Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Week in the Laurel Fork

This post is guest written by Lily Bailey, 17, a veteran summer camper and a student in last week's Mountain Trail Monitor summer trail maintenance program.

Trees? Sawed. Branches? Lopped. Camping? Wet. Experience? Like none other. The second week of Mountain Trail Monitors has come to a close after a week of rewarding work. Nine volunteers from middle school to high school, and from West Virginia, Virginia, and Illinois spent the week hard at work on the trails lopping, building cairns to mark the trails, and contributing to the upkeep of trails in the Laurel Fork Wilderness Area. Although the weather was not always agreeable, we managed to get over eight miles of trail work completed and still have a great time.

Mountain Trail Monitor participants pose in the bubble.
Each day we worked hard to fulfill our goals on the trail, while having fun campfires and learning important survival activities like knot tying and fire building by night. The soggy boots and torrential downpours we worked in were offset by fun games of camouflage, stream crossings that became stream playing, and tasty lunches in the field. But what kept us going was the environment and the people.

Not many have the chance to experience a week in the woods, and even though the work can be taxing at times, being surrounded by the pure sounds and sights of the West Virginia wilderness is also incredibly relaxing and gratifying. Working in trying conditions such as these also results in really getting to know people. What begins as small talk gradually builds up to funny anecdotes, and eventually paves the way to new friendships. You learn about each others' strengths and weaknesses and accept them. These friendships are what made the week so special. We all knew how to enjoy the company of one another, how to lift our spirits as a whole when the weather made us gloomy, and how to work together effectively in a group.

On our last morning on the trails we awoke to a deluge that made packing up quite the challenge, but it was met with optimism that pushed us to complete our last section of trail before heading back to the Spruce Knob Mountain Center. We all rallied our strength and lopped branches and cut away downed trees in record time before hauling our heavy pack out of the trails for the final time. 

The week concluded with a time of reflection. We reminisced of the funny moments and triumphs on the trails, and although we all agreed that the rain was a drag, the positivity that both the campers and instructors brought to the work was unyielding. Looking back at the cleared trails we took part in filled everyone with a sense of pride and a visual reward to the week of work we had completed, a unique satisfaction that made this week one to remember.

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