Monday, July 25, 2011

Build Self-Esteem and Muscles Through Trail Restoration

Pulaskis, McClouds, shovels, saws, hammers, a seasoned pair of hiking boots, gloves and a good attitude are what is required to help the Forest Service each summer in maintaining and constructing new trails.

During the summer months, the Forest Service offers week long expeditions and one or two day trips for volunteers to work on keeping our hiking trails in good condition. The Forest Service provides transportation to the trail head and the tools.  Volunteers provide the muscle power. 

Usually, everyone carpools to the trailhead and walks into the area that needs work.  Sometimes, the walk in is close, sometimes not.   Erosion control maintenance is the goal on the more popular trails.  Some of the work is simple weeding.  Other times twelve to fifteen foot pieces of wood get buried across a trail at different locations to control erosion.

Sometimes, large boulders or small rocks are pulled and tugged at till the earth lets go.  This is where real muscle power is required. Many times it takes more than one person to dislodge a single large rock.  Tree limbs and sometimes whole small trees are dug up and moved elsewhere, if they are in the path.   However, large trees are never cut down or large stubborn rocks moved, the trail is just built around them.  In the higher elevations, 9,000 feet and up, rocks of all sizes may be gathered to line the hiking trails.

Kay Alderton, veteran hiker and nature lover said, “Working on trails feels like I’m building a stairway to paradise.” 

Another type of trail work consists of building bridges over a creek.  The Forest Service brings in already cut and prepared logs. The crew lays them down one by one usually across cold, rushing rivers.

A few weekends ago, I had an opportunity to work with VOC (Volunteers of Colorado) on the Cumbres Pass in Southern Colorado for a 2-day outing.  We worked on a 3-mile stretch of the Continental Divide that was overgrown with foliage. Here is the view from the top.

I met some of the most hardworking people.  Young and old.  Nobody was a slouch and everyone carried their own weight. If you want a good physical workout, let me tell you, sweating and toiling on a mountain trail is definitely a workout!  At the end of the day you will be tired, but the rewards far exceed any aches or pains.

The VOC provided all meals, a band on Saturday and refreshing beer!   A well deserved bit of indulgence after a hard days work. It always feels good to be able to experience the Rocky Mountains by giving back, in taking care of Mother Earth.  Plus working in clean mountain air always makes me feel better and it is so satisfying when you look down a trail you have worked on, knowing that you played a part in erosion control and keeping hikers and bikers safe. 

If you are interested in taking part in the many volunteer opportunities in the Colorado Rockies there is something for everyone.  From family-friendly projects to high mountains adventures; from urban location to forest and wilderness; from planting to trail work.   Make a difference this summer and contact Volunteers of Colorado (VOC) (303) 715-1212,  or the Colorado Mountain Club, (303) 279-3080.

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