" You go to nature for an experience of the sacred - to re-establish your contact with the core of things, where it’s really at, in order to enable you to come back to the world of people and operate more effectively. Seek ye first the kingdom of nature, that the kingdom of man might be realized.." -Willi Unsoeld, former TMI Field Instructor and member of the first American team to summit Mt. Everest
Saturday, June 8, 2013
Is this a rose?
Our first log cut!
On June 5th, we finished our first week of
Mountain Trail Monitors, our summer trail maintenance program. We had spent
four nights in the Seneca Creek Backcountry, with two groups of high-schoolers
from Morgantown. After full days lopping, building rock bridges, and removing
downed trees, we covered seven trails and over 15 miles of work. The going was
tough and the weather was rainy, but we still had time to spend our evenings
doing wilderness skills such as camp craft, survival, fire building and map and
compass reading, as well as fun campfire activities.
On our last night, Michael Escol, my co-instructor, and I led
our group through a traditional Mountain Institute closing activity: “Rose, bud
and thorn”. Each member of the group shared their "rose," a moment
that they found beautiful or inspiring, their "thorn," a moment that
was tough or challenging, and a "bud," or moment which sparked their
curiosity in a new subject. Our group mentioned a number of thorns – the rain,
the manual labor, and wet feet - but also many roses – the night sky, a tough
log they’d cut through with a little tenacity, and a stream crossing they’d
enjoyed. Their buds included a desire to learn more about forest ecology and
history, stream biology, and the other tiny details of the outside world that
they had previously overlooked.
We all went to bed with high spirits, but the next morning
brought a torrential downpour which made packing up our campsite and putting on
our backpacks more of a trial than a tribulation. After a breakfast of soggy
oatmeal, we headed up a steep section of trail before reaching the last 1.6
miles of trail we were meant to clear before we headed out of the woods and
back to the yurts of the Spruce Knob Mountain Center. The students looked
resigned as we descended the muddy trail, but they mustered enough strength to
lop branches and clear logs covering the trail. The rain made us quiet, but
after four days we didn’t have to say much to know what to do. We worked with
familiar ease and moved quickly.
We spent one night sleeping under the stars.
A break in the tree line told us that we were near the
trailhead, and our pace quickened. We set down our packs by the van, pulled out
what we needed for lunch and paused. We were by a bridge overlooking a wide
stretch of Gandy Run, with a perfect swimming hole at our disposal. It might
have been raining, but it would have been a shame to pass up a shining
opportunity for our only swim after four days of trail work. Some of the
students pulled off just their rain gear, while others got down to their boxer
shorts. In a moment, the joyous sound of kids jumping into icy water and
whooping with delight filled the air. As we swam and explored the smooth rocks
of the stream bed in the rain, one of the students looked up. “Is this a rose?”
he asked with a broad smile on his face. I think it was.
Over the Gandy Run swimming hole.
Thanks to all who came out for first week of trail crew! We
still have spaces available for the weeks of July 7th, and July 21st. If you want to explore some wilderness, give back while you get your hands
dirty, and do some summer swimming contact Melinda Brooks at 304-567-2632 or mbrooks@Mountain.org. More details at http://mountain.org/mtm. -Braja Smith