Claw Hands with a View

  • September 04, 2014
  • Posted by Sophie Maloney

On a cold morning in early August I woke up in Yellowstone National Park.

It was 5:00 am and still dark outside. The first thing I noticed as I slowly passed from sleep into waking was an inability to open my hands. I tried slowly to open and close them.  The trail world fondly refers to this as claw hands. Sore from the hard work of the previous day, hands get tired and muscles tighten causing hands to be stuck somewhere between open and closed in the classic claw shape.  After a minute of massaging my fingers and moving them around, I found the dexterity to unzip my sleeping bag.

After a few more finger stretches I started to get dressed. I pulled on my uniform, first dumping some dirt that had collected in the folds of my Ben Davis the day before. My green MCC shirt was still damp from an attempt to wash it the day before, so I decided to go with the grey one. There is a wonderful simplicity to camping and working: grey or green?, fresh socks or yesterdays?,  tie boots now or later?

I opened my tent to the smell of fresh dew on grass. We were camped in a field of wildflowers. As I awkwardly fell/stood up out of my tent, the sun had just started to rise sending its first pale rays of light to thin the fog around us. We had been there for a week, but the view still took my breath away. The beautiful mountains looming in the distance, and fog covered fields looked so peaceful in the early dawn light. I walked to the kitchen tent to make breakfast and watched as the world slowly brightened. I knew that day the work would be hard, but rewarding. The day would be long, but my mind and body could handle it.

After spending two weeks in town (on time off and an in town hitch at the local high school) I find that I already miss the sensation of claw hands. I wake up expecting them to be sore, but instead I can easily unzip my sleeping bag. I hate deciding what to wear in the morning, and the view outside my apartment cannot even begin to live up to a field of wildflowers in Yellowstone. Claw hands are something that I would never have wanted before this experience, in fact, I would have dreaded them. Instead, now I miss them, crave them – for they are the sign of a hard days work, and usually an amazing view.


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