July 12 to 16
I boarded the train in Talkeetna and somewhere before we got to Denali National Park I had met 6 of the other volunteers. Like minded people find each other.
Monday morning we met Melody and Catherine, the 2 trail crew members who we were assigned to. Our first job was making more tent pads in our Savage River group campsite. Gravel from the nearby Teklanika River had been loaded in the back of a truck. Our job was to shovel it into wheelbarrows, rake it flat and compact it with a gas powered compactor.
The next day it rained. All day. We removed 6 perfectly good informational signs on the Savage Cabin Trail and replaced them with ADA compliant signs exactly 32 inches from the ground to the bottom of the sign. The old signs had posts about 10 inches in diameter burried about 3 feet in the ground. Not that easy to dig out and very heavy to lift. We played in the mud all day.
Our last 2 days of work were spent on the gorgeous Savage Alpine Trail.
The real trail crew was moving a boardwalk 2 – 3 feet further out from the side of the hill. They needed more rock of all sizes to shore up the supports. So we hauled it about 1/4 mile uphill in wheelbarrows, backpacks and canvas shopping bags. The best job was chiseling out a flat rest in the round support logs. Anything seemed better than hauling another bag of rocks.
Every morning and evening Katy cooked up a delicious meal. Several of the volunteers had worked on other projects and definitely had more trail building/maintaining experience than I had. It was a good group of people, mostly around my age. The trail crew was extremely nice in putting up with us. I’m not that sure we really accomplished more than they could have done on their own. Sometimes the normalcy of inefficiency was frustrating. And we didn’t always have the right tools for the job. I now have way more appreciation for what it takes for trails to remain useable. I’ve walked over 10,000 miles of trail and now I have helped with less than 1/4 mile. I have a lot left to give back.