The art of making large rocks become small rocks is what we in the trail business refer to as “crush.” Iron vs. rock; man/woman vs. mountain. It all begins at this, the most basic of levels.
When a Southwest Conservation Corps crew member ask me what needs to be done, I usually give them a double jack (sledge hammer) and say, “Make me some crush.” Thus begins the process of making trail in talus.
Smash! The sledge hammer collides with granite. Sparks fly as the stone cracks and slowly begins to falter. Smash! Rock shards buzz through the air like torpedoes, whistling by your ear. Smash! Dust or powder fills the air. The smell of chalk and even fire lingers until a breeze takes it away. Boulders turn to golf ball-sized pebbles.
This process is repeated over and over many times until the rock or human gives in. It sounds so simple in the grand scheme of trail building, but crushing rock all day for an entire week will make even the toughest look defeated. Simple hand tools, a strong back and an even stronger will is what makes “Crush” happen. It truly is the foundation–or even the glue–that hold trails together.
This is how we do it on San Luis Peak, turning big rocks into small rocks. Making a better, more comfortable trail for all who travel it. For the most part man/woman wins the battle. But the mountain wins the war.