Between February 23 and 28, SAWS hosted 10 students from Eastern Michigan University's Alternative Break program. The student group traveled from Ypsilanti, Michigan to Graham County, North Carolina to give back to public lands during their spring break. The group worked on the Slickrock Creek, Ike Branch, and Joyce Kilmer Loop Trails in the Joyce Kilmer Slickrock Wilderness, located on the Cheoah District of the Nantahala National Forest. Participants learned about federally designated Wilderness, traditional tools, and sustainable trail design, and local Wilderness topics. On the trail, SAWS staff and volunteers:
Improved almost 2 miles of trail through brushing and fixing tread
Removed 7 trees
Created 30 feet of grade dip (drainage)
Installed 10 feet of log cribbing
Debermed 30 feet of trail
Dismantled and removed the materials from a dangerous bridge
Built 380 Smokey the Bear bags for Fire Awareness Week in the Graham County Schools
Together with SAWS staff and local volunteers, the group contributed 691 hours of volunteer power towards the Cheoah District. At the end of the week, students were asked to share their thoughts on their experience:
"I hope more students will have the chance to experience the Wilderness through Alternative Break and share the same wonder I felt after this amazing encounter with nature in the Appalachian Mountains."
"I enjoyed learning about the area. The staff was very knowledgeable... I also learned some new skills that I did not think I even would, such as how to cut giant logs."
"I enjoyed the mix [of] hard work, scenic hikes, and educational portions. The trip was really eye-opening for me. I did not realize how much work goes into maintaining the trails."
"I... loved learning about why it is so important for us to be here. This trip made volunteering fun!"