Trail maintenance gratitude
After 2150 miles of walking, today August 19th is my 46th birthday. I received the best birthday gift I hiker could dream of. Are you asking yourself what do hikers dream of on their birthday? The answer is a properly logged out trail. It was a big day for me I hiked 20.7 miles and climbed 4800 vertical feet and almost all of it was logged out. As I climbed I passed hundreds of freshly cut downed trees and I could smell the fragrant sawdust piles. Curly chips of sawdust lay on top of some logs indicating very recent sawing activity. I was pretty sure there was a trail crew ahead of me, and there was two forest service trucks at the trail head earlier in the day.
Most of my day was just effortless, hiking at a comfortable flowing cruiser speed, gliding uphill all day long. A fellow PCT hiker described this feeling like surfing a wave just for the ride. I rode my wave today and came our the barrel unscathed. This happened because of trail maintenance in the form of cross cutting. It takes a lot of extra energy to hop over go under it go around trees in the shiggy. My preference is to hop over them, but Colorado has millions of dead spruce trees with sturdy branches all along the trunk, so this results in less hoping and more shiggy.
So today for mo birthday I had trees that had no hop and no shiggy and I thank the US Forest Service trail crew for giving me the freedom to walk it’s ease.
I wanted to meet these heroes of mine, then I passed a trail junction and I saw that there was a tree logged out, going up a different trail I would not be on and said to myself, darn I’m going to miss them. I wanted to give them a nice thank you, and tell them I appreciate their hard work. As I walked up my intended route some of the cuts did not appear to be super fresh so I was pretty sure I missed the trail crew. A few miles later I was surprised as I walked around the corner I almost walked right into somebody. It was the trail crew boss, heading out early. We chit chatted about their job, and I let him know they were working on the Four Corners Loop and gave him my website tag in which he was very interested. I clasped my hands together and gave a nice Japanese style bow. He said further up you’re gonna run and to two more crew members, I have a crew of three right now one had to leave early for college. So this summer my crew of four was responsible for logging out 600 miles of trails. He also let me know they’ve cut out thousands of trees this summer.
After her brief chat I trudged on, but it wasn’t a trudge at all because I had excess energy due to the lack of not spending the day crawling over trees. I hopped on and frolicked down the like I was in a field of flowers but my flowers were actually freshly cut logs showing the growth rings and the straight back and forth pattern of cross cutting.
Finally I encountered my heroes of the day, the people giving me a birthday gift when they had no knowledge of such giving. Two days prior I spent hours crossing hundreds of downed trees and this was the change of pace o needed. We chatted about the various sawyer techniques and the Level A, B or C certifications they have. We talked about the sharpness of cross cut saw, and why it is called a “misery whip” when not sharp or when you are out of sequence with your partner. They knew how important it is to strip the bark off the tree to retard we dulling. I told them about Washington Trails Association and how they have a group of people who call themselves “the wackos” who are just nuts about cross cutting.
The crew was a female and a male, the lady’s name is Kelli, and I am sad to say I did not write down the hard at work name of the other sawyer. I watched them saw through one foot diameter log, it came crashing down to the trail making it safe so I could pass. They let me through their work zone. I crawled over the half finished logged, my first log I called over for the day. Turning around I once again and gave a nod and said thank you I appreciate your hard work.
I put the word gratitude in the title of this short essay, because their work does make me feel very grateful for the services so I can hike and so others can hike. Thank you to all paid trail workers, volunteer trail workers, and anybody who hikes down the trail and performs trail work as they progress.
I’ve spent many years of my life hiking, I figure probably about 4% of my life actually on Trail. I am also a volunteer and an assistant trail crew leader with Washington Trails Association having volunteered almost 150 days, I know firsthand the effort that is needed continually to maintain our trails free of obstacles so the public can enjoy our public lands. If we do not have trails leading into our public lands only the mighty few who have the deepest zest for extremely harsh bushwhacking would be able to explore these beautiful majestic places I’ve been sharing with you. So my hat comes off to trail workers because if it was for not their hard labor it truly would be impossible to bushwhack the 2500 mile loop I am currently walking.
Thank you to the trail maintenance crew I encountered on August 19 along the Rito Alto trail #745 in the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness. It was a wonderful birthday gift that made me smile and allowed me to flow up hill all day long.