Keepers of the Gates

  • August 25, 2014
  • Posted by Alex Barton

The Gates of the Mountains Wilderness has been a very popular place for backpackers, wilderness enthusiasts, and keepers of the mountains of all kinds for generations. Early in the nation’s history, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark (you know them?) happened to pitch their camp at the base of what is today called the Meriwether Canyon. 
      For Blue Crew of the Central Divide region, the canyon embodies a heck of a lot more than just a 5-mile gulch and a wilderness boundary, or even a summer’s worth of work!  If the mountains could speak they’d tell you about the laughter that gifted us with belly aches, the whistling lessons and worried walks in the wind, the swaying dead trees, the pounds of coffee consumed, and of course the new layers of muscle that popped our already stressed Ben Davies’ seams. If the mountains could speak, or should I say the thousand foot limestone cliffs, they’d paint you a picture of morning coming over the horizon and a single file line of waking eyes and sweated brows, white and yellow hats, walking, as if in unison, at their feet. 
Each morning as the sun peaked the ridgeline and rolled over the gulch around 9 AM, the light morning air thickening with the morning dew, Blue Crew had already been at work for nearly 3 hours. Coming alive near 4 o clock every morning, we toasted our bagels a la propane stove and reveled in what was still a clear night sky. The stars soon faded and the blue redness of morning touched the cliffs surrounding our camp. Indeed, this kind of morning is the best kind of morning. 
Early in the hitch we prioritized finishing our crib wall, the crown jewel of the Meriwether Canyon and certainly the most exciting project I have ever been on!  As we moved steadily along, staking deadmen to tiers and hand-drilling tiers to deadmen, filling the crib with crush until our bodies began to fall into pieces like the stones we hammered, the finished product slowly emerged, our designs coming to fruition! The fruits of our labor! Like picking the first snap pea of the season! Oh so sweet!  Indeed it was sweet to see the wall emerge from our imaginations into real life.  Vuala! Walkable tread. 
With the crib wall completed and the heat of summer bearing down you’d think it was time to go home and count our riches! But no, Blue Crew moved forward and pressed on, for up trail we faced 3 miles of tread work, several check dams to dig in, and bench cuts galore. But we also hiked toward the ridge, the mighty ridge, and the prospect of reaching our lofty destination. As the hike every morning became longer, topping off at near 5 miles, the crew buckled in and buckled down, pounding out tread like it was… our job? Like it was near enjoyable? NO! Like it was a blast, because it was! After all that hard work, and all of those WAMs (Wilderness Appreciation Moments), and all those gut-busters and pick swings, we made the top of the ridge, busting out 3 miles of tread in 6 days with a crew slowly shrinking from injuries sustained while working too hard. Very impressive. Kudos Blue. It’s an honor to work with you. 
If the mountains could speak they’d surrender a giggle first and then whisper a word of thanks to the MCC for bringing a reverent gaze back to their forgotten slopes, paying them a much needed visit, spilling deep laughter into the gulch, and keeping the Gates open for seasons to come. Right back atcha Meriwether!  If only more would listen…


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