TRAIL WORK! Separately, the words sound pretty normal, but when you put them together, they become an imposing couple of words. To some, it conjures up long, tiring 8 hour days and hard work with little if any breaks; and then to others, its meaning is quite different. Volunteering their time and giving back a little of themselves to the trails they use day in and day out now equates to an accomplishment and more fulfilling attitude. Trail work for me factors in both of the above fore-mentioned examples. My first experience with doing any trail work came in the form of a job, working for the Forest Service. Understandably, I was a lot younger and stronger then, but it was still the most rewarding and fulfilling experience to date in my life. Back then, I worked on a trail crew because that was my job. I was required to make a trail user friendly and safe for the public; but, as I discovered years later, it was so much more then that! Yes, I was helping to make a trail safe for others to use, but I was also giving back a part of myself, a part of who I am. Participating in a trail crew, a crew with 4-10 others and all striving to repair, re-build or construct a brand new stretch of trail is just a small piece of the whole picture.All of those years, getting paid for doing what I loved to do, can replace the feeling I receive now for the same exact thing. Volunteering and giving back not only of myself, but to others, has turned me into a stronger person. Now when I help to construct a new trail, or repair an old one, the feeling that comes over me is a tremendous accomplishment, a much greater fulfillment because I am volunteer!
Every summer, the C.M.C. posts numerous trips in the Activity Schedule focusing on trail work. Most are day hikes where the group hikes into a location on the trail that has always been a concern for the Forest Service due to erosion or high public usage. The C.M.C. works in conjunction with the Forest Service as well as other organizations such as the B.L.M., the CDTA, the CFI and state parks. Occasionally, a trip will be offered through the C.M.C. such as mine, where we all backpack into a location and spend the better part of two days repairing or building a section of trail that is in dire need of some help. These of course are a lot more difficult and knowing how to backpack is a necessity, but the result is still the same. On a trip I led last spring, every person on the trip except for one had no trail experience. We replaced two crossings over a set of dangerous streams (as the pictures demonstrate). The end result was that inexperienced C.M.C. members created a crossing that was not only safe for others, but also became a personal accomplishment! As one of the participants, Sandy Borgman commented, “Being a small person, I didn’t feel I could do trail work! I discovered, however, that there were many other things I could do. I still can’t swing an axe, but that won’t stop me from trying trail work again!
All trips, however, will vary as to the degree of maintenance they all require. As a volunteer, you decide how hard you want to work. Jobs may vary greatly depending on what the trail requirements dictate. Most trail jobs consist of raking the debris and loose rock to allow for safer footing, or constructing water bars to shed water off the trail and prevent erosion, building or repairing the crossings over a stream, removing fallen timbers from across a trail or in some cases, building a new stretch of trail. You, once again, work only as hard as you want to. There are jobs for everyone, male or female! If you hike or backpack, and use a trail for long distances or you just take strolls down the trail, then maybe it’s time you see what goes into maintaining what you so dearly cherish. By volunteering, you might discover just how rewarding and fulfilling an experience you will receive when you sit back at the end of the day and admire the end result of your accomplishments. I challenge all of you to try trail work just once! If it is not your thing or it doesn’t do anything for you, then so be it; some of you, however, might feel a lot differently and want to try this at least once every year. All I am asking is for your support of OUR trail system; if you use it, then how about giving back to what is yours!
Dave Callais, CMC trip leader, WTS instructor, aka The Cookie Man.