“How was your hitch?”

  • July 28, 2016
  • Posted by Conrad Scheid

“How was your hitch?”

That’s a question I’ve grown accustomed to hearing over the last couple months. Like many niceties of conversation, it’s an easier thing to ask than to answer.

When I first considered joining MCC, I watched a video about “The Experience.” The vagueness of the interviews left me a little frustrated. Why is this experience so rewarding? Why has it changed your life? If it’s had such a strong impact on you, why can’t you express that impact more clearly?

It’s a little easier to understand now.

How was our hitch? We spent eight days deep in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, cutting out a trail (Nez Perce Indian Trail 13, if you’re curious), but that hardly answers the question.

How was our hitch? We forgot our crosscut handles on our first day of work. Everyone blamed themselves, but it was our crew co-leader Nyssa who walked an extra six miles that day to camp and back so that we could do our work.

How was our hitch? By day three we were walking 10 miles a day just to get to and from our work site. We were all dog tired. Our other co-lead, Phil, scouted out the trail ahead to see if there were water sources we could bump our camp to (there wasn’t). I guess he was pretty tired too, because the next day he cut off the tip of his left pointer finger slicing cheese for lunch.

How was our hitch? Phil was about to walk out (it’s hard to keep a cut - even a minor one - clean in the backcountry) when an older couple from Iowa came walking along the trail. They were able to summit Nez Perce Peak that day because we’d cleared all but the last 300 yards or so. They thanked us for our work. They were the first people - besides each other - we’d seen in the last four days.

How was our hitch? We summitted Nez Perce that day too - without Phil. The next day, we hiked west on the trail we’d cleared the previous hitch, following it until it disappeared in a burned out saddle (making our own way from there), dropping about 2000 feet and eventually finding water and a campsite on the opposite side of the peak we’d been on top of the day before.

How was our hitch? We spent the next day finding the trail, climbing straight up the mountainside until we ran into a tiny little rut on the ridge, half-covered in strawberry creepers and huckleberry bushes. We feasted like emperors and laughed like lunatics at the absurdity of our situation. The next day, we climbed up that 2000 feet once again and did what we could to make sure the trail was clear for whoever might follow it.

That’s how our hitch was. I know now why my fellow corpsmembers in that video seemed to give nothing but vagaries. What can I say? I can’t tell you how my hitch was. I can’t tell you why I never once felt lost, or angry, or misled. I can’t tell you why we all laughed when we did, or cried as I did when I looked out on the ridgelines like wavetops from that summit. But I can tell you that I’m tired, that I’m happy to be home, and that in a few more days, I’ll be absolutely ready for the next one.

How was my hitch? It was indescribable.


    I’m happy for you.  May your boots be broken in but not broken.  May your pack be full but not crush you.  May your axe be sharp but not cut your shins.

Your friend,
MCC Alum ‘09, ‘14

Posted by Patrick Johnson at August 03 2016

Post a Comment

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)