- July 21, 2015
- Posted by Julie Baughman
With two months of field work already under our belts, the season feels like it’s flying by! So far, our crew has already completed five hitches all over Central Montana. It’s amazing how an experience like MCC can change a person so much in such a short amount of time. Two months ago we were arriving at the Helena office for our first day of training, anxiously learning to use our field tools and not-so-subtly evaluating each other as we awaited our crew assignments.
Now, we are a series of family units. Each of the five Central Divide Field Crews have spent the past two months eating, sleeping, working, laughing, crying and sweating together. Our crew in particular has endured rain and hailstorms, blisters, stomach viruses, flat tires, strep throat, twisted knees and more in just that short time. We are certainly not perfect - even the best families bicker sometimes - but we have grown so much in these past two months, as individuals and as a crew.
Our very first project had us chainsawing fallen trees off a segment of the Continental Divide Trail that stretches from the Cromwell Dixon campground at the top of MacDonald Pass all the way to the bottom of the Switchback Ridge Trail ending at Moose Creek Campground. In those four days, we hiked up Switchback Ridge twice (once carrying fulled backcountry packs), sawed dozens of trees off the trail and survived an intense thunder/hail storm in the backcountry.
Despite the many challenges we faced during the course of that hitch, it was a perfect introduction to why we do the work that we do. More than once during that project, we met hikers or mountain bikers along the trail who could not contain their excitement at how clear the trail was. One group of mountain bikers had even driven to the trailhead to scout out how they might clear the trees themselves and were beyond thrilled when they saw the work was already done.
We’ve had many similar experiences since then, where folks we meet on projects or as we pass through towns have nothing but positive feedback for the work Montana Conservation Corps does for the area. And for everyone in our crew, that’s one of the main reasons we decided to join the program in the first place. Most of us arrived at MCC after having left desk jobs or retail jobs where we were feeling unhappy and unfulfilled. In my opinion, the opportunity to work for a program like MCC is definitely one of the most challenging, but rewarding experiences a young person can have in Montana. It is a place to find fulfillment, to challenge the mind and body, to learn about the self and, most importantly, to give back to the beautiful spaces we all love. Our crew unanimously agrees that even the worst days in MCC are better than the best ones spent behind a desk.
Since our project on the CDT, we’ve sawed trees off of the Blackfoot Meadows trail in the Helena National Forest, sawed trees off of an earthen dam in Glasgow to preserve sage grouse habitat, obliterated roads in the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument and sprayed weeds all over the Lewistown BLM district. Next week we will head out for our first backcountry project: six weeks of trail work in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. We are all simultaneously stoked and slightly apprehensive for the experience. But we will get through it together, through good times and bad, taking comfort in the fact that our work really does make a difference.
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