaders to treat assigned Hemlock trees with a chemical that is safe for the plant but toxic to the invasive Hemlock Wooly Adelgid bug that feeds on the sap of Hemlock trees and has no natural predators in the Eastern United States. We used soil injectors (read: massive hypodermic needles designed to deliver chemicals through soil “Hypoteric Needles”) to disperse this environmentally harmless chemical throughout the soil around the base of Hemlock trees. This chemical is taken up by the tree’s root system and effectively “vaccinates it” against the Wooly Adelgid. Throughout this process, the Hemlock trees were measured for growth to determine proper dosage and track health, and replacement of the identifying dog tags on each treated tree was carried out as needed. Over 200 trees were treated by the Trailblazers alone. These trees will survive any onslaught of Wooly Adelgid, and preserve the Hemlock genome so it can repopulate once the invasive critter has died out.
After hugging trees and giving Mother Nature her needed shots, we traipsed to Sea Creek waterfall. Here we had lunch and heard from many great outdoor service organizations including the Benton MacAye Trail Association, Go Outdoors! USA, the Mountain Stewards, and the executive leadership of Save Georgia’s Hemlocks about conservation efforts being undertaken in Northern Georgia. We were able to present the basic philosophy and operating principles of Trailblazers, and all gathered there were thoroughly impressed at what a group of determined young people could achieved. After the educational session, we tarried around the waterfall to chill out and take a few pictures to remember the time by. We then headed for home, satisfied that we’d left the lasting, characteristic Trailblazers mark of service on the Hemlocks of the Chattahoochee National Forest.