It is an established fact on the Rawah Crew that the best day of the week is Tuesday. What makes Tuesday so wonderful is a simple alliteration that sums it up nicely, “Taco Tuesday”. When you are 60 miles from cell phone service, restaurants, grocery stores and expending 4000 calories (about 16,500 joules) in a day little is more satisfying then a good dinner with friends.
Take for example the last Tuesday we worked in the Rawah’s. We started the day at 7:00AM as usual, proceeded to the Link/McIntyre Trailhead. After stretching we spent the next hour putting in 100 feet of full bench tread (18 to 24 inches wide), by 9:00AM we were finished and moving onto our real project of the day – Blue Lake Trail.
The primary reason we had been sent to blue lake trail was to remove an old bridge from a river. How? I had no bloody idea, no one explained it to me. C’est la vie. After a short planning session we grabbed the tools we decided would be most useful:
Rock bar (18 lbs), Mini Rock Bar (12 lbs), Mash hammer (4 lbs), 2 Picks (8 lbs), 1 Pulaski (5 lbs), cross cut w/ essentials (10 lbs), Felling axe (4 lbs).
Being the crew leader and the architect of this heavy scheme I selected the Mash Hammer and felling axe to attach to my pack (30 lbs on average due to water). To top this off I also grabbed the large rock bar to carry in on my shoulder. With everything set we proceeded down the trail for a bridge we had never seen, at an undetermined distance with no guarantee of snow pack being higher than our goal. 4 miles later we started hitting snow drifts. 1 mile later the snow was too deep to effectively proceed. We stopped and took lunch, it was noon-thirty.
After lunch we began working back towards the truck doing the work we are good at and accustomed to: Drains and fallen tree removal. After cutting and moving 11 trees out of the trail (7 on the ground, 4 leaners) and doing thirty-aught drains. We were back at the wilderness sign (~3 miles from trailhead). It was 1600 hours. Tooling up we hiked out, hitting the truck at 1720. All told we had done a significant number of drains and logs, but failed to achieve our goal of removing the bridge. Or for that matter, even seen the bridge.
Once we had packed away our tools we split into two groups, as our work day had ended: One group to fish (Chris and Ben) and one group to return to the bunk house (the rest). We arrived home at 1800, 30 minutes over schedule, and began to recuperate from our day and begin cooking. 2 hours later we had the taco meat (chicken) cooked, cheese grated (cheddar), lettuce cut (red and green), rice and beans mixed, tomatoes chopped, salsa dished (mango), sour cream out and taco shells (hard and soft) ready. Ben and Chris were still out on the water, after waiting a charitable 5 minutes we began eating. Eventually they would return and gorge with us, we would finish all the food and relax into a food haze. Then we sleep, and do it all over again. Another 10 to 15 miles of hiking, another day of dripping sweat.
Its not easy, its not always fun, but its worth it. Our bodies hurt, our hands and arms bleed from brush, our minds are bent to repetitive menial tasks, few say thanks – or even know we exist. But to have the pleasure of working in a small group with people you like in some of America’s most beautiful landscapes and at the end of day still be able to have an awesome taco?
It’s a dream I rue to wake from.
-Patrick Donaghue, Rawah Crew Leader