Giving Back to the Trails we Hike

Summer Term Blog – Olivia DeVol

As the sun shone brightly on my tent, my tarp group and I prepared for our day of trail work. After a filling breakfast of a half bag of hash browns split between four cranky and hungry girls, the group quickly departed from Winfield, destined to meet Tambi and Steve, forest service workers. We hiked two miles uphill, inch-worming to the South La Plata trailhead where we would begin our trail work. The group ecstatically donned our work gloves, clutching loppers and saws to our chests. This was the most anticipated day of our entire expedition, more so than actually summiting La Plata. Tambi and Steve explained what we would be doing for the day and split us into three groups.

The first day, my group was lead by Tambi, an energetic and passionate woman dedicated to the forest service. We were tasked with installing three signs near the North Fork Clear Creek Trail. Tambi led our group to where there would soon be be a trailhead and wilderness boundary sign. Charlie, Lilli, and I decided where we wanted to work on the signs and began digging a hole with the heavy post digger. Knowing the hole had to be at least 24 inches deep, it felt like we were making no progress. JP, our expedition leader, then came to the rescue. Golden locks flowing in the wind, he demonstrated for us how to use the rock bar and post digger correctly. As a team, we dug three holes and inserted the signs into the ground quickly and efficiently. Finishing early, we all felt a sense of accomplishment and so joined our peers to assist them. It is amazing to be able to look back and say “yes, we did that.” Tambi then graciously thanked us and explained how much of an impact this makes for the forest service, who has one person in charge of all of the miles of trails we hiked on in our expedition.

The second day of trail work, we hiked past the newly installed signs, filling us with pride, and began working on different sections of the South La Plata Trail. My group consisted of Charlie, Matt, Chris, and JP. Our section of the trail had been disappearing because of the overgrown spruce trees. After carrying up heavy pick mattocks, my group began to create a secure wall. While some were clipping the brush, others were collecting large rocks to create a retaining wall. Through this process, JP explained to us the structure of a trail and how to create the longest lasting trail. While my group recreated a section of the trail, the other students were clearing the trail up until they hit tree line. At the end of the day all of the groups did a great job giving back. The next day we donned our heavy backpacks again to hike up nearer to the La Plata summit. The trail seemed open and clear after all our work. It felt amazing.