A Letter From the High Ground

The Pacific Crest Trail, it’s hard to imagine that this trail spans from the Sonora Desert to the Cascades. Through hikers will walk over 2,650 miles of tread through all types of elevation gains, climates, and elevation gains. People from all walks of life choose to live on the PCT. Like any trail all that mileage requires maintenance and because the PCT runs through seven national parks, designated wilderness areas, and various Native American lands much of the work is done by hand using basic tools.
My name is Ashley. This summer the boys (Matt H, Matt K, Dan and Ryan) and I are one of the trail crews working on the PCT. Our favorite essential tool is the crosscut saw, Heidi. She is a vintage masterpiece. Quality saws like Heidi were one of the main tools that tamed the west. Two person saws, with a decent amount of elbow grease eliminated forests and opened up land for farming. Unlike our forefathers we keep our path of destruction to the trail, in order to limit our impact and allow people to enjoy the wonders of the natural world.
The past week we’ve been working on moving fallen trees in order to clear the way for hikers. In that time we’ve moved 37 trees and hiked over 6 miles into camp with an elevation change of over 2300 feet. Clearing logs is not always straight forward and the amount of strength and concentration needed is sadly underrated. I can safely say that I now have utilized all the muscles in my body. I know because after a few days I hurt everywhere, and I do mean everywhere.
We hiked six miles straight up to our primitive base camp. Our tools were packed in by mules by some of the last professional packers in the state. The mules with their beautiful saddle packs are surprisingly fast. They reached camp before we did. They dropped off our gear and quickly hiked back out, leaving us to set up camp.
No showers, no bathroom, few amenities and a killer view. We may smell like Sasquatch but we can move logs three times our size. Single handedly Matt H and I moved an 18 foot tree that had fallen on the trail. Winds of over 150 miles per hour came through the Sierras at the end of November knocking down a large number of trees. The aftermath of the blow down has occupied most of our time. In some areas there is nothing but fallen trees, too often those trees block the trail, and they stack up like pickup sticks. When we come across multiple trees resting on each other we put safety first and methodically examine the pressure forces at work within the logs. Terri of the Forest Service joined us after a few days and took control of one of the more complicated fallen tree projects.
Besides accumulating dirt, sap, sweat and a few smashed fingers we grew accustom to the long work days, outdoor cooking, the bathroom situation and most importantly all of the tools. My favorites are the Peavey (aka The Claw), the big boy hand saw, and the Pulaski. All incredibly useful.
The last day we hiked around 10 miles. We broke down our camp, worked past noon, cached our tools a few miles up the trail, went back to camp and dragged our overly large bear can filled bags onto our backs and headed out. My pack must have weighed at least 40lbs which is a lot for my smallish frame. Eventually we all made it out and took our dirty selves to Mammoth Lakes. On the way there we came across a large black bear, first one we’ve seen this season. Fortunately we were in the truck so it didn’t bother us. We finished our hitch looking like homeless people at a nice Mexican food restaurant. There were burritos for all, done the California way.

8400’ Trail Maintained
37 Trees Logged Out

AFTERWARDS
-Drove until midnight, still no shower until we get to Tahoe
-Woke up at 6am got to bed at 1am. They weren’t joking when they told us this job would be physically and emotionally demanding….
TO BE CONTINUED…….