Roving Trail Team Pt 4: Hello, Rainier

Just a few days after getting back in from Bonny Lakes, we hitched up our trailer and drove Dusty five hours from Enterprise, OR to Longmire, WA: the Park Service’s main hub for Mount Rainier. Unlike our time in Oregon, our work in Mount. Rainier National Park is all in the front country. This means no more packing in all our food, no more sourcing water, no more catholes and – arguably most important – hot showers! We were given a prime spot at the Longmire Volunteer Campground, with bathrooms practically right next to us. Though our campsite doesn’t quite have all the amenities of your average city dwelling, the guys and I feel extremely comfortable here. Glamping, plain and simple. We’ve been having a blast with it.

To match our schedule with that of the Park Service’s, we now work four 10-hour days with a three day weekend. This means we have to be up earlier and work longer. Though 10-hour days might seem bad, they do go by quickly at Rainier. Our lovely camp along with the three-day weekend make all the long days worth it. Though I could technically call each week a “hitch,” we’ve been moving to different places in the same week, and for our last three weeks here we’ll be at the same location. For now, I’ll post updates in three parts; Part 1 is the first two weeks, Part 2 will be the second couple weeks, and Part 3 will be the finale, encompassing our final week of work.

We met with the Rainier trails department and our new project partner before heading off to work our first day. The trails staff were preoccupied with helicoptering in materials to our future worksite, mostly tools and wooden steps that would have been…strenuous to deal with, had we hiked them all in. So, we were sent elsewhere to do work while we waited for everything to get sorted. For our first few days we hiked up the 3.5 mile Eagle Peak Trail for brushing and blowdown removal. That trail is likely going to be ignored for the next 5-10 years, so it’s lucky we were there to lend a hand. 

On Thursday, and for all of last week we were working on the Golden Gate trail that goes up Mount Rainier from a parking lot/visitor center called Paradise. We got to work with two other SCA interns. For the whole week, we installed stone steps and stone water bars. This was my team’s first experience with rock work and for those unfamiliar with it, it can be pretty physically exhausting. However, my guys all proved to be quick studies with building techniques and though we were all tired, we did some good work.

Interestingly, on the first Thursday we were there we contended with fog so thick you couldn’t see beyond 20 feet. As the day went on and the fog cleared we got to see mountain views for the first time and it was nothing short of spectacular.

While we were working at Golden Gate, we got a lot of hiker traffic. Most of them thanked us for our work and moved on, sometimes a conversationalist would stop by and we’d get to talk a little bit about who we are and what we were doing. It was a good morale boost, receiving all that praise. Also, we are deep in the wildflower season. The purples, greens, and reds on the hillside along with the nice views in the distance make Golden Gate the best office any of us have ever had.

Other happenings: Wifi is now within walking distance and though my guys have had fun staying connected, they’ve also taken up chess, cards, Magic the Gathering, and also some new books. Jen Renier, the western program coordinator for SCA, visited us for a couple days and lent us a hand in the field in addition to hanging out with us and doing check-ins with everyone. She also brought us some delicious Cheez-its, which are the way to any trail worker’s heart. We made friends with two other SCA interns, and have gotten together with them a couple of times. Though they’re not on my crew, they would make fine additions. 

P.S.: About our glove picture – all of our gloves had zero holes in them at the start of our work on Golden Gate. Well, maybe just a couple of minor ones from our time in Oregon, but after moving rocks around all week they kind of, well, disintegrated a bit. One crewman also pinched his finger setting a rock, hence the blood. He’s ok; he took care of his wound well and it scabbed over without complication.

P.P.S.: I totally forgot to mention the Marmots; they’re everywhere on the Golden Gate Trail. Very friendly and used to human contact. They mostly just eat flowers and act all cute, but sometimes they get into epic battles with each other which is super fun to watch.

Read more about the SCA Roving Trail Team’s adventures at thesca.org/rove.