Before this past hitch we spent a few days in Portland, Oregon exploring the vibrancy and culture of the city. Days later, recovered from the physicality of the last hitch but strained financially from a few days of sampling the local victuals, we piled into the car and headed back towards northern California and the Klamath National Forest. Several hours later, only halfway through one heady Phish jam, we arrived in Seiad Valley, CA; population: 14.
On the 13th, we met with Bill Roberts- packer, pilot, poet and National Forest Service rep. Bill, his wife Peggy, and their SCA intern, Claire, helped pack in our tools and some of our supplies with the help of their string of burly mules and sleek horses. Packs strapped tight, we moseyed the 3 miles into the backwoods of the Klamath National Forest. Bill encouraged us to interact with his animals, brushing them and leading them to graze, and was more than happy to share his 40 plus years of backcountry wisdom and stock-packing experience.
The work began the next day on the PCT where we got busy cutting back brush and clearing out drainage ditches. After that we spent the next several days hiking three or more miles out onto the Red Butte Wilderness Boundary Trail to do more brushing and treadwork. A snow bank along the trail provided a welcome opportunity to cool down on the way back from work at the end of long days. Snow ball fights in July are a novelty for sure.
The terrain was remarkably different from what we had been experiencing in southern California and Tahoe. Only 6,000 feet or so above sea level, the clouds were often undercast on our morning hikes to work. When the fog and drizzle hadn’t overtaken the hillsides, Mount Shasta was visible, looming hazily over the ridges in the far reaches of the horizon. The wildflowers were in full bloom- Iris, Desert Paintbrush, Beargrass, and Mountain Lupine abounded.
Hiking back and forth the three miles onto the Boundary Trail each day, our pants would become saturated as we walked through the thick, dewy brush that blanketed our path. Brushing our way back toward camp was a gratifying team effort with tangible results- no wet pants. And being able to walk back over your work at the end of the day and recognize that you’ve had a hand in shaping the trail for years to come is satisfying.
The last afternoon of the hitch as we headed back towards our base camp a few of us decided to explore a draw we had heard of from hikers earlier that week. A small stream could be heard trickling down the hillside. We followed the water down a half mile or thereabouts to where it emptied into a small pool. At the edge of this bluish green pool grew a hedge of Manzanita. Water from the pool spilled beyond the hedge, and splashed down a steep rock wall. The ravine continued down for miles to where the ridges rising above us met.
The work that we engage in is rewarding. But the opportunities to connect with your teammates in these serene, scenic, and intimate atmospheres is perhaps more worthwhile and personally fulfilling. Trail work is people building, so I’ve been told. Like a freshly lopped trail, this truth is becoming clearer, too.
Trail Maintained: 10700 ft