Boomerang Gang: A Berkshires story of Trail work and Resilience

Resilience means looking at the bigger picture and not dwelling upon what’s right in front of you. Continuing even though what’s in front of you might be taking up most of the picture.” – Hannah

The Final Week of Teen Trail Crew has jumped out from its dark corner in surprise, and makes its presence unavoidably clear.  A band of staff now battered, bruised and rough around the edges, we round the corner and enter into the last remaining stretch of the 2015 Berkshires Trails season.

Resilience has to do with patience, endurance, ability to learn from the past and to use it to make the present and future better.” – Hugh

Once we moved past the excitement of new in the beginning, past the celebration of ascent to the peak in the middle, but before we encounter the bittersweet of the end, we have found ourselves capable and willing to take on anything thrown at us, day after day; resilient.  
“Resilience is one of the most important things you can have. You [can be] so sick and tired…but you have to come back the next week ready to lead with a smile on your face. It sets the crew off in the right direction.” – Jesse

Workings as a Crew Leader for the Teen Trail Program during past seasons were not without their challenges:

“[As a crew leader], there was a participant on my crew that was really rude to me and made my week a living nightmare. I was so tired, frustrated and upset at the end of each day, but then it would start all over again each morning. That was the longest week I’ve ever been through; it just took all I had to get to Friday” Molly

“[As a volunteer participant on a Leadership crew], we had built a series of stone steps up Jug End [on the Appalachian Trail]. The next year when I returned as a crew leader, [our project was to] rip out those steps in order to build a better rock staircase. It was really hard to get on board with that: to have a project that you had put so much work into get ripped out. But you just have to push through that and help build a better staircase.”  -Jesse

The 2015 Trail season was not spared of difficulties either:
“A few weeks, ago we were in resilience mode. Having been [leading crews] for a while, you tend to just get tired, your body and everything. We had to just keep going. It’s the point where you’re faced with the option of either doing your best even if that’s difficult - or taking the easy way out.”  - Hugh

“I got sick this summer. It was really frustrating to come back to work and realize I couldn’t do everything as well as I could before.”- Molly

“…it down poured during lunch and participants started ringing out their pita sandwiches like they were soaked towels…” – Maggie

We began developing a few interesting ways of dealing with these challenges:
“…I speak in a lot of different accents…” – Hugh

Though accents, games and donuts aided the staff through difficult times, the true source of overcoming these challenges was their own strength of character:
“Resilience might have a lot to do with optimism, maybe sometimes blind optimism. There [is] nothing saying that the next week [isn’t] going to be the same way, but I just needed to stay optimistic about the summer.”     - Molly

“I started [with the Berkshires Trails Program], oh man, how many years ago? I started at 15 and I broke my wrist during the second week of my 2 week crew. They asked me if I wanted to go home and I looked at them like, ‘are you crazy? There’s only 3 days left!’ You’ve always got something to give, and there’s always more to do. I think that’s what keeps bringing me back year after year. It’s a never-ending battle.” – Jesse

“[Last week] we had no time for breaks or games. We had to just put our heads down and work two hours extra every day. At this point in the season we knew it had to be done and we were ok with putting in the extra work to do what was expected of us.” – Hannah

After all this, why keep doing this type of work? Why does our staff willingly show up to work each morning, rain or shine, knowing bugs will be plenty and backbones will be sore?

“Being a crew leader is what keeps me coming back. Being a role model [for the volunteer participants] like the ones that I had as a kid is really awesome, and I really like that.” - Jesse

“I found it was the rewarding, energetic and fun weeks that drove me, as a crew leader, to have resilience. Even if this rock wouldn't set on the first or 15th try, I knew that it was possible and we had options to make it work…” – Maggie

“There are two main things and I think they’re equally as important. First, is that the work is satisfying and creative and it’s stimulating. It’s satisfying for both my brain and body; I have to think things through while it’s physically challenging. Second, are the people. There’s this amazing community, and a different group of people each year. This job just draws really amazing people to it. “ - Molly

“The people are incredible, and who else gets to put down everything in their daily lives and go to the woods and throw some rock bars around.” – Hannah

The 2015 season has witnessed the transformation of our staff from fresh faced to bold and dirty.  They have dug in their heels when challenges pushed them, and they’ve charged forward in spite of it all. The 2015 Berkshires Trails staff are about embark on their final week, and they are as ready and capable as ever to lead with their unbreakable strength and smiles. 

“…I found resilience is the key to starting fresh every week and every day with new energy.” – Maggie
Trails = Rock