Niether Rain, Nor Sleet, Nor Herculean Lumberjacks

Straight on through. See the herd of Elk on the side of the road? Straight on through. You’re gonne see a big rock on the left— Straight on through. See that broken down barn? And Jimmy? Oh he’s just out there mending his fences. Straight on through, all the way to the John Day River. Straight on through.

Our first hitch was… an interesting one. We we’re faced with a few challenges that, while surprising and trying in the moment, without a doubt made us stronger and closer as a crew, inspiring us to adopt the mantra “Straight on through”.

Right off the bat on day one we were introduced to Paul Bunyon himself reincarnated as Nick, a Hulk-like US Forest Service worker. Shawn, Nels, and Erika found themselves chasing after him down miles and miles of trail as he effortlessly sawed through logs using only one arm with an air of “If I used two hands, I’d kill you” (whereas us mere mortals prefer to use our whole bodies while sawing)and then would sprint off to find his next wooden victim. By the end of the first day we were all exhausted and soaking wet from the thunder storm that opened up on us in our last hour of work. With our first day behind us we concentrated on getting into dry clothes and warming up in preparation for day two.

However, Umatilla forest had a few more tricks up her sleeve. We emerged from our tents the next morning to see that it was, in fact, snowing. In June. Snowing in June. We were all pretty surprised to see this change in the weather, but I can assure you that this Native Texan never imagined snow would be part of this summer adventure in my wildest dreams (nor did I foresee my rain pants becoming more duct tape than pants). Be that as it may we suited up for work again (many of us in our still wet work clothes from the day before) and headed out to the trails. This time with just our crew in tow, we casually tried to stay warm by running and screaming as loudly and as far as we possibly could. You know, normal stuff. Once we warmed up a bit we worked on brushing the North Crane Trail for the rest of the day, removing tree limbs and logs that might have fallen into the path over the winter months.

The rest of the hitch went a bit more smoothly, weather wise, bar the select mornings when we would wake to find ice on our breakfast dishes or the day that we experienced snow, hail, rain, and sun all within a few hours.

Our main accomplishment and sole dedication of most of our time this hitch was the John Day North Fork Trail. At an estimated 7 miles in length, we ended up hiking 14 miles the first day we worked on it. As we worked our way from the back of the trail, clearing towards the entrance, our commute became shorter and shorter each day. Finally, on day nine of our ten day hitch we completed the trail with much excitement and relief.

We ended the last day of our hitch with enthusiasm, in sunny and warm weather, and headed into town for our first day off. It was then that we received the exciting and surprising news that we would be adding a new member, Brock, to our Umatilla crew.

We are all very excited to see the new dynamics and opportunities that will come with the addition of our most recent member and we eagerly await the chance to welcome him to the Umakillahz family!

Morgan