I opened my eyes and in a half-asleep state saw the roof of my tent shaking and moving all over the place. It was a very windy morning and my watch read 5:30am. I stuck my head outside my sleeping bag to feel how cold it would be. It felt chilly, maybe 50 degrees Fahrenheit or so. I sleepily put on my work clothes, the same ones I had been wearing the past 5 days, and got ready for another day of adventures.
This was Friday, June 10th 2016, the last day of hitch #4. I had spent the week, along with 4 other corps members, working on opening old trails at Windsor State Forest in Western Massachusetts. The week had involved lopping, blazing, raking, and removing blowdowns in the trails. As a trained sawyer in the program, I was thrilled to work with the other sawyer on this 5-person crew to clear out the trails. However, this hitch began with an initial assessment of the trails. In other words, we had to hike around in the woods trying to find and follow the old and worn out blazes to see where we had work to do. It was a lot of fun as we traversed through this overgrown forest that stopped being staffed in 2010. It was a magical experience.
As hitch #4 wrapped up, I realized that we were nearing the half way mark on our conservation season. It had also been 8 months since I arrived in Hawley. I entered the program as a 10-month member and arrived in October of 2015, all the way from Tennessee. Naturally I began to reflect and ponder on my time here. I remembered our Education Season back in the Winter and how I loved the preschoolers. I thought of our Wilderness First Responder training, learning the names of the trail tools I love so much, and how I struggled to pack my bag for my first hitch. Memories of adventures as an educator, a trail worker, a volunteer, and an explorer. But really, a little bit of panic kicked in when I realized that this meant I was going back to normal society in the fall. That I would be going back to school, parting ways with the other 24 members, and no longer living out of a tent, which I extremely enjoy. I also realized that eating two Pb & J sandwiches, fruit, many handfuls of trail mix, and what seems like endless amounts of cheez-its and almonds would not be an acceptable form of lunch back at my parents’ house. The struggles will be real.
After this brief and not very serious existential crisis, I actually took some time to think of all the incredible things I had accomplished. The first two hitches, 15 days total, I was at the Mahican Mohawk Trail building a 12-foot long rock retaining wall. We moved massive rocks with our grip hoist and used rock bars to move them along a steep hillside. Due to the location these were both backcountry hitches. It meant we had dehydrated food and packed as light as possible. For my third hitch, I was at Mt. Sugarloaf State Reservation rerouting a step trail and putting in 24 box steps to create a more sustainable and safe trail for visitors. Each week, I had new journeys with different crew members. Each week, I experience the impact I was having in the lands of Massachusetts.
Tomorrow, Monday June 13th, I set out on hitch #5. The half way mark for our conservation season. 10 new days of hard work, of sleeping in my tent, and of eating cheez-its and trail mix amongst many things. But most importantly, 10 new days of serving this world and having great adventures.
– Marc Gomez-Crisostomo