Voices fill the quiet, dense woods as we play “mustard or ice cream” to pass the time while finding the best path around the downed trees, massive oaks and maples, and spiky raspberry and blackberry thickets, hunting for wavy leaf basket grass.
We look like the ghostbusters with our backpack sprayers, ready to strike when the smallest leaf catches our eye or we stumble upon a large carpet of grass and have to call for backup.
A trail of bright shining blue is left in our wake as we hit every plant we see, trying to eradicate all traces of the invasive species.
Sighs of relief and laughter fill the air as we pop out onto the next trail opening and complete just one more transect.
Every once in awhile a jogger or hiker will pass by and call out a “thank you for your work!”, reminding us that the thorns, ticks, sweat, and perseverance isn’t for nothing.
Even though every time I close my eyes I see the silhouettes of wavy leaf basket grass, I know that at the end of our 9 day hitch trudging through the thick woods we will have had a profound impact on the ecosystem, helping it to once again become healthy and resilient.