Week 4: Brushing Time (June 5 – 14)

This was my second week of work and I can say I’ve never hiked this much in a week, nor have I ever carried this much weight while hiking either. I have a 46 litre osprey pack that I use in the field and here are the items that I always carry in/on my pack: rain jacket/bibs, first aid kit, survival kit, extra socks, extra long sleeve layer, paracord, work gloves, ear plugs, hand loppers, protective eye glasses, hardhat, two nalgene water bottles, toilet paper, EpiPen, ibuprofin/tylenol, and my lunch for the day. In addition to this list once we get to the trail head and start handing out gear I usually also have a pair of chainsaw/brusher chaps, a brusher harness, a brusher helmet, and I carry a brusher over my shoulder as we walk. This will vary depending on what work we’re doing, but this past week this was my list of gear that I had on me everyday.

I apologize now for the length of this post, the majority if it is going over what I did for work, the fun weekend trips are closer to the bottom so make sure you read the whole way through! Or just skip to the end, that’s probably what I’d do.

On Monday we had our usual meeting in the morning, split up to grab gear, and then we hopped in the trucks and headed out to Saddlebag Glacier trail to do some brushing work.

 The picture on the left was taken right after we got to the trail head of Saddlebag Glacier Trail on Monday morning. We unloaded the trucks and then everyone grabbed gear. The picture on the right is of the group on our way up the trail to where we started working.

It was a nice flat trail that wound it’s way through the forest and up to the lake at the base of the Glacier where we dropped our gear and started brushing our way back out. We had somewhere around four people brushing and three people swamping behind them for the day. The swampers not only cleaned up all of the cut brush and debris, but they also bumped all of our packs and extra gear from where we dropped them up to the back of the group so that we didn’t get too far from our gear.

Saddlebag Lake

This was our view at the end of the trail where we dropped our gear and started brushing our way back out. Just around that corner in the middle of the picture is Saddlebag Glacier.

Overall it was a pretty uneventful day apart from the rain that started on our hike in and didn’t let up until we were hiking out at the end of the day, I’m definitely glad that I had some good rain gear for that. It was never a hard driving rain, but it was just a constant gentle rain that went on all day. It definitely took away slightly from the enjoyment of a lunch break.

We used trash bags to keep our packs dry because the rain covers were a little old and no longer did their job, Kim decided a trash bag was a good place to eat lunch.

On Tuesday we took our brushers for a walk up the Crater lake trail a few miles and spent the day cleaning up the vegetation along the trail. We came across a few hikers coming up the trail who were very grateful of our work. We also met a group of a few hikers who were collecting the large black slugs that are nearly everywhere up here. The slugs are invasive, and apparently there are two different species of these black slugs but the only way to tell them apart is to slice them open and study their genitals. So the slugs they were collecting were being sent back to a lab to be analyzed so that they could get an idea of what kind diversity there is between the regular European Black Slug and the Arion European Black Slug which is still invasive, but much less aggressive.

Crater Lake Trail Lunch break Schmalzer.jpg

Here you can see a wild Schmalzer enjoying his lunch along Crater Lake Trail. Dan Schmalzer is our boss while we’re out in the field when Bobby isn’t around

On Wednesday we were missing a few members of our trail crew, Kelly and Ryn were with Dana Smyke checking out cabins throughout the forest to make sure that they were clean and didn’t need any repair. We were also missing one of our leaders Rob as well as Jessica who were out with different crews who needed extra help on other projects. So Schmalzer, Kim, Luke and myself went out to the Sheridan Mountain Trail to do some more brushing. This was definitely a more intense hike with all of our equipment due to the steepness of the trail.

Sheridan Glacier

Before we started up the trail we took a quick walk to an overlook sight to Sheridan Glacier. We came back this past weekend to check it out more so stay tuned for that trip recap

This was definitely one of the more exhausting days that we’ve had so far, we only hiked about two miles up but it was definitely an “up” kind of hike. But it was definitely worth the hike, we had some good views from the trail. Everything from mossy forests with “goats beard” lichens hanging from the branches, to muskegs with step and run boarded trails running through the middle, to boulder fields from the aftermath of a landslide. I think the only down side to doing all of this brushing work was that we only got a glimpse of all of these trails because we would only ever hike the first few miles and stop when we neared the tree line when the vegetation became more sparse. So we did have some great views of some beautiful forests and muskegs and such, but we never really get the full views of some of these great hikes because we didn’t make it to the top of many of the trails.

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The picture with Schmalzer standing in the middle of it is the view from the top of a large bowl that opens up in the valley that we hiked up. On the mountain ridge directly behind him is where we saw several Dall Sheep

We spend the day brushing our way back down the trail as usual and then headed back to the compound for the night.

Thursday was our last day of work for the week because we started working four ten hour days a week rather than five eight hour days. So on our last day of work we drove out to the Heney Ridge Trail to again do some more brushing. This hike wasn’t as difficult as the day before at Sheridan, but it still wasn’t one of the easiest hikes that we’ve done. Once we reached the point where we dropped our gear to start brushing our way back down the trail Schmalzer and I kept going for a quick trip further up the trail to clear a few problem areas up quick, I was very happy to leave my brusher behind with the rest of the crew for this bit because the trail got a lot steeper further up. We only had to clean up a downed tree and a few overgrown sections of the trail that were no problem with our hand loppers. We paused for a moment to take in the great view and then we headed back down the trail to tie in with the rest of the group and bust out our last day on trail for the week.

Heney Ridge Trail view

this was the view that greeted Schmalzer and I from our resting spot up on the Heney Ridge Trail, and we weren’t even at the top yet!

I realize I’ve been focusing on work a lot in these posts and I’ve been leaving out some of the best parts of my time here, the food! There is a really great sense of community here, not only among all of the housemates here in the old bunkouse, but also with the new bunkhouse, and even with all of the full time employees as well. So often times we’ll do group meals, it’s pretty common for us trail crew folk to do a meal together, usually something with halibut in it from the fish the Kim and I caught on our first weekend here when we went out fishing with Bobby. We’ve had Halibut tacos, Halibut fried in pancake batter, halibut cooked in a butter and lemon sauce, Halibut gumbo, and I’m sure there are a few more recipes I’m missing there. We’ve also done a few potluck meals with the old and the new bunkhouse, my favorite was the potluck breakfast that we had this past weekend, mostly because breakfast is my favorite meal of the day anyway and having so many different options and everyone together just makes it that much better. I know I’ve said it already but the atmosphere here with all of the coworkers is great, it feels like one big happy family which makes everything so much easier than it could be.

On Friday I decided to take a solo hike up to Eyak Mountain, I attempted the hike a few weeks ago and ran into a storm about two thirds of the way up and decided to come back down. This time I knew the weather wasn’t that great again, but I was fairly certain that it at least wouldn’t rain on me. So I set off from the bunkhouse here and made my way through town and up to the trailhead. The trail starts off in the forest, a nice gently hike through open forests with floors blanketed in moss, illuminated sporadically from shafts of sunlight that manage to slide through the dense canopy. The trail is quite rocky and has the occasional root here and there which caused me to watch my footing quite often. I made my way up the trail which cuts up the ski hill where there is a great view out over town. Here I stood for quite a while, mesmerized at the view that was stretched out in front of me. The ocean waves sparkling and glistening in the sunlight, the hustle and bustle of people in town moving to and from the AC (grocery store) and working down on the docks. I could see the docks over by the canneries where the seagulls were assaulting the boats as the came and unloaded their catch. There was a crisp breeze that started to cool my body, but as I stood the sunlight warmed me in between gusts. I stood there for what had to be almost twenty minutes before I continued my hike.

Ski Hill pano over Cordova

My hike leveled out a little bit after I passed the top of the ski hill and made my way out the ridge a few hundred yards before climbing a small peak, where again the ridge flattened out and ran a ways before the climb up the the top of Eyak Mountain. The climb was gentle until the end where the trail rose steeply to the peak. The whole hike past the ski hill I was in a state of pure bliss, I know it sounds cheesy and all, and that’s what I always thought too, but I was in a state of complete and total happiness and glee as I walked. There was no one around me and there was just something about being up there that made me completely content. As I climbed across snow mounds and up over some loose rocks I scrambled to the peak for a great view before the clouds started to close in around me. I stayed at the top for a few moments to take it in, but I did not want to stay for too long for fear of the fog cutting down on visibility.

Eyak Mountain lupens 1Eyak Mountain LupensEyak Mountain other flowersEyak Mountain Pano

On Sunday we were lucky enough to borrow a vehicle so we piled our gear in and loaded up for a quick trip. We drove out to Sheridan Glacier so we could take a closer look out there and we camped there for the night at a nice little campsite right next to the glacier. Being on top of a glacier is something I never thought I’d get to experience but definitely something I’ve always wanted to do. It’s such a mind blowing experience to get to walk around on this ice that you know is incredibly old and see moss that is somehow growing on the ice, but it’s melted down through the ice nearly a foot. And to get to explore all of the crevasses it was an awesome experience and I would love to be able to go do it again sometime soon.

Sheridan Glacier Ice 1Sheridan Glacier IceSheridan Glacier MossSheridan Glacier Trail

I apologize that this post was so long, hopefully I didn’t loose anyone too quickly from boredom. My next post will be a little delayed because in two days I’ll be leaving with the trail crew for an eight day spike out at Child’s Glacier doing some trail work out there. But I’ll be sure to fill you all in when I get back and I’ll do my best to take some pictures but I can’t make any promises on the battery life of my phone while I’m there.

Thank you for reading!

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Colin, I expect with all these photos you might want to do an exhibit at the performing arts center when you get back…awesome…and with “just” a phone camera! I am impressed. So glad things are going well! You are in our thoughts and prayers!

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