As a member of the Adopt-a-Peak crew this summer, my co-leader Dylan and I roam from Fourteener to Fourteener, and from volunteer crew to volunteer crew. We work with crews ranging from 14 year old summer camp children from all over the world to health professionals–but that only touches the surface. We work with high schoolers, doctors, professors, consultants, college students, secretaries, astrophysicists, etc., etc. Working alongside such a diverse number of people has greatly enhanced my experience on the trail crew this season.
Each day, we begin with informal introductions, we discuss the proper usage of tools and personal protective equipment, we discuss the hazards of working above treeline, and then we strap on our packs and head up the mountain. Hiking to the worksite can take anywhere from an hour to two-and-a-half hours, and this is when we really get to know our volunteers. Hiking along, short of breath, we pant between finding out where the person behind us is from, what brought everyone to Colorado, and we hear stories from time spent in the outdoors to childhood memories and everything in between. We start the morning as perfect strangers, but by the time we make it to the worksite, we’re already joking, laughing, and singing like old friends. When we begin work, we can readily help one another with the difficult tasks of transporting large rocks and placing them at the base of our walls, or across the trail as we build steps that thousands of people will walk over in the coming years. Not only will our structures be there for the coming years, but the bonds that we briefly form with our volunteers will remain with me for the coming years as well. Though our time with our volunteers is but a day long, it is a day spent in some of the most beautiful landscapes in Colorado, and it is a day during which there is nothing to distract us from one another’s company.
These mountains have come to feel like home to me. We travel up some mountains so often that I know each coming switchback, step, stream crossing, and overlook. The cuts and abrasions from trail work begin to act as a map of the landscapes we wander through: large scabs are alpine lakes while the contours of my palms are streams, the swirling lines of my fingerprints are elevations lines. I have the privilege of bringing hundreds of strangers up these mountains, letting them glimpse into these temporary homes of mine. Rather than break bread and sit around a table, we split open bagels, sit atop rocks alongside the trail and share the simple joys and satisfaction of manual labor on some of the most beautiful mountains this state has.