- July 30, 2019
- Posted by Berkeley Loper
As summer-only members, my crew was feeling down upon realizing that we would not be celebrating any holidays together over the course of our season. Rather than sulking in this discovery, we took matters into our own hands and organized a potluck-style Thanksgiving dinner. We were staying in a backcountry Forest Service cabin in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness and had the luxurious amenities of a table and a couple Coleman stoves at our disposal. With each of the four of us preparing a dish, we ended up with the Thanksgiving classics of stuffing, mashed potatoes, vegetables, and tofurky (a couple of us are veggies). We donned our finest formal wear and set the table with our feast. For the first time since the beginning of the season, our collective ability to put down enormous amounts of food was not enough and we ended the night with leftovers which we divvied up for breakfast and snacks the next day.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’ve been reflecting on the things that have made my first season with MCC so wonderful. Above all else, I’m thankful for the people (my supportive and goofy crew members) and the places (the stunning landscapes of the Selway-Bitterroot and the Frank Church River of No Return Wildernesses). This past hitch, while working on the Sabe Creek Trail in the Frank Church, my crew had to cut and move some of the biggest logs we’ve ever encountered. One log in particular, a wide and heavy ponderosa that had fallen into the trail, wouldn’t budge after two cuts were made on it using the crosscut. The saw team reached out to the other half of the crew asking for help. Even pushing with all of our strength, the four of us were unable to move the log with shear human power. We had to get creative with our methods, and our leader suggested we try levering the large log out of the ground using the thick limb of another tree with rocks placed under it as fulcrums. It took one person levering and the other three pushing with our legs to finally inch the tree out of its place and roll it down the steep slope beneath the trail. With a whole lot of communication and just as much grunting and sweat, our teamwork paid off and the tree was moved! Moments like this, when our whole crew is able to work together to get a hard task done, are when I feel the most thankful for the people I work with.
I am also thankful for the beautiful places in which we get to work. When the day becomes hot and the work becomes grueling, I find it helpful to take a moment and look out over the mountains and the drainages that surround us and the wildflowers that speckle the ground. Our last two hitches were spent clearing the 9 mile trip to Sabe Creek in the Frank Church Wilderness. The first hitch we stayed at the top, in the backcountry cabin, and hiked further down and up every day to accomplish the work (by the last day we were hiking about 6 miles down and 6 back), and the second hitch we camped at the bottom and finished by working our way up. Walking back and forth over the same terrain every day allowed me to have an intimate relationship with the trail and the scenery along the way. We all gained a sense of familiarity and trust with the Sabe trail, as we mesmerized an order of landmarks that we passed and came to know what to expect around every bend. My favorite section of the trail was a wide open burn area, full of beargrass and exposed to the mountains across from us. When we walked through the burn area on the way back from work on the first hitch, I always felt that we were over the hump of the hike, that I was closer to my tent than I was to our work area, which gave my tired legs and mind a sense of ease. In no other context in my life have I had the opportunity to become so familiar with one trail, one landscape, and I was thankful that our work allowed me to do so.
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