Awaiting the Arrival of Photojournalists...

Volunteer Trail Crew in the Berkshires
(7/06/08 – 07/11/08)

If ever there was an occasion to bring the editors of Better Homes & Garden or Country Living into the woods, this would be it. The dedicated labors and keen vision of our second week Crew delivered such artful rock work it could bring a tear to the eye- and for many (or at least for this author), it did. Beautiful sections of stepping stones, a magnificent turn-pike, and a meticulously cobblestoned waterbar, were just some of the artistry begging to be featured in next month’s publications. If you’re looking for your next picnic destination, consider hiking the AT South towards Tom Leonard shelter- and don’t forget your camera!

The first night proved a humorous lesson to some of the boys who thought it a rather clever idea to spend the night under the stars rather than cramped in their admittedly lopsided tent. The premise was great, but overlooked the notorious problem of Massachusetts mosquitoes- a distinctly infinite and incessant variety. Eliot later described a sleepless night of head swarming and constant buzzing in the ears. Colin, we surmise, slept happily and spaciously the first night, but was soon rejoined by the other three for the remainder of the week.

The week’s worth of rock work put in by the Crew was impressive, but perhaps equally impressive was the one-day construction of a new tent platform at Tom Leonard shelter. Headed up by Pete Rentz and matched board-for-board by several other dedicated volunteers, we watched as the lumber was carried up and the sweat dripped down. We arrived at the end of the day to find a lovely new platform freshly installed on the scenic rock outcropping. It was hard work, but the volunteers were uncomplaining and gave the Crew a taste of what they could look forward to if they stick around with the AMC.

The Crew was a fantastic mix of volunteers from throughout the whole East Coast, ranging from Florida to Maine. From the start they were a wild bunch, putting in full days on the trail and somehow still having energy to build campfires and play charades. Perhaps most impressive was a two-tiered magic trick put on by Lily. The trick, or, “lack of s’more-making experience” as she called it, involved waving a marshmallow stick in the air and unknowingly unfurling the roasted confection into poor old Zach’s floppy hair. In turning to see what the roaring laughter was all about, she waved the stick again, this time smearing Caitlin in the face with the remaining goo. The rest of the Crew was in hysterics and fortunately, the hapless victims were laughing too.

Energy and enthusiasm were paramount on this Crew’s list, that is, until it was time for dinner. Even Chef Pizzadilla (Brian) seemed a little bewildered this time around. Little did anyone know just how much heavy lifting would be involved. We’re not talking rocks here people, we’re talking the iron weight of spoon-to-mouth, stomach- maxing, ego- taxing, cheese with a side of macaroni. The leftovers from the first night were barely devoured (thanks to several valiant souls eating them for lunch for the next two days) before we were up to bat again- this time with an extra pound of cheese thrown in to truly up the ante (much to Avery’s dismay). This left some groaning, some gloating, and none standing. Impressive figures could barely be uttered before slumping to the ground in what is best described as Annie’s Aftermath. We’ll see how many pack mac & cheese on their next wilderness adventure.

Marshmallows and cheese aside, the Crew busted a move the entire week, earning an early escape to a local lake on Thursday afternoon (not to be rained out this time!). After not finding the original site, we wandered into a tiny put-in, only to find the lake choked by tall seaweed. The bunch were brave swimmers anyway, maybe too bold in the case of Alexander “Supertramp” who left his glasses in his pocket and whose glasses soon left him. Despite heroic efforts to find them (or was it just the pleasure of swimming for a while longer?) by Valerie and Sarah, the glasses were lost forever to the depths of Lake Buel.

Indeed, it was a fine week on the Appalachian Trail. The Crew brought great volumes of hard work and humor to the trail and we can only hope to have this much fun again in the coming weeks.