Insanity at Calamity

NIMG_0098oah and I emerged from the shaded trail of Calamity Brook and reached a clearing where there lay a daunting pile of wood.  Our job was to carry in treated lumber to replace a wire suspension bridge.  The sticky heat made us sweat in streams

Once my pack was full of wood, Noah lifted it up so I could slide my arms in the straps.  Then I started the two mile hike up to the bridge site. Within a mile I was far ahead of Noah, who has bad knees.  The wood stuck out three feet above my head.  It smacked the high branches a couple of times, tipping me backwards, until I got good at ducking. My waist strap dug into my bladder.  I fought the urge to pee.  If I took my pack off, I wouldn’t be able to get it back on by myself.

When I hike alone, I don’t stop unless absolutely necessary. I might pause to throw my head back and groan, but every time I think about resting I find a better reason to keep going.  Some hikers like to go slow and take many rests. What’s the rush, man? is their attitude.  It’s about enjoying the trail experience, it’s not a race. (In my head, these people have the stoner hippie voice – slow with an upward inflectionThey’ve also never worked on a trail or grew up in my family of fast impatient people) I respectfully disagree.  If there’s a destination, it’s about getting there as quickly and efficiently as possible.  At the end of the day, if it didn’t feel like I did permanent damage to my body then it wasn’t a success. That’s how I enjoy my trail experience.

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The finished anchors

With a pack full of wood and a bladder about to burst (not to mention the burning sensation of what would become a minor urinary tract infection) I trudged up the rocky trail. My upper butt muscles felt jabbing pain and I wondered why my butt was doing all the work. Maybe my lower back muscles were so pooped that my butt was compensating.  Later, I would have a crew member dig his elbows into my butt muscles to release the knots.

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fixed bridge at Colden

A quarter mile before the bridge, I ran into Taylor and Jared resting on a rock, red and ill with exhaustion.  I had caught up to them.  Each had seven boards ratchet strapped to a frame pack.  They didn’t want to keep going.  “Only a quarter mile, you can do it, let’s go, last push,” I said as I helped Taylor stand up again, who winced and grunted in pain.  When we reached the bridge site, he took his pack off and I unstrapped the wood and carried each piece across the river rocks one by one.

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before shot of broken bridge at Calamity Brook

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After shot of near finished bridge at Calamity

Did you think the day was over? That’s cute. All three of us did a second trip. The boards sat more comfortably in my pack the next time around, which was a relief for my butt, but my sanity lost it.  At first I felt a little too happy.  Like a brief euphoric state before the plummet.  I cursed the DEC for treating us like mules, then I remembered I willingly signed up for this.  Day-hikers that passed with dumb smiles on their faces received only a grimace from me.  I took no compliments or encouragements.

I started to talk out loud to myself: you gotta keep going, you gotta keep going, you gotta keep going.  Then a half mile later, you gotta stay on the lookout, you gotta stay on the lookout, you gotta stay on the lookout.  And a few minutes later, you’re almost there, it’s right up there, right around the corner.  The campsite was “right around the corner” about fifty times.  If you are wondering why I told myself to stay on the lookout, it was because I needed to stay alert for slippery rocks and logs.  I also didn’t want to miss the turn-off to the campsite, which came before the bridge.  I wasn’t going all the way to the bridge again, screw that.

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the crew taking lunch

Finally at the camp site, I peeled off my sweaty clothes to reveal patches of skin on my hips rubbed raw, bruises on my shoulder blades from wood hitting bone, and aching feet.  I hobbled to the brook and sat in ice cold water until my body was numb.  That’s when I decided there’s something wrong with people on trail crews.  And yet, I’m already thinking about next season.  I wonder at what age I will finally utter the words, “I’m getting’ too old for this shit.”

2 thoughts on “Insanity at Calamity

  1. ENJOY SO MUCH READING YOUR NOTES……VERY INTERESTING EXPERIENCE….WOW….BUT TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF, DARLING GIRL…..LOVE YOU…..GRAM

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