" 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
Sunday, August 4, 2013
“It looks like a hurricane ripped through here!”
Hard at work in the Seneca Creek Back Country.
This week wrapped up our last week of Mountain Trail Monitors, and students from Winfield,
Petersburg, Morgantown and Canaan Valley joined us in clearing Horton and
Spring Ridge trails, and blazing some tricky spots along Big Run in the Seneca Creek Back Country.
The kids were mostly strangers to each other, but as the group quickly piled into the van
amid a typical afternoon rainstorm, whatever trepidation I had about
working with a bunch of teenage boys for the week soon melted away. I shamelessly eavesdropped on their conversation about current events
and political trivia (how many groups of boys will start to get to
know each other by intelligently discussing the Zimmerman trial? My
mind was blown). Upon arrival at camp, tents and tarps popped up like
mushrooms as the guys showed off their various attempts at
fisherman’s knots and truckers hitches, swapping brief stories
about soccer, encampment, raising horses, and general ruckus.
Although few had much experience backpacking, many came with some
prior knowledge of hard skills, and those who were less experienced
seemed eager to learn. Before we knew it, dinner was served, firewood
was gathered, and it felt like the week was startin’ off right.
Monday morning dawned and with it the
beginning of our work week. After a close look at our topo maps, we
set off to conquer the Horton trail. The group worked in surprising
silence for most of the morning, quietly waging war on intruding
beech saplings. But the first GORP break broke down that barrier and
laughter and curiosity came pouring out. Throughout the week, each
student was so enthusiastic about learning about the plants and fungi
around them, Mike and I could hardly keep up with the demand for cool
facts. “Dude, smell this twig!” was a frequently heard statement
as we worked our way through deciduous forest heavy with black birch,
the wood of which offers a wintergreen-like scent. Flowers tucked
into button holes and the headbands of our hardhats became a required
fashion statement. Spruce tips and bee balm tea simmered by the
campfire most nights as students speculated on making bowdrills while
leading each other in ridiculous rounds of Mafia, a TMI campfire
The group’s curiosity and enthusiasm
(not to mention a healthy level of West Virginia pride, a love of
history and a serious collective work ethic) made a week of sweaty,
manual labor an uplifting and joyous experience for all of us. Finishing our work a bit early,
we were able to fit in both a trip through the Sinks of Gandy and a
gorgeous hike up Spruce Knob Friday morning. By the end of the week, we
could proudly say that the Mountain Trail Monitors program was able
to cover all of the Seneca Creek Backcountry, as it lies in Randolph
County, plus additional trails along the Greenbriar and Laurel Fork.
Very exciting! So thanks, guys, for an excellent week of hard work,
interesting conversation, zeal and mindfulness. Y’all make the
future look good.
And to all those MTM participants out
there, thank you: for your hard work, your reverence for the land,
your time, and for your compassion. Please don’t be a stranger!
Come on back and see us sometime. - Shannon Gaffey