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.


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.


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.


before shot of broken bridge at Calamity Brook


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.

IMG_0131 (1)

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.”

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