Embracing the "What"?

James Myers- Wilderness Ranger Intern                                                                                  Appalachian State University                                                                                                    Training/Boulder Creek Trail 211                                                                                              15 May - 4 June/June 12-20                                                                                                        Nez-Perce Clearwater National Forest

TRAINING May 15-June 4                                                                                                          I arrived at orientation with several emotions running through my body. I was super excited to begin my summer and start a new adventure, I was also worried because I had no Wilderness experience and wasn’t sure how behind the curve I would be. We jumped right into training on day one and my worries quickly vanished. Getting hands-on experience with the crosscut and practicing the various types of trail work, such as re-tread, left me feeling more confident and prepared for my first hitch. The Wilderness First Responder course gave me additional confidence knowing my teammates and myself would be able to properly respond in the event of an emergency.

BACK COUNTRY TRAIL WORK June 12-20                                                                          Our first day started off with an eight-mile hike clearing Boulder Creek Trail 211 to Horse Camp.  I was still a bit nervous going into this hitch because it would be my first official time doing trail work, but as we settled into the journey and began getting our hands dirty my feelings calmed. The following three days were long working days, we set up a gravity water system for the stock animals.  The stock carried our group dinners for the hitch. I will be forever grateful for Erika, the Forest Service Ranger, that provided us with pack support and helped us clear Trail 211.  We were able to clear up to Fish Lake Saddle.  At that point the snowpack became too deep for us to continue trail work.

Day four we woke up to pouring rain with no sign of clearing.  Being a US war Veteran, I’d packed my motivational t-shirt (just for such an occasion) with “Embrace the Suck” written across the front.  Wearing the shirt is a morale boost for me, I put it on that morning – I needed it.  I also hoped that the shirt would be motivation for the group. 

We set out to clear Long Lake trail in the pouring rain – yep, “suck”. We tackled a huge mess of downed large and medium-sized trees for our first task of the day, by that point we were all nice and wet with thoroughly soaked boots. Despite the curveball Mother Nature threw at us, and all the downed trees that needed to be removed, we prevailed and remained in high spirits and cleared most of the trail that day and finished Long Lake Trail the next day. The team pretty much stayed wet for the remainder of the hitch, but as conditions worsened our teamwork grew. We fed off each other’s energy and accomplished the objectives of the hitch. The smiling faces and thank-you’s from hikers using the trails made every second of the “suck” worth it. I’m excited to continue working with my teammates and can’t think of a better crew to “Embrace the Suck” and enjoy this magnificent landscape with.