A great summer kick-off in Western MA

6/29/08 – 7/4/08

Out here with the Berkshire Teen Trail Crew, our first week out on the trail with volunteers was a great success! Our mission: to patch up a part of the A.T. less than a mile north of the Rt. 23 parking lot and about a 2.5-mile hike from our base camp at Tom Leonard and Lake Buel Road. With a group of eight teens, leaders Tracey and Dena, and a special guest appearance by Jim Pelletier, chair of the AMC Berkshire Chapter's AT Committee, it was quite a team.

Most of the crew lived within a few hours’ drive from the worksite – there was a group of four from upstate NY, and several from the Boston area – but for many, it was not only the first time out on a trail crew, but the first time camping, too! Tracey and Jim lead the crusade for our “leave no trace” lifestyle, which everyone soon picked up.

We definitely had our work cut out for us — a lot of steep grades at our site meant that water and feet were doing a lot of collective damage to the trail. So splitting up into two or three groups, over four days, we eventually cranked out a grand total of five beautiful waterbars, two dips, and two checksteps. Matt came out to visit on Wednesday and put us all to shame by cranking out a waterbar with Jeremy in one afternoon.

By the end of the week, our camp life fell into a rhythm, with Ran (our resident storyteller) and Jake as regular “water run” volunteers, and Andy and Diane as our dynamic chef duo. Kris and Cathy offered to collect duff for the privy one evening – a highly underrated but very important job – and in the end were able to give everyone else a quick lesson in privy use. On a particularly energetic afternoon, Jeremy and Ben developed a cool game with the work gloves: your goal was to slap an opponent with your glove, without getting slapped yourself. Needless to say, all the boys jumped in at some point, and with all the rolling around they did in the parking lot gravel, it was just as much fun to watch as to play.

On Thursday afternoon, we finished work early, and planned to go for a swim in the local pond. By the time we got back to Tom Leonard to get our swimming things, the sky promised a thunderstorm and some people opted not to go. The few who decided to brave the hike anyway ended up unable to go swimming, regardless, because of the thunderstorm… but even so, an hour’s hike in the rain is a great way to clean off a week of dirt!

Definitely a highlight of the week was our regular encounters with the day- and thru-hikers that spent the night at the Tom Leonard lean-to. We met people from Switzerland and Germany, the South and the Midwest, and three counselors from Camp Eisner shared with us their Israeli coffee as thanks for letting them use our kitchen platform one night. The crew had a great time chatting with them, and some of the gang got tips on planning for their own A.T. thru-hikes.

Overall, it was an awesome first week, and those of use leading the Berkshire VTCs look forward to many more weeks to come!