I wake up in my brand new NEMO one person tent, stiff from the previous days of cutting new trail. It’s five in the morning and I am still trying to get used to waking up so early. I drag my chilly day clothes on, and stumble out of my tent, blinking wildly in the morning light. My mouth is dry and I have to go to the bathroom. It’s still a little dark so it is hard to see the flagging attached to the trees that lead to the orange bucket that we use for our waste. Walking through the aspen trees, I am stumbling like a drunkard, until I can finally see the bucket.
I walk back to base camp, feeling much better and ready to eat the gooey concoction called oatmeal. My crew mate, sitting in the dirt next to me, has tried putting chocolate chips in his oatmeal. He said it did not go well and I laugh. I eat the goop and drink my hot chocolate and clean my plates. I have to rush to grab my day pack after eating because I had a hard time starting the MSR wisperlight to boil my water for my breakfast, so I was taking longer than usual.
At 6:00 am, the crew of 20 people are ready to start the hike to the new reroute for South Mt. Elbert. We have a ten hour day ahead of us. Cutting a new trail is hard work, you have more dirt and Duff then you could ever imagine that has to be moved, trees to cut, and stumps and big rocks to be removed from the ground, all within specific parameters and dimensions that you must constantly pay attention to.
Today, My job is to clear a corridor for the future trail. This means I get to cut limbs, roots, small trees, and hanging tree branches. I learned that I love this job. I got to cut my very first tree. It was a 20 foot pine tree. The perfect Christmas tree, if only it were that time of the year. It was a shame that such a beautiful tree had to be cut, but it was in the middle of the proposed trail. I sat on the ground for about ten minuets, sawing at the trunk back and forth, until I was able to push the tree over. It was a wonderful feeling, exhilaration and a rush of adrenaline as I realized that I have become a piece of a puzzle to the building of this trail.
Around lunch, I was dragging the newest limb I had cut down the hill. I spotted some animal bones and went to inspect them. To my surprise, they were moose antlers! Very small antlers about the size of my forearm, this was a young bull from the looks of it. I had found the pair and a few minuets later, one of my crew mates had found the skull and the rest of the skeleton. We decided to pack the skull and antlers out to hang up in the Cabin we stay in on our days off. It took me a long time of contemplation to take the bones, because I am a leave no trace trainer, and one of the seven principles is to leave what you find. But, how many times do you find a moose skull with both antlers?! I think, that just this once, I could be okay with it since it is a rare occurrence.