Some (gna)R & (gna)R in Mammoth Lakes was much needed for our crew after the last hitch. We experienced our first full-crew climbing excursion, where we were able to test out more than our gnarific climbing skills, when a fellow climber took a spill and broke her ankle. Our crew sprang into action with our Wilderness First Aid and First Responder certifications to assist in splinting the woman’s ankle and calling an ambulance. We also partied with Mammoth Lakes’ Village People at a local festival, gnaring out to Pink Freud and sampling the town’s finest ribs. With full bellies, our live music fix …satisfied, we headed into our most extraordignarily epic hitch yet.
Somewhere in the hills of West Gnarlington, there was a trail crew excited for a full back-country hitch. Equipped with our Forest Service contact and Grateful Dead enthusiast Keith Dawley, volunteer and inventor of the cell phone and pager, Ying Chang, and gear nut Eugene Leafty, we headed into some of California’s most beautiful Gnar: The John Muir Wilderness. The six mile hike into our base camp, and home for the week, included Sierra vistas and numerous alpine lakes.
Structures was the name of the game for this hitch, and our group got right to work installing important features to keep this section of the PCT dry and mud free. Surrounded by a plethora of rock, we constructed stone water-bars and drainage dips to direct water off the trail. Since this section of the trail had some steep climbs, we also installed stone and log check steps to assist hikers and keep dirt onto the trail, because, as we learned from out Forest Service contact Keith; “Dirt is food for the trail, do not starve the trail.”
During the first few days of hitch, we noticed that many hiker’s had a difficult time crossing Deer Creek, and thus, set to work on our first large-scale structure of the season. Within three days of starting, we completed the two-log 24ft bridge across the creek. This required felling and debarking 2 trees, and placing them across the stream through an intricate system of rope-pullies and brute force. Once the logs were placed, we flattened the tops by canting the logs with the cross-cut saw while standing in the creek. Soggy boots and smelly feet followed us back to camp throughout the week.
Structures were not the only thing that kept us busy this hitch. In a previous era of trail work, it was believed that lining the trail with large stones was a worthwhile project. While it certainly made the trail impossible to lose, it also built up a large berm around the trail, and prevented water from draining. So we spent several days removing every other or every third rock on a two mile stretch of the trail to reduce the berm. Two specialized task force missions were also sent out to log out fallen trees and scout out the trail for future work projects.
All in all another fantastic trip, now for time off on the coast.
The Numbers speak for themselves:
Check Steps Installed: 17
Water Bars Cleaned: 50
Water Bars Installed: 3
Logs removed: 8
Tread: 7850 feet rehab
Built and Installed 24ft bridge