Ode to Volunteers

What is your least favorite weather to be outside in, to hike in, to work in? My answer is probably similar to most peoples: rain. The forecast for the last free Saturday work party on the Bay Circuit Trail called for steady rain and temps in the low 40s. If there’s one thing I despise more than rain, it’s cold rain. Even still, I was really looking forward to co-leading this event.

I started my service year with Mass-LIFT AmeriCorps at AMC in September just as the field season was winding down. 2014 was the first full year of volunteer programming on the Bay Circuit Trail, complete with seven one-day work party events and six custom crews, totaling 205 volunteers and 1,205 hours of work. I was coming off my own action-packed field season as a volunteer teen trail crew leader in the Berkshires of Massachusetts. My co-leader, Dave**, and I lead the first full season of trail crews at AMC’s Noble View Outdoor Center, completing a major overhaul of the trail system and working on many trail maintenance projects. ** As a side note, Dave will always be Lumberjack (or “Lumby J” for short), his trail name, to me, and I will always be Bean to him. Shout out to Lumby J!

Temporary signage at the trailhead
The morning of November 1st in West Bridgewater, MA, delivered on the weather as promised with a cold, grey, rainy day. I was sure that it would deter many people from coming, but thirteen people proved me wrong. We set out to work on a .8 mile section of soon-to-be-dedicated trail, called the Haseotes-MassWildlife Trail, which would replace a road walk with a pleasant stroll through an ecologically diverse stretch of land. Small groups brushed out the corridor to the minimum standards approved by the landowner, marked some of the trail, and installed posts for temporary signage.

My group worked to set in posts for trail signage. Horror seeped into my skin as I came face to face with my most hated tool: the post-hole digger, which I affectionately call it the post-hole demon. Post-hole diggers are great tools, really, but I hold a grudge because I was knocked unconscious by one on a day very similar in weather. I tried to give a thorough tool safety talk about the post-hole demon without prompting my group to politely return to their cars and go home. Thankfully the first post went smoothly, but I could tell people were wet and cold. The best remedy was to keep moving, so we took charge of getting the next two posts in the ground.

Certainly a wet day!
Our final post would prove to be the most problematic, as the hole was filling with murky water as fast as we were digging it. I have had to dig and re-dig many post holes, and I can tell you that it is nothing short of a bummer when you realize that you have to relocate and do it all over again. But, the giant water filled hole didn't dishearten anyone. Part of being a leader is knowing how to adapt to the situation at hand, but it really helps when the group is just as flexible and good-spirited. I knew they were wet, cold, and probably uncomfortable, because I myself was wet, cold, and uncomfortable even with head-to-toe waterproof gear on, but everyone kept a smile on their face. 

Volunteers never fail to impress me. Here was a group of thirteen people that donated a collective 75 hours of their time on a chilly, soaking Saturday in November to give back to the Bay Circuit Trail and community as a whole, and they all kept a positive attitude. I truly love trail work, but not every day is easy. There are always times when you get tired, hungry, sore, hot, cold, you name it. It was the positive attitude that kept me upbeat that day, and it’s that same great energy that our volunteers always bring that makes the hard days’ worth it, and that gets the job done. Hard hats off to you, volunteers, we truly could not do it without you!

Molly Higgins
Community Engagement Coordinator – Bay Circuit Trail
MassLIFT AmeriCorps, Appalachian Mountain Club

For more information on the Bay Circuit, visit: baycircuit.org

Have I convinced you to come volunteer on the Bay Circuit in 2015? Great! Check out the dates for weekend work parties:

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