Safety, fun and a little work.
An adventurous week in the life of a HSVTC Volunteer.
Day 1: Saturday
Winding roads, blankets of forest, meandering streams, rushing rivers, lush meadows, seas of stone, bountiful wildlife, and scenic vistas are all likely to provide entertainment on the drive up to the trailhead. For some it may be a familiar drive just a short distance away from home. For others it is a full day of exploration from distant places. Finding the trailhead can be a difficult process for those unfamiliar with the area, even with directions and maps. Everyone is encouraged to drive up to a designated meeting place Saturday to acclimate and rest. Driving up the day before reduces the stress of searching during the early hours of the morning. After meeting the trip leader and fellow volunteers, we settle in for the night in anticipation of what is to come.
Day 2: Sunday
For those who drove up the day before the trail is only a short distance away, begging to be followed. For others it is an early morning drive getting to the trailhead to meet the group by 730 AM. With everyone together, introductions are made, instructions given and gear checked. Throwing on our packs, we head out on the trail at 8 AM to take advantage of the cooler temperatures and to provide plenty of time to arrive at our destination. Hiking as a group we may stop to enjoy the views and grab a snack or two. After climbing over mountains and walking through woods we arrive at our camping location, home for the next week. A pack train of mules has delivered the camp supplies, food and tools needed to support the crew all week. We practice Leave No Trace principles while choosing tent spots, setting up the kitchen, caching tools, and designating latrine locations. With everyone settled in dinner is prepared and served at 6:00 PM. There is nothing like a delicious meal cooked up in the backcountry after a good day of hiking. With full bellies and the stars twinkling amongst the Milky Way, it is time to hit the hay and get some rest, for tomorrow there are trails to be worked.
Day 3: Monday
Rising with the sun, coffee fills the cold air by 630 and the smells of breakfast load plates at 7. Lunches are made and snacks are grabbed as we prepare for a day out on the trails. At 8 the trail crew leaders huddle the group together for a safety talk, tool instructions and work plans. The three pillars of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) that support a safe, fun and productive trip are handed out: helmets, glasses and gloves. Tools are spread amongst the group and we strike out on the trail by 9. Various types of trail maintenance activities can be expected from removing brush to cleaning out water bars to building steps to cutting fallen trees. Each day likely holds a different assortment of duties to be accomplished. After a full day of fun we stop work around 330 PM and hike back to camp. As we rest and fight off the hard earned hunger growling in our stomachs, dinner is served at 6 and full plates ease away the rumblings. Conversations abound with accomplishments on the trail, stories from our lives and expectations of the days to come. Weary bodies begin to remind us that a good night’s rest is needed before the sun greets a new day.
Day 4: Tuesday
The day begins with the same routine as mugs are filled with coffee and a hearty breakfast is served. With a day of trail work under our belts, the crew gathers around eager to begin. Instructions are given as we stretch out any soreness and grab tools. Off we go for another day on the trails. Work wraps up around 330 and dinner is served at 6. Tonight everyone can stay up later if they wish because tomorrow is a break day.
Day 5: Wednesday
Today everyone is free to enjoy their time out in the backcountry. Some may relax and read. Some may go fishing or swimming. Some may set their sights on the surrounding peaks and/or lakes. Whatever the choice may be it is sure to energize the soul. Dinner is served as the group reunites for another star and story filled night.
Day 6: Thursday
Back to work! Although another free day to explore would be nice, it is time to get back on the saddle and accomplish some fine work on the trails. By this stage a greater understanding of trail maintenance activities is developing. Arriving at the work sites the leaders may let the crew help assess what needs to be done and how to accomplish those goals. Fresh from the break a good day of trail work is put in and rewarded with a delicious dinner. Heavy heads hit pillows (or whatever creative solution is found to imitate a pillow) dreaming of tomorrow.
Day 7: Friday
Friday is a day of celebration as the trip nears its finale. It is the last day of work out on the trails! With coffee warmed hands and breakfast filled stomachs, everyone sets out excited to finish projects and wrap up sections of trails they have been working on all week. A sense of accomplishment is felt as trails are walked that were in need of help on Monday but are now ready for the years to come. All of this accomplished thanks to the wonderful volunteering spirit of the crew. Dinner is served on the last night of the trip and plans for the hike out are discussed with excitement for some and sadness for others.
Day 8: Saturday
The last day of the adventure is upon us. Camp is cleaned up and no trace is left of our wonderful experience. Only the memories, pictures and stories of a lifetime are left with us. The pack animals are loaded and our backpacks are packed. Time to hike back and return to the civilization we left one short week before. You are now officially an experienced member of the High Sierra Volunteer Trail Crew.