Before Photo Before Photo <p>After Photo</p>

Retaining Walls…They Rock

  • June 14, 2019
  • Posted by Natalie Hamel

After stopping for a quick water break in a flat, wide (probably tick infested) meadow, we started hiking again, packs full and minds clear. On that first day we were prepared—in terms of both emotion and snacks—to hike as far as our feet would take into the Frank Church Wilderness. “Guys!” our crew leader shouted after those of us who had marched ahead. “You passed our camp.”

Fast forward to the next morning. Water from Camas Creek boiled on our camp stove sending billows of steam into the crispy morning air. At no other time does oatmeal and instant coffee taste so good. We loaded up our tools and set out to build a few retaining walls. We rock shopped and hauled boulders up the trail from a nearby scree field until our shoulders ached and our knees wobbled. “Lift with your legs. Lift with your legs. Lift with your legs.” This became my permanent mantra through the morning and again after lunch. Even so, at the end of the day, the muscles of my back and shoulders protested loudly when I finally lay by body down in my slightly pungent tent.

By the end of day two, we’d finished both the downhill and uphill-facing retaining walls. We’d retreaded and set anchor rocks. We fell asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow.

By the end of our final day we’d brushed and retreaded so far down the trail we started running into unassuming wildlife. A snake came to visit us at lunch. An adolescent big horn sheep watched our progress from a distance. We kept our distance too, careful not to disturb their grazing. At the end of that final day we packed up our tools and made our departure from the trail, bidding farewell to our lunch spot of days prior. Was it really just yesterday I was defending my cheese and crackers from the descending army of ants? It felt like an eternity ago. Finally, we passed our seal of productivity for the time spent in the Frank: Our rock walls from previous days. The rocks we’d so gracefully rolled from the tops of scree field and ceremoniously hoisted into place fit together in a somewhat imperfect jigsaw. We gave them a glance as we passed by. The evidence of our labor stood before us. Sturdy and proud it stood, and we left with a promise to return.


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