Sizing up the leaners Sizing up the leaners

I have never done this sort of work before…

  • July 03, 2017
  • Posted by Maggie Burnham

I’ve never done this sort of work before, so I’m not going to lie and say I knew just what to expect when I started. I knew that I’d be spending the summer doing work to benefit the natural areas around Montana, and that was good enough for me.

We didn’t find out who we’d be working with until our third day of orientation, which was nerve wracking. When we finally were split into our groups, I was still a little uneasy. Everyone in the group, (Carlisle, Cassie, Jay, Taylor, and our leaders Mark and Hollie) looked as though they were in great shape, and as I learned more about them, I found this to be true. This was great for them, but for me it was another source of stress. I hadn’t been in good shape for about two years since I quit running, and I didn’t want to be that one person that slowed everyone down. But I kept in the back of my mind as we went on our first few hikes that doing this and sticking with it was going to get me where I wanted to be.

Our first hitch was out past East Missoula working with the City to build a downhill mountain bike trail for a race later this year. We were introduced to working with tools that I’d never seen before, such as a McLeod and a Pulaski. It was demanding work, but it was cool to watch how quickly a group can accomplish something by working together. This hitch was only 3 nights, and there was still cell phone service. A luxury, as I would later come to find out.

The second time we went out, we got to do our crosscut training. We camped next to the West Fork Ranger station and then went to the Magruder Station for our big work day. That was my first real look into what my summer would be like, and it was a little scary at first. The area we worked was steep and it was blistering hot outside. Ticks were everywhere and there was very little shade from the elements. But it was beautiful country, with wildflowers covering the hillside and the river running down below us.

Last week we had our first 9-day hitch in Idaho. It was undoubtedly one of the hardest things that I have ever done. We got to camp out at Magruder for the first few nights which was nice, but then we had to hike in to our next camp about 3 miles with full packs. The work was good, we ended up moving/cutting around 600 trees and we hiked around 50 miles. Some of us saw black bears, and I saw a pair of cranes, some elk, and deer, along with a few adorable chipmunks.

We head out again tomorrow, and we’re getting packed in with the mules, so that should be fun!


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