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LRCC Conservation Journal

by Allison Larme

July 5, 2023

While working on the trails, the end of the day life feels a little like an Eminem song: “palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy.” Nonetheless, it’s never felt so good to be working dwarfed by the beautiful green-covered mountains formed by millions of years of erosion, that is New Hampshire.

The best time of the day is when we sit in the office, and hear those words, “Tomorrow you are going to be doing trail work.” Joy to the ears. We start off by gathering tools that will help us sculpt the trail into as perfect as a trail can get with its roots, rocks, water, mud, and an endless amount of material. Each tool has a unique job, their different forms carve different angles, depths, and abrasions for the perfect balance to maintain a trail. It’s up to fate what the trail will have in store for you that day, sometimes it’s all that you expect, and sometimes, it’s a hot mess.

Trail work is a rewarding task, but the journey to its completion is its own beast. It sets you in a trance and is almost always peaceful, but there’s a huge emphasis on almost. Once you think you’re on a roll, mother nature will humble you. Your tools get grabbed by the small roots as you strike down, on the tread your McLeod hits a larger root that will eventually need to be removed with loppers, and as you walk farther along, there’s a tree that fell perfectly across the trail just for you, which is too heavy to move and requires an axe or hand saw to remove it.

However, trail work in New Hampshire has made me form one conclusion: if rocks were a currency, we’d be rich.

After continuing up the trail and starting on a water bar, you have hope that there couldn’t possibly be another obstacle in your way as you’re constructing it, but in the back of your mind you know it’s coming. Swing after swing of the pick mattock with its pristine aerodynamic precision, you’re finally in a groove, until that one fateful hit of its steel head creates that gut-wrenching sharp-pitched DING…darn it, a rock. Now, there are a few things that could happen when you hit a rock, one: it’s simply a palm-sized stone that you can pick up and place on the side of the trail or use for edging the water bar, or two: it’s a rock you only see the tip of, where the soil is masking its full chaos that will unfold once you start digging. You and your other crew members surround the rock and start excavating it from all sides, which seems like a never-ending task as the rock widens and deepens in size.  All your hopes and dreams of it being a small rock disappear the more you dig, and you come to the conclusion that not only will you need to get this behemoth of a vessel out of the ground, but it makes you wonder how large of a hole this colossal clump of minerals will leave behind.

AmeriCorps member with blowdown
AmeriCorps member with rock bar
Once we see a glimpse of the bottom, we pierce the soil under the rock with the underrated tool, the rock bar. Prying and pushing down to finally lift it out of its hibernation cavity, exposing it entirely to the sun, which it hasn’t seen in centuries. Someone grabs hold of it, and it’s out, it’s finally left the nest. We rejoice, but reality soon hits, we have to fill in this tripping, ankle-twisting hazard of a hole. Luckily, being in the woods there is always soil and, ironically, small rocks to use. We fill it in and use our trusty boot mattocks to stomp on the new soft ground. The water bar is complete, and we feel accomplished, we feel alive. We then walk out of the woods covered in earthly materials, knowing that another trail work day complete and the next trail we do will be its own journey.

Although trail work is hardly a linear path, that’s what makes it so exciting to do. It gives you a puzzle that can only be solved through teamwork and hard work. Being a Lakes Region Conservation Corps member opens your eyes and gives you an appreciation and perspective for all hiking trails you have and will come across. I couldn’t ask for a better position to be serving for AmeriCorps and am grateful for future projects I will be a part of.