July 16th, head leader Renee and I headed out to the Austin Brook Trail with eight volunteers for the second week of their two-week spike crew. This dedicated group of teenagers—ranging in age from 15 to 19 and coming from places as far apart as Cincinnati, New York, and France—had worked hard building bog bridges their first week and were psyched to be back in the woods to put in rock staircases and rock water bars to help protect the trail from erosion.
We set up camp in a beautiful spot and headed up to look at the worksite on the final stretch of the trail before Gentian Pond Shelter. We had our work cut out for us! It was steep and slippery, and there was almost nothing keeping the dirt from washing off the trail or keeping hikers from
going off-trail in search of an easier route.
After caching our tools and talking about the specifics of quarrying, moving, and setting rocks, we headed up to Gentian Pond Shelter. Gentian Pond is beautiful, and we spent the afternoon hanging out, enjoying the sun, breezes, and conversation.
The next morning, it was time to get to work. As soon as they started, these kids were unstoppable! In one week, they quarried and set enough rocks for eighteen stairs in three staircases, nine rock waterbars, and a HUGE stepping stone in the solid mud at the base of the climb. That's a LOT of work--setting big rocks in such steep slopes is hard!
The enthusiasm and dedication of this teen crew was amazing, but not all that different from any of the other crews that flow in and out of dodge all summer. With such a small group working so closely together, there’s room for everybody’s skills to come into play. There are kids who are really good at figuring out exactly how the rock needs to be moved to fall into the hole correctly, kids who can easily carry huge logs, and kids who can give a bog bridge “stringer” a smooth walking surface, despite never having used an axe before. And regardless
of each volunteer's skill level, it takes a lot to make any of them give up.
There's something about living and working together in the woods that makes strong friendships form quickly. and it’s fun to watch these close bonds form over just a week or two. Some of our volunteers have grown up spending tons of time in the backcountry, and for some it’s the first time sleeping in a tent, but come Friday, they all have smiles on their faces and will go home with new friends, stories...and muscles!