Day 7: On Second Thought about that Spooky Trail

I learned the Spooky Night's trail at Shelby Farms as I completed my Volunteer Odyssey. But somehow, I'm even more terrified about my anticipated trek in October.
I learned the Spooky Night's trail at Shelby Farms as I completed my Volunteer Odyssey. But somehow, I'm even more terrified about my anticipated trek in October.

I learned the Spooky Night’s trail at Shelby Farms as I completed my Volunteer Odyssey. But somehow, I’m even more terrified about my anticipated trek in October.

I plan to go on the Shelby Farms Spooky Night’s haunted trail this fall; I thought that helping out today with securing the trail’s temporary fencing as well as picking up trash along the way would prepare me to walk the trail with no fear and win all bets with friends.  I now know what I can expect along the Spooky Night’s trail; however, I think I’m now even more terrified!

In addition to getting a behind the scenes view of the trail’s preparation for Spooky Nights throughout October, I also met more Shelby Farm’s staff and board members.  They encouraged me to stay in touch with the happenings at the Park.

In the meantime, I plan to come back to Shelby Farms Spooky Night’s trail.  Right now the decision to come back as a volunteer to help out at the trail’s exit is weighing in heavier than coming back and walking the haunted trail!

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Connected with Shelby Farm’s volunteer coodinator, Irene Montanez.

In addition to getting a behind the scenes view of the trail’s preparation for Spooky Nights throughout October, I also met more Shelby Farm’s staff and board members.  They encouraged me to stay in touch with the happenings at the Park.

In the meantime, I plan to come back to Shelby Farms Spooky Night’s trail.  Right now the decision to come back as a volunteer to help out at the trail’s exit is weighing in heavier than coming back and walking the haunted trail!

Thank you for reading! Like what you read? With more than 10 years experience, Cristalynne Dupree is searching for a job where she will use her marketing, public relations and communications skill to coordinate strategies and tactics that will reach and engage the organization’s target audience.  Contact her at 1225Cristalynne@gmail.com or jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com.

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From Little Seedlings, Mighty Oaks Grow

Ready for action!

Day 5. In high school, I got up before the sun rose to compete in crew regattas. Waking up this morning took me back to that time, when I had the privilege of experiencing the world

Ready for action!

Ready for action!

before it succumbs to the hustle and bustle of life while feeling a silent electricity in the atmosphere knowing I’m about to unite with open nature. Today those memories stirred in my mind as I participated in the Wolf River Conservancy’s 9th Annual Tree Planting at Shelby Farms Park. It was hard to believe this is the first week of spring as the day proved extremely cold and windy, and even though the sun decided to sleep in, we lucked out with dry skies. Despite the weather, more than 200 volunteers of all ages signed up for this philanthropy, and no one was afraid to get a little dirty. Picture this: toddlers playing in giant dirt hills while elementary school-aged children enthusiastically ran potted seedlings to their designated homes.

About 7,000 trees and shrubberies were planted this morning, and my table was in charge of

John and I potting the pin oaks.

John and I potting the pin oaks.

the pin oak trees. My job entailed putting a seedling in a plastic plant pot while my partner and fellow volunteer, John Huggins, covered it up with dirt just up until it hit the collar. I packed the dirt down so it would be firm when it rained, and then the tree was ready to be placed in the specified pin oak area. Collectively, we must have planted at least a hundred pin oaks. Every time our pile of seedlings thinned out and we thought we were on the brink of finishing, someone would appear with another bag of fresh seedlings to pack. I swear for each pin oak removed from the pile, five more showed up in its place – it was hilarious!

The Wolf River Conservancy had a very efficient assembly line happening. There were people on the enormous mounds of dirt who shoveled it into buckets for runners to deliver to the tables where we potted the plants. The runners also collected all of the empty dirt buckets to be filled up again. For the majority of the event, my table consisted of a family of four, John,

Volunteers working hard.

Volunteers working hard.

and me. We talked the entire time, and I really enjoyed working with these people. It was a bonding experience. I wore thin, pink gardening gloves I won from a trivia game, and my hands became wet and freezing because they were not protected from the moist, cool soil. John was so kind and brought me a hot cup of coffee that seemed to magically bring me back to life! In addition to coffee, the conservancy also provided water, fruit, granola bars, turkey roll ups, and chocolates, and needless to say, the volunteers were very appreciative. Keith Cole, the executive director, and Mayor Luttrell, the mayor of Shelby County, both made inspiring speeches about the Wolf River Conservancy and our big-hearted members of the community committed to preserving the river.

The mission states, “The Wolf River Conservancy is dedicated to the protection and

Shelby Farms Park was so spacious and calming.

Shelby Farms Park was so spacious and calming.

enhancement of the Wolf River watershed as a sustainable natural resource.” When a gravel mine was going to be built along the river in 1985, volunteers prevented the mine from proceeding and thus founded the non-profit organization to further protect the river and the area’s respective wildlife. John told me he and a friend counted almost 300 deer the other night!  He is a member of the conservancy and enjoys all of the benefits it offers, especially kayaking on the water. There are so many fabulous activities, programs, and ways to get involved. You can choose from various plans and an individual membership is only $35/year! To learn more about Wolf River Conservancy the programs it offers, visit www.wolfriver.org.

It was so nice to be outside connecting with nature. As soon as I arrived at Shelby Farms Park, I immediately felt a sense of calmness washing over me. I truly relish being out in the open air and I do not believe I take advantage of what this organization has to offer. I enjoyed getting in touch with my nature spirit today – it most certainly won’t be the last time! Stay tuned for Day 6!

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job in writing, event planning, communications, or teaching. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com or aesamsell@gmail.com.

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Week 2, Day 6: Rivers Powers at Dirty Girl Run

I am a runner. I am what some would call a long distance runner, but for plenty of my running buddies, my half-marathon max distance is very short. I’ve participated in dozens of races, which require lots of training, but I’ve only been out to Shelby Farms at 6am 2 or 3 times for training runs, and it’s always been cold when I have.

The only reason that rivals a training run for best reasons to be at Shelby Farms before the sun rises is to help out with a charity run. The Dirty Girl Run is a girls (of all ages) muddy 5K obstacle course whose proceeds benefit the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Maybe my favorite thing about the run series is that breast cancer survivors get to participate for free!

It was a lot of fun to work behind the scenes at a race. I handed out t-shirts to almost 600 people in about 2.5 hours. After having to say my script 600 times, I have a new-found respect for those who put on races. The last race I was in had about 20,000 participants, and I would have totally lost my voice if I had needed to go through the t-shirt sizing and bib-pinning information 19,400 more times. Actually, I would have lost my voice long before that.

Before the sun came up, it was really quite frosty with unwelcome cold weather since a mere 12 hours before it was sunny and 75, but once the sun came up, it was an absolutely gorgeous day. So beautiful, in fact, that I allowed my arm to be twisted to jump in and crawl through the last mud pit at the finish line. It really was a lot of fun, but the muddy water was quite cold. Pro-tip: if you’re going to jump into a mud pit when it’s 50 degrees outside, you should have some warm, dry clothes to ride home in.

The best way to do the Dirty Girl Run is to do the volunteer/runner combo. Volunteers get to do the course for free, so it’s a win-win for the race planners and participants.

 

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Week 1, Day 6: John Cook at Shelby Farms Park and Conservancy

I woke up this morning with a terrible attitude. It’s Saturday. It’s early. And it’s friggin’ SNOWING. Do I really have to go work outside today?! The answer? Yes. So let’s just power through this and get it over with.

“Whistle While You Work” is a volunteer program at the Shelby Farms Park Conservatory. The first Saturday of every month, volunteers meet at the park to help repair trails and perform maintenance projects like: spreading mulch, gardening, and removing dead limbs. The park’s forest attracts an array of wildlife, however, much of the forest is fragmented and severely threatened by invasive species, like Chinese privet and kudzu.

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Ain’t whistlin’ yet.

I show up at 9 a.m., still in a sour mood, and notice a huge group of people hanging out at the parking lot. Why are these crazy people here so early on a snowy Saturday? Ohhh, they were here to volunteer too. I was pretty impressed by the commitment of all these volunteers. But was it enough to change my attitude? No. I’m cold and tired.

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Kevin, lookin thrilled to be here.

I meet a volunteer named Kevin, who tells me more about what we are doing today: planting trees. Kevin and I become quick friends and walk to our tree planting site together, both of us using shovels to navigate through the un-level terrain. Once we get to the site, (about a 15 minute walk)(in the snow) we are given a quick demonstration on how to properly dig a hole. I’m no stranger to digging, so I didn’t pay any attention.

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Can ya dig it?

We are freed to start digging and suddenly I have a digging partner. Her name is Tara (which I’m just now realizing means “earth” or “land” in Latin [terra] which is ironic because we were brought together to plant trees in the “terra”. Man! I am SO deep!) Tara is volunteering with her club from the U of M. She also explains to me that she has never used a shovel before in her life. You couldn’t tell though. She was a natural. I guess you could say I “dug” her shoveling skills. She also told me that her “method” was exactly the way they demonstrated a few minutes before we started digging. I guess I should have paid attention.

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She can dig it!

After we planted a few trees, Tara and I decided to make things a bit more interesting. How? By timing ourselves. The first few trees took us about 7 minutes each, but once we started timing ourselves we got done to 3 minutes per tree. (that means Tara and I are badasses) We continue digging and planting and talking for the next few hours.

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A 3 minute tree

Needless to say, it was a tough day. But there came a point during the cold, unceasing wind in my face, shoes and socks wet from melted snow, and snot pouring out of my nose, when I felt a sense of euphoria. I guess because I had convinced myself that the day’s task was going to be so wretched compared to staying in my warm bed, that I couldn’t help but laugh to myself. I swear I’m not lying when I say I felt–get ready–invigorated. There is something very satisfying about getting dirty and being sweaty and cold all at the same time. Plus, what better way to make new friends AND do your part for the environment. The day turned into something NOT to be endured, but experienced. It was as if I had taken my bad attitude and buried it in one of the holes with a tree. (that tree is going to be a total jerk.)

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Bad attitude tree

The conservatory’s master plan is to plant one million trees and restore the health to the park’s forest. So, there’s a lot to do! Maybe I’ll see YOU out there next time.

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.”- Robert Louis Stevenson

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