The words of wilderness ranger Mackenzie Baxter:
I’ll start where Jimmy left off . . .
Our eyes were wide at the prospect of creating some new trails, and Jim was quick to deliver on the promise. We spent the majority of this past week working on finishing up some new trails outside of the Badger Creek Wilderness area. Designed with all users in mind, from hikers to mountain bikers, Jim had laid out the general design for the trails. He explained to us how you have to keep the pattern of the landscape, the user, and the likely type of erosion and wear on the trail (among other things) in mind when laying the initial trail plan down on the ground. It’s a lot to think about, and I think what goes into the creation of a new trail is way more than any average user would expect. Since there were already flags marking where the trail should go, as well as an initial “rough draft” of the trail on the ground, Jimmy and I raked, lopped, filled in and smoothed the trail in order to make it user-worthy. After spending a few hours on a portion of the trail, Jim came and inspected our work…. And with flying colors we did not pass.
Thankfully, Jim understood that we were new to this and gave us a bit more guidance on what he was looking for, and we were promptly sent out again to create more trail. This time, with more familiarity to the subject, we made a sweet little chunk of trail that I am proud to say I made. It’s a cool thought- this trail could last many, many years into the future, and I’ll have been the one to create it for all those future people to enjoy. I can point on the map and say- “hey, I know that trail… I built it!”
Travelling back to the week before (and where I left off in my last blog), Jimmy and I spent a good portion of time clearing those already-made trails in the Badger Creek Wilderness. We cleared a few miles on Monday and Tuesday, and then on Wednesday scouted a trail called the Cooks Meadow trail for trees across the path. We counted just under 20 trees of various sizes across about two miles. It was a crazy beautiful area- quiet forests, spectacular views of the mountain, and lupine blooming in abundance. I got a little gung-ho in taking some macro photos of flowers and some ants (which, I’ll admit, Jimmy showed me how to do- I am a camera doofus!) The lupine and red columbine were bathed in gorgeous light and I just couldn’t get enough of it. Interestingly (and appropriately for my summer out here) the ants were all working together to build a new tunnel in a log that had been cut right next to the trail. Each ant was going to the farthest point of the tunnel, chewing out a bit of the wood, and transporting that sawdust to the opening of the tunnel and then releasing their load. Just like Jimmy and I are doing this summer, they were clearing out a pathway, bit by bit, and leaving a lot of sawdust behind. It was something I’ve never seen before, and it was very cool.
Mostly I’ve been feeling pretty darn lucky to be doing what I’m doing this summer. I have also found that I am starting to look at trails in a different way. It’s as if I am backstage, working on the inside of a play or movie, and now see how things get done in order to portray a certain scene. Before as a hiker, I never really paid much attention to the logs that were cut on either side of a trail, or how a trail was nicely curvy and serpentine, winding its way across a mountainside. Now it’s something I see all the time! I really appreciate how my perspective has started to change based on how much I’ve learned over this past month. Looking forward to the next month where I’m sure it’ll change even more!
Until next time . . .