Trail and Community Life

By: Zach Freidman

My time in Hawley has been incredible! I have learned a ton, met amazing friends, and have gained new clarity on life. Serving America through working with local parks and people has been fantastic and rewarding. In this program I have gotten the opportunity to educate the public on topics like Leave No Trace Principles, animal migration, and trail building. I have constructed new trails, erected bridges, and managed erosion and water runoff issues. I have worked with park staff to coordinate projects, teamed up with fellow corps mates to tackle complex conservation problems, and enthusiastically educated local students and community members.

Learning about tools, trail maintenance, and environmental science was almost always pretty interesting. However, I did not come to this program to learn these skills - I came to this program to be a part of a community of like-minded individuals. Just before this program I had experienced a similar type of hands-on work when I traveled in the US and Israel volunteering at several farms. But during that experience my adventures were predominantly alone. Each farm I visited had a small community of their own but I was never able to stay for long enough to really become integrated. In Hawley, on the other hand, I began the program by trying to fully embrace the community atmosphere. I often spend a lot of time on my own - I like to draw, run, play piano, and meditate which are all things that can be done solo. But recently I have realized that by doing these activities in groups, I’m not only satisfying my need to be social, but I am also encouraged to explore these hobbies from a different perspective. I have realized that I am not unique in enjoying a mix of alone time and social time, needing creative and physical outlets, and in wanting to have fun!

Though it wasn’t the main driving force for me to enter this program, the trail and environmental-ed stuff was still pretty cool. During the second week of the program I used a rock bar, an 8 ft long stainless steel rod with a beveled end, to move 600 - 800 lb boulders. The beveled end acts like a lever giving you a 16 to 1 mechanical advantage. Who knew such a simple tool could be so powerful? And then there’s also the chalk line which creates a strait line on dimensional lumber when a chalk covered string is snapped, the pick mattock which digs holes in a way that is far superior to shovels, and the auger bit-n-brace which allows holes to be drilled into lumber by hand. Trail tools turn trail work into a magical experience.