Having just returned from my first CFI field excursion, I feel compelled to inform the greater public about the arduous, sometimes confusing, but supremely satisfying operation that is: base camp pack-in. I pitched in to lend a hand as our field staff, packer Wendell, and a team of eight pack mules (and one horse) transported approximately 1.5 tons of tools, food, supplies, lumber, tents, batteries, bear boxes, medical supplies, and more 2.5 miles up a mountain to the site of this season’s field project on North Maroon peak. There’s no denying it; these guys are pros.
One of the first things that I realized was that there is a unique vocabulary associated with the world of trail work and pack-ins. My best efforts were employed in an attempt to learn as much as possible about the activities taking place around me, and I figured I may as well pass some of the garnered knowledge on to the greater public. Below is a glossary of commonly used words and phrases that will come in handy the next time you find yourself surrounded by a bunch of pack mules and field crew staff.
adfjlakdjsfqweiorkn? (phrase): A phrase (spoken, mutered, or thought) that accompanies the blaring of your alarm clock as it goes off at 5:30 AM.
Use: “adfjlakdjsfqweiorkn? (groan).”
Breakfast (n): A meal consisting of scrambled eggs and goat cheese, hand-cut bacon (provided by Wendell, the best packer ever) sausage, bagels, and coffee cooked on a camp stove on the tailgate of a truck.
Use: “Brianne, that breakfast has to feed nine people. Stop shoveling it down your gullet like a black bear preparing for hibernation.”
Hanger (n): A mix between hunger and anger, this physical and psychological state is precipitated by spending longs hours on the trail without adequate sustenance. It can be remedied with the consumption of comestibles such as trail mix, three-day-old pizza, or the chocolate bar that you found in the pocket of the coat that you hadn’t worn for six months before today.
Use: Brianne, stop complaining about your hanger. We ate six minutes ago; you have no right to be wielding that shovel in such a menacing manner.
Manning (v): The act of wrapping all of the boxes, lumber, tools, and other base camp material in canvas before they are attached to the pack mules. This practice involves many knots, ropes, and techniques far beyond the grasp of mere mortals. Only trained packers and trail crew staff should attempt.
Use: Brianne, your attempts at manning leave something to be desired. Do you need me to cut you free from the tree that you’ve accidently tied yourself to?
Pannier (n): A large bag that can be filled with equipment and attached to the side of the mule.
Use: Brianne, stop hiding in the pannier. Get out and help us; we can see you.
Pulaski (n): A cross between an ax and a shovel. Invented by a U.S. Forest Service worker, the Pulaski is often used by trail crews because it can be used to both dig and chop. Pulaskis are one of the tools transported to the base camp site.
Use: Brianne, that is not a Pulaski. That’s a coffee pot.
After two fifteen-hour days of learning new words (accompanied by the requisite hauling, and packing) CFI’s North Maroon Peak base camp is ready for a season of trail construction and maintenance. I am hugely impressed and amazed by the hard work of CFI staff and volunteers (a huge shout out to our packer, Wendell, who donated his time, hard labor, and pack animals to CFI’s efforts). Honestly, it was truly inspirational to witness a team of individuals work tirelessly toward their goal, and ultimately achieve it. Thanks to CFI for letting me be a part of it.
As a quick side-note, if you want to be a part of the CFI experience this summer, be sure to register for the Fourteeners Challenge! Click here for all of the details. You can even impress your fellow climbers with your newfound vocabulary.