One of my favorite quotes as a backpacker is, “Low snow doesn’t mean no snow.”
Everyone knows that the trails we enjoy were built and constructed likely years ago but the maintenance and upkeep of trails can be varied from annual cutting and brushing to numerous years between these chores.
When trail users step off the created and designed path a trail can quickly deteriorate. At the very least, become unsightly through the creation if multiple pathways (i.e. braids or social trails). For many trail users this is both distracting and takes away from the solace found with a hike.
This past week we spent five nights camping above 11,000-feet by night and swinging tools like Pulaski’s, scooping with shovels and smoothing and tamping with McLeod’s by day. We dug and filled countless buckets with dirt and rolled, shimmed or carried rocks and boulders of various sizes which would fill voids, stop progression or signify a closure.
The work is sweaty, dirty and completely rewarding.
Packed in were numerous stuff sacs, sorted by likeness in size and weight contained 161.2-pounds of gear, equipment and food to keep everyone hydrated, comfortable and happy with nutrition for six days and five nights. Still to be added were the tools needed for the trail project and its tasked goals.
One-by-one the trailers arrived. One-by-one, horses and mules were unloaded, brushed, saddled and loaded for our benefit. Each rider grabbed a set of reins and off we headed upwards. A steep ascent in 3-miles to a small bench edged by willow. Ahead, on the steepest section of trail two snowfields held tightly to their winter precipitation. Deep. Precarious. Not worth the risk. We unloaded gear, shared a conversation filled lunch, planned next outings and hugged goodbye. The next leg of the journey would be picked up, packed up and carried by another set of volunteers out for a day of slogging up mountains in the midday sunshine.
Trail work is not done in a solitary vacuum but instead with, at the very least, with a volunteer of friends seeking to give back in a landscape they value and enjoy. This project was successful, in part, from the numerous volunteers who gave their time to get our gear to the worksite. For this we are humbly appreciative and thankful.
Backcountry Horsemen: Donna F, Vern J, John N, Lisa N, Nancy S, Dan’l W, and their steady studs and studettes – Baby, Ceilo, Leah, Paco, Rainy, Rosy, Scooter, Smooch and Sunny
Gear Hauling Hikers: Gregory B, Sarah S and Meg W