I enjoyed my first experience with trail maintenance back in June so much that I just had to do it again. This time, I’d plan on staying the whole weekend instead of bailing out early because of prior commitments. And I’d go in with a little bit of experience in how the whole thing worked and what was going to be expected of me on the trail.
I drove out Friday evening after work. As luck would have it, I had driven out this way for a backpacking trip just the week before, so I knew where to expect the road that I needed to turn on. A good thing, because there were only two signs, and they had to be placed with maximum strategy rather than maximum aid to drivers unfamiliar with the area.
The first part of the drive was one I’ve taken many times – it’s the route we take to the Queens River trail head through Idaho City. So I know the roads well enough to take them with ease. When I got to the turnoff, I almost went the wrong way, but one of the signs showed me that I needed to turn left very soon after getting on the road.
Then came a bit of a scary drive. The road was narrow enough to make me hope that no one would approach from the opposite direction (no one did), but the views were pretty enough to make me want to stop and take pictures (I didn’t). I kept an eye on the odometer, but I was still feeling pretty nervous as I continued to drive and didn’t see anyone. But as the road descended from the pretty views into a river valley, I finally saw the second sign and a group of cars parked at a not-very-well marked trail head.
I pulled into the line of cars and then went over and said hello to those who had arrived before me. I only knew the trip leaders from last time – everyone else was a first timer. I got my tent set up – this time I took our car camping tent and the air mattress so I could sleep in luxury, rather than the backpacking tent that’s easier to set up, but much smaller.
Women continued to arrive as the sky progressed from dusk to dark. Two didn’t come in that evening, and we hoped that they weren’t lost – it’s not as if they could have let anyone know if they decided not to come; there’s no cell service out there. We went to our respective beds, after, perhaps, finding a quiet place to answer a call of nature.
Yeah, that was the major drawback of this particular trip. No pit toilet at the campsite.
I was pretty cold that night. I tried to tough it out, but I ended up going to the car and getting the down blanket that now lives in the car because it’s too stinky for indoors. Stinky it may be, but it serves as an effective barrier to the cold and boosts the performance of my down quilt.
The next morning, I got up and got myself ready to go. I had packed my day pack before leaving home, so that was ready. I caged some hot water to make an herbal tea and ate my banana and energy bar breakfast. We gathered around for the gear and safety lecture around 8. The representative from the Forest Service had not yet arrived when we finished, so we started up the trail without her.
|Bear River Trail is quite pretty.|
I got to try my hand at chopping with an ax. I got one lucky blow in, and then I couldn’t hit the darn thing again, so I ceded my tool to someone else to try. When we reached a tree that had fallen across the trail, we worked on getting it off and the Forest Service woman arrived with a surprise. Rather than doing general trail maintenance, as had been our plan, we would be going to a specific spot to work on a bridges.
So we set off for those spots – but we ran into a large log across the trail. About half of us stayed back to use the crosscut saw on that while the rest of us continued to where the bridges needed to go. I was in the group that went ahead; the trail itself is pretty nice, and the morning was cool enough that it wasn’t a burden to hike along – even in the boots that I hadn’t worn since the last trip in June since I switched to trail runners for backpacking.
The first spot where a bridge was needed was pretty obvious. The trail looked like it continued to follow a ridge, but it was actually supposed to turn to cross the river a quarter mile away. I could see how there were already some logs laid across the boggy grasses, but those logs were themselves buried in grass and difficult to see.
|The old bridge, buried in the grass and not extending to dry trail.|
While a few of us took a break, a few others, including myself, went ahead to the river crossing to see what was needed there. A beaver dam had complete drowned the trail at the river crossing to the point where the original bridge wasn’t even visible from the trail anymore. A log downstream of the dam made for a makeshift bridge, which I crossed along with the Forest Service woman. I was charmed and amazed by how many fallen aspens had tooth marks on them (which I at first mistook for tool marks).
The decision was made to reroute the trail at both spots, but we’d focus on the bog bridge first. I started with digging out some bushes. See, rather than try to make the trail be where it had been, curving away from the ridge, we were going to punch the bridge out to the ridge at a right angle. There were bushes in the way, so I and another woman started by trying to clip and uproot them while others worked on digging out the grass where we’d lay more logs.
That day involved a lot of crosscut saw use. The last trip, I didn’t get an opportunity to use the crosscut, but this time I got as much as I could handle of it. We needed so many logs to make the bridge! Once a suitable log was found, it would get cut into lengths, and then we’d carry the lengths over to the bridge and find another log.
|Gotta whack these bushes.|
|Needs more logs!|
|Yes, like this one.|
|I did find time to play around with the digital microscope on my camera.|
I enjoyed the physical work, and getting to use the crosscut saw. I beat a strategic retreat right before lunch to find a place to dig a hole, and then rejoined the other women trying to stay in the shade. The day had turned quite hot, and we all needed to pay attention to that with how hard we were working.
We finished the bog bridge a bit after three in the afternoon. On the way back, I hung out at the rear of our walking train. One of my new friends was pushing a bit harder just to keep going, and I wanted to make sure she made it back okay. I know about being left behind, and I don’t like to let others feel that way if I can help it. After all, she was out there in the woods. That’s hard core whether you have to walk slow and take rest breaks or not.
|Bushes gone, logs all the way.|
|Someone kindly took this photo of me – lucky it’s so far away so you can’t see how dirty I am.|
|One more view of the completed project.|
|Pretty, yes. Hot, oh yes. Where are the clouds??|
And it was really, really hot.
I thought about going for a dip in the river when we got back, but I ended up just doing a face-wipe bath instead. I didn’t want to stand anymore, but I don’t own a camp chair, so I brought over the bin I was using for my food to sit on. Slowly, time for dinner came around. And we put out quite a potluck spread.
|This is a hole under the trail. It’s going to need maintenance sooner or later.|
|Almost back to the trail head!|
The two women who hadn’t shown up the night before had indeed gotten lost, but they found us on Saturday. Dinner was burgers and brats, along with salads and fruits and chips and cookies and banana bread and veggies and all sorts of deliciousness.
|This isn’t even all the food; it’s like the appetizer table.|
|My luxury tent, front and center.|
When someone went to bed, I got to borrow her camp chair, but I didn’t stay up too late. Everyone was a bit tuckered out from the work, and the hot day had turned into a chill night.