On August 8, I celebrated the day I set out to hike the Long Trail in 2009. Nothing could have been more soul fitting than working on trails to Little Rock Pond, one of my favorite sanctuaries along the 272 mile path in the Green Mountains. Sam and Darcy of the Green Mountain Club led the group of volunteers who had committed a week or more to improving the Long Trail. Unfortunately, I was only able to stay on for four days and did my best to make the most of each one.
While there, the crew focused on building turnpikes and resetting puncheon. Turnpikes are log frames filled with crushed rock and set on a path creating a mud free walkway that aids in preventing long term damage to the trail and erosion. All of our rock was crushed by hand, well, with a sledgehammer.
While some sledge, others worked to peel the bark of the log and chiseled notches that would keep the logs in frame to form a frame. The bark is removed in order to slow down the process of decay. It can be removed with an ax or a sledge hammer. The notches are made by sawing 4-6 sections abut half way down the log and then using a hammer and a chisel to remove the saw cuts.
The logs are moved with manpower of four, some netting a bar. But first, the ground where the puncheon will be set must be entirely free of rock which sometimes means using three rock bars to remove enormous boulders which appear as mere nothing on the surface. At last, the crew rests after a day’s work.
In between crushing rock and stripping logs, we swam and ate delicious food that we trekked in via fifty pound coolers on our backs. On my last day, I left while the crew was still working and headed out to spend some one on one with the pond. I took off all my clothes and swam across to the diving cliffs. I can still feel the water drying on my skin from the sun. As I swam back, I recalled how nervous I was the first time I left the shore a year ago. In fact, it was only because of the two brothers I met who were thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail that I even had the guts to swim across the first time. At last, I was swimming on my own.