The apple pie was a surprise. A scrumptious, homemade, cinnamon n’ sugar-filled surprise. Ever since starting work in Las Vegas there’ve been many surprises, but this was the sweetest. When the MACC crew moved from Reno in January I knew it would mean less time on the chainsaw and most likely a bit of trail work. That’s about all I knew to expect – the tools, the terrain, and the trail users all came as surprises.
My only experience with trail work occurred this previous summer as a part of the Minnesota Conservation Corps. My crew maintained multiple portages, the trails connecting canoeing lakes in the northern wilderness area. We’d used loppers, handsaws, and cross-cutters to clear overgrown trails of baby balsam firs, mountain maple branches, and downed pine trees. The tools in Nevada are designed to handle rocks and dirt. I knew how to use a shovel, but the McLeod, pick-Mattock, double-jack, rock bar, and geo-pick were new and took some getting used to. It wasn’t until this second hitch working on the Black Mountain trail that I had the chance to use every one of those tools to chop, hack, lift, roll, scoop, and pound out the trail. Until this hitch I never knew how much satisfaction could be found in swinging a double-jack to flatten some bedrock.
The next surprise came in the form of scenic vistas. In Minnesota the colors and hues are cool, green trees and blue lakes. Here in Nevada most everything is a variation of warm tones, rusty reds, burnt browns, and weathered whites. The mountains are the canvas upon which this array is painted. As we hiked down from Black Mountain at the end of the day, muscles aching and sweat drying, we were treated to the refreshing site of a sunset over Vegas.
Lastly, working in a wilderness area you don’t run across many trail users. However, working near a residential area, like Sloan Canyon, everyday there’d be several people coming by to ask about our work, express appreciation, and even take photos. On our third day we were invited to the meeting of a local hiking club. We went not knowing what to expect, except perhaps a small break. Walking into the nice facility after a morning of work we became aware of our unkempt looks, smelly clothes, and general griminess. We mingled with the Anthem Hiking Club, introduced ourselves, and were ready to leave when they presented us with a token of their appreciation – dozens of cookies and two freshly, baked pies. Later that night sitting around camp and digging into the delicious pastries, I realized that while conservation work can be filled with monotony, it makes the little, pleasant surprises that much more enjoyable.