Training Rocks!

Week two of the three week training session for the Camp Dodge Volunteer Trail Crew Leaders began with rain, a deep chill and mud up to our ears. Well, not actually up to our ears but pretty close. Rock work presents a number of challenges. Quarrying decent rocks. Moving these rocks to the worksite and setting them in the proper place so that they shed water, retain soil, direct hikers and remain in place for generations to name a few. Each of these steps become exponentially more difficult when hands, feet, tools and really just everything around you is soaking wet.  Despite these adverse conditions the Crew Leaders managed to roll rocks with ease and keep their morale high. 

There was no wallowing in the knee deep mud and pools of opaque water. There was laughing at corny jokes, quizzical looks while pondering brain teasers and riddles, inspirational speeches taken word for word from The Lord of The Rings Trilogy as well as story-telling and vocabulary tests all while tirelessly positioning and repositioning rocks weighing several hundred pounds. They were learning more than just the fundamentals of setting rocks. The Leaders were learning the intangible lessons of perseverance and how to work as a team to trouble shoot solutions. 

They used slings and pick mattock handles to lift and lower large rocks exactly where they wanted them. They laid rock bars parallel to each other on the ground to slide massive rocks across depressions that would have otherwise swallowed them up. They taught each other how to manipulate our simple hand tools to get optimum mechanical advantage and lever a rock nearly the size of a mini cooper into a spot where before there had just been a muddy embankment and rapidly eroding use-paths. Most importantly they learned and proved that if they never give up they will succeed. 

The leaders were spread out over four sites along the lower portion of the Imp Trail. Their projects varied between turnpikes, staircase installation, water bar installation and general tread hardening. The structures weren’t the only focus of this week though. Each project site was examined for signs of water erosion, foot traffic, and soil loss. Leaders learned to interpret and educate others on the many different factors that go into trail design and identify the elements of a sustainable trail. Before long everyone was talking about the corridor, anchors, outflows and sustainable grades. As their skill levels increased the rain stopped and the clouds parted. As if a sign of the great season to come, our gear had a chance to dry off a little and we really started setting rocks. In four days the leaders set 30 rocks combined in our turnpike, staircase, and two water bars. 

This week of training has got us all so excited for this season. Come join us in making a difference in some of the most beautiful places in the country. Contact Alison Violette ( to inquire about our many teen and adult volunteer crews throughout the White Mountains and Maine. From all of us here at Camp Dodge, see you on the trail!