90% Sure; 100% Wrong

I had another good trail building experience last week. I am still amazed at how much work a few folks can do when they set their minds to it. I have been helping to build hiking trails for the Buckeye Trail Association for over two years now. And I am still learning tricks, new techniques and how to deal with the diversity of mother nature.
One thing that I did early on while building trail was to skip over an area that I was not sure how to handle. Originally I skipped over things like deep cuts into the hillside, extremely large buried rocks, and the like (I jump in and tackle those things solo now). I’d return to the spot later when I would see a more experienced worker at that section, or I’d study it at the end of the day to see what was done. It is a good way to learn.
I passed over a gully this time. Before moving on I paused and tried to figure out what I would do if I didn’t have any help. My plan was close to what the finished trail was. The only difference, and it is a big one, was to build a rock base that the water can trickle through, and build up the tread with dirt hauled in from a different spot. I would have built up the dirt and left a small gap for the water to run through.
This was a hard week, and as one of the two workers under 60 that stayed the entire week, I was pressed into some of the more strenuous tasks. I volunteered to move rock from two sections that were nothing but rock slides. At the end of the week we did a rough calculation and determined that those of us working on the rock slides had moved approximately 30 tons of sandstone. Some rocks were over 100 pounds each, easy.
Inside one of these rocky sections there were still small trees to grub out. With all the stone, you have to dig out the rocks before you can cut the roots or you will nick the cutting blade of the mattock or pulaski. I was 90% sure that I had all the rocks removed from around a particular root. That is about the best you can get without totally digging the root out and have nothing but air around it. Well I was 100% wrong. There was a stone pretending to be dirt directly under the root. The shock of hitting it with a powerful chop jarred the elbow on my right arm. It really hurt. Luckily I am a fairly coordinated person, and I was able to switch to using the mattock southpaw for the rest of the day. The elbow is back completely to normal now. Lesson learned? In a rocky section 90% sure is not good enough when swinging a chopping tool with all your strength.

Two other events made the trail building week special. Doris came over to the Pike Lake campsite and shared dinner with the workers one evening. She seemed to have a lot of fun. Then on the last workday, Chris joined me in trail building. He worked hard and even got a blister. I am sure that it was an eye opener for him.

Building hiking trail is hard work, but it is so very rewarding. AND my back is doing even better now.


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