In the vain hope that it might be cooler near the Cascade crest, we went to the north end of the district with our saws and axes. The trail is in the bottom of a forested glacial valley, and numerous streams plunge down the granite slopes. Mosquitoes breed in swampy places where the water pools before filtering into the Cle Elum River. Keep moving and they won’t land, but insist on buzzing into ears and eyes.
At each log across the trail we shrug out of our packs and set the tools down. The first step is to clear away the debris and remove the limbs. This can take some time, depending on how branchy the tree is. When we can see the log revealed we do a thorough size-up. How and where to cut, where to roll the chunk, whether we will need skids and pry poles. The cutting can be the straightforward part, easy after the fussy prep and finish work.
The sun blares down and there is no need for heroics. We have lots of daylight to get our job done. Trail work is about endurance, finding the right pace for the conditions. We retreat into the shade to swig water. The heat is draining.
At lunchtime we seek deep shade, the kind that lurks under bushy cedar trees and leafy brush. Where the ground stays cool and the sun won’t penetrate. Sweat dries and limbs sprawl. Over at the lake we can hear geese honking–families of Canadas who have raised this years young, and sail as a fleet in the shallow water. Also there is the sound of water thundering down from Mt. Daniel in a gorge that makes me think of the Himalayas. It would be cool and misty there…
At the end of the day we shuffle back along the dusty trail, as dry as wrung-out sponges and sticky with pitch.
On my day off I wake up and look around my house as if I’ve been gone for awhile. It seems that someone has been staying here during the week, stopping by to wolf down leftovers from the fridge, strip off sweaty work clothes and fall into bed where she drops needles and twigs in the bed. Some feral trail beast lives here, barely civilized and unfit for polite company. After three days off she is rehydrated, cleaned up and has remembered some manners, just in time to go back out on the trail.
Happy July, trail folk!