Plants, Stone, California Landscapes


Hitting the Trail


Pulaski with duct tape and firehose sheath

The laying of a trail…becomes not only a pleasure in itself, but an inducement to plan a better way of life, to construct worth-while things, or to weave a better product in the loom of our being. Earle Amos Brooks, A Handbook of the Outdoors quoted in Lightly on the Land: The SCA Trail-Building and Maintenance Manual

Don’t cut your foot with the axe. It will not add to the pleasures of camp life. Jeanette Marks Vacation Camping for Girls quoted in Lightly on the Land

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but one of the ways I got started doing stone was by leading trail crews for the Student Conservation Association. Trail work turned out to be a good way to learn about stone; trail structures need to be strong — everything gets kicked by horses and mules — and they are supposed to look natural and unobtrusive in the landscape — no one is there to look at your pretty rockwork, they’re there to look at El Capitan — and there’s a deep interest in building things to last, much more so than I generally find in froncountry construction. I haven’t done a crew in five years, but I’m doing one for the next month in the Inyo National Forest out of Red’s Meadow near Mammoth Lakes in California.

If you’ve never heard of the SCA, the homepage explains that “members protect and restore national parks, marine sanctuaries, cultural landmarks and community green spaces in all 50 states,” most commonly in the form of trail crews made up of high school or college kids with adult crew leaders. The SCA has a blog that features cheerful, muddy people in hard hats building trails and doing various conservation-type things.

I thought I might post some more about trail work, but it’s been hectic trying to finish all my work before I go. I’ll be in and out of the backcountry for the next month, but posts will continue to appear through the magic of the interweb. Comments will still go through, but I won’t be replying here or on anyone’s blog until I get back at the end of the month. If anyone is hiking from the Red’s Meadow trailhead in August, look me up and bring ice cream. Happy Trails.

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3 Responses to “Hitting the Trail”

  1. July 27th, 2009 at 7:04 pm

    lostlandscape(James) says:

    Congratulations on getting out of town. I can’t imagine a better summer break than some time in the mountains. I’ll have to pay more attention to what’s underfoot next time I’m on the trail.

  2. August 1st, 2009 at 10:09 pm

    michelle d. says:

    I crossed over to the other side a year or two ago.
    No longer does camping sound alluring to me.
    I just turned down a camping trip to Tahoe because sleeping in a stinky old sleeping bag on top of the dirt just isn’t doing it for me any more.
    I like the luxury of a mattress and flush toilet. ( deep sigh )
    I totally enjoyed camping during the last past 50 years but now I like not having to schlep a back back or set up a camp stove just to heat the water to wash the pots and pans.

    I’ll still do the youth hostel thing, though I guess I qualify for elder hostel nowadays.

    I hope you have a fabulous trip.
    And thanks for cutting and building hiking trails.
    I still enjoy a nice day hike but my days of back packing are over.
    Take me to your nearest Bed and Breakfast Inn.

  3. August 3rd, 2009 at 8:51 am

    Bruce in PA says:

    My son comes home tomorrow after a month with an SCA trail crew at Inyo around Duck Pass Trail. Haven’t heard much from him since he’s been out there (they collect the cell phones at the airport and give them an hour a week on Laundry Day), but it sounds as if it’s been an eye-opening experience for this East Coast kid. Maybe you’ll run into them on their way out. Enjoy your time out there!

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