When crews are run out of Camp Dodge, there are several kinds of crews one could choose to join, Spike, Alpine, Wilderness and Base Camp. All but the Base Camp crews are based out of camp sites in the woods. When the teens come to do a Base Camp crew, they come to do trail work by day and stay at Camp Dodge by night. We have run many adult Base Camp crews in years past, but this year we added three teen base camp crews. The projects that these crews work on are all close to Dodge, so close that most of the time you can walk just in and out of camp to the project.
For most of the summer I had been nagging Alex to send me in on a project. I am a trail worker at my heart and all I wanted to do some weeks was roll some rocks. Finally I got the chance to go out and attacked the erosion dragon.
Our task was to build a log ladder that was 25 five feet long. On this sections of trail there was a small log ladder that almost rotted it self in to the trail. Over the time period that this log ladder became useless people had started to walk to the left and right of the ladder, blowing out the sides of the trail. The Forest Service asked us to go in there, kick down some trees, and give the whole area a makeover. My job for the week was chain saw operator and project worker. Basically I was there to just help move the project along.
The Teen Base Camp Crew that was a part of this log ladder were super psyched to be apart of such a cool project. All of them were really hard workers and made progress on the project move efficiently. The most challenging task of the week was just moving the lumber to the project area. The new ladder that we had to put in was a great deal longer than the original. The stringers for the ladder ended up being about 25 feet long and over a foot in width. There is no way that I could begin to figure out the actual weight of the logs, but I did realize that it was extremely heavy. It took the entire crew to manage the site in a safe way and move this log. We had three holding the tension line, 7 people actually on the log trying to push it, and spotter who was watching the trail making sure that if we were to drop the log that we would not crush anyone underneath it. The project took a little over 8 days to complete fully. Now it rests in place about a mile and a half up on the north side of the Imp Loop, to provide a nice rout for the hikers to travel.
When building such a large trail features it is necessary to plan all aspects of the project very carefully. For example when just looking for what trees to cut, you have to make sure that when it is time to move the telephone pole sized logs that you have a rout that makes it possible to even extract the logs from the woods. You can not be level with the project or below, there is no way for me even to conceived how much one of these logs weighed but they are far, far too heavy to even think of trying to move in a upward direction. They had to be up hill and far enough off the trail that the stumps where not visible from the trail.
Once the two side/stringer logs were in place the heavy moving was done and all that was left was all the technical mumbo jumbo that was required to make the steps fit. We cut 36 inch long logs and then made notches in the log and a matching notch in the stringer where the step would just slip in, or that how you would hope it to work. The deep cuts into the stringer were done with the chainsaw. Then the volunteers would come in and chisel out most of the larger chunks of wood. Most the steps took little of finagling in order to get it nice and snug in the log, but now all steps sit and wait for the next hiker to come up and enjoy the service that they provide.
The groups that got to participate really got a good test of how much people actually appreciate the work that is getting done. The Imp Loop some days had hikers coming every 30 minutes. When trying to do trail work that is less then ideal, cause you have to stop and wait for the hiker to come on by. But, for the teens that were working in the project, every hiker that came by would always thank all of us with gratitude. As a teenager it is a powerful experience to work on a project were every person you encounter expresses how thankful they are for the work that you are doing.
As young members of this global community the teens that we get here at Dodge have already started to give back to society, hopefully this is a start of life long giving for the teens. It was a great and unique project, and the two crews that we had to work on it were also very productive and helpful during their time here. It was a great way to close the programs season at Dodge.
The falls winds blow ever closer, this is 51 Goose clear with Camp Dodge Journal.
Photos: Goose, Alex DeLucia, Lesley Heyl