After the third hitch, we celebrated civilization in style—going to the movies, cleaning out all the thrift stores in the Lewiston-Clarkston area, eating enough frozen dairy desserts to make a mere mortal weep. And visiting pet stores, which are more entertaining than any television.
Our fourth hitch was different from the others in several ways. At only ﬁve days, we got relatively but not impressively dirty. We hosted our SCA Program Coordinator, Trevor Knight, for several days. He arrived with a Westfalia van and stories of working in Florida humidity than made the Umatilla sound positively frosty.
On the ﬁrst day we spent a while simply trying to locate the trail, which jumped through our campground and across a creek. Eventually, only Jill and I continued to wade through in our boots, passing by the boys who put on sneakers or river shoes before crossing. We worked our way up Rattlesnake Trail—fortunately free of actual rattlesnakes, though with slopes and switchbacks that could probably kill a person just as effectively—and through the seemingly endless stretches of trees burned by the School Fire. It may have been in 2005 but most of them have yet to fall, and by the ﬁrst day my arms were covered in ﬁne black dust from touching charred logs. It was a curious experience, to work in a forest with no living trees.
Each morning we split into groups, most brushing and some hiking miles up the trail (and its brutal hills) to log out. We removed 67 logs and cleared 7,103 feet of trail, a patch of which was so thickly overgrown that I literally fell off the path trying to get through it. By this point in the summer we are experts at lopping, and the days of brushing were memorable mostly because of their games. We played a lot of 20 Questions (actually Inﬁnite Questions, as ‘counting’ is something no one has patience for), probably enough to go pro, and when that got old Trevor taught us how to play Contact. He sat down with each of us, and our individual responses to the query “Describe your team with one word” caused me no end of delight. In random order: joyful, wholesome, sassy, rugged, family. He also pronounced our team “high-functioning,” something we can all take pride in. High-ﬁve for high-functioning.
Before heading to the Panjab campground we had been warned about the presence of bears in the area, but saw none. (Unfortunately for Jill, for whom it’s a summer goal.) Other things we saw?
56,824 Sq. Feet Brushed
67 logs out over 4 miles of trail
Elk: at least ten
River otters: three
Slugs and mosquitoes: many
Friendly squirrels: one
Uncomfortably close skunks: one
Beautiful vistas: as usual, a plethora
We ﬁnished our work and said good-bye to the Pomeroy Ranger District. Then we drove out, past lovely rolling hills of wheat and a thunderstorm we we lucky enough to miss. Our last two hitches will be spent in the Walla Walla district. Are you ready, Walla Walla? We’re going to bring a storm of trail maintenance upon you.