Water. How you’ve been cursed when you fall from the sky, rejoiced when you ﬂowed in river bottoms, and feared when you swell and pull in currents and waves.
For trail workers like myself, water is a dire enemy. About 90 percent of my time is spent diverting, building around, channeling, pushing, even aimlessly kicking it out of the path. Water and its sidekick, erosion, cause nearly all the damage that we see on back-country trails. If not for this mischievous pair, paths created 100 years ago or more would still be largely intact.
But after 2 years in the Southwest, I have developed a secret love affair with this trail nemesis. And now living and working in Pennsylvania’s wet and green Allegheny National Forest, I have a deeper appreciation for its worth. I am in awe at the power that water, especially in the form of rain, has in our lives. Rain brings nature to our doorstep more so than almost any other natural force. By delaying our weekend activities and altering our work schedules it ﬂexes its muscles often. It is one force that we struggle to control. We, in fact, cannot control it; we are at its mercy. Rain is nature’s way of saying, “I don’t care what you have planned, this is right, this is necessary and this is going to happen.” Rain shows that no matter where we go, what we do, or how important we think we are, we are not entirely in control. At times, nature is still calling the shots. And sometimes, the best we can do is to shut up and listen.
These thoughts occurred to me as we constructed a 24 foot bridge in a Wilderness Study area of Minister Creek last weekend. It took 20 people 2 full days to build this natural wood bridge. We fell the trees with cross-cut saws, debarked them with draw knives and toted them with log carriers. Many beads of sweat, cut hands, and sore backs later, we completed the bridge, which is only necessary because of rain. Rain completely dictated our weekend activities, and if it doesn’t like our work in one weekend’s time it can also take it away.
I am very happy to live and work in a place where water falls from the sky. This sounds like a silly statement, but I can count on one hand the number of times I have seen it rain in the last year, it would only take me two hands to count the last 2 years’ of rains. So while it may be easy to complain about water, I rejoice its inﬂuence, impact, and level of introspection that it allows. Cheers to you, water!