On Saturday, July 9th at 3:30am, ICO Leader Allison met up with technical director Daniel and 3 youth from Zumix to begin our adventure out west to join a Sierra Club Service Trip in the Trinity Alp Wilderness in Northern California. We checked and rechecked our gear before parents kindly drove the crew to Logan for the 6.5 hour flight to San Francisco. Once the group safely landed at SFO, rented an SUV (with fun Nebraska license plates!) and grabbed a quick bite (at locally famed In N Out), we embarked on a 6+hour drive north to meet up with Sierra Club leader Jim, Sierra Club cook Didi and the 6 other participants at a campground 30 minutes from the trailhead. We set up our tents, had a delicious dinner and tucked in for a very cold night of anxious/excited "sleep".
After warm drinks and breakfast, we packed up camp to set out on our 2 mile hike (with over 1,000 feet in elevation gain) with all of our gear on our backs! At the trailhead, we met the Forest Service employees and intern we would work alongside all week and the pack animals who would bring all of the group's food and kitchen gear to our basecamp. Most of the ICO crew still new to camping and backpacking, we all did an amazing job hiking into where we would set up camp for the week. The scenery just got better and better until we finally reached our new home, next to three beautiful lakes. We got to work setting up our tents, a couple of us got to dig a latrine, and others helped make dinner. We also got right to work filtering drinking water for the group. Our musically-inclined Zumix kids joined an eclectic mix of trip participants. Two student athletes from Marist College, a mother-son team from Brooklyn, a local from California and a road tripper from Seattle rounded out or group.
Our work days were filled with tasks ranging from pulling vegetation by hand, raking trail smooth using McClouds, carrying big rocks in large canvas bags to fill holes in the trail, smashing those rocks into small gravel using sledgehammers, to unearthing huge granite boulders from the trail using rock bars, pick axes and every muscle in our bodies! It was hot, hard work but so rewarding as we could see our progress and feel great about helping to build a better engineered, more sustainable and accessible trail for even more people to enjoy this scenic wilderness.
After every work day, we stumbled uphill to basecamp to find snacks and the serenity of the lakes to welcome us back. We often went for a swim, relaxed, played card games and each took turns helping Didi prepare dinner in the kitchen. After amazingly delicious dinners, enjoying Mario's regular evening fires (and sometimes even some s'mores!), the group was happy to head to our tents to get a good night's rest. Jim hung bear bags with all of our scented items every night to ward off wildlife joining us in camp (a very brave chipmunk was the only critter to cause trouble as he nibbled holes through a few collapsible silicone mugs left out to dry). As the week progressed the evenings became warmer and people were less likely to bundle up and head to bed early and more excited to stay up later and socialize. The stars were remarkable as we had wide open sky and no light pollution to interfere!
On our day off from work, the ICO crew slept in a little, relaxed, dug a second latrine for the group, and hiked up to the ridge to find cool rock formations and a strange hollow tree off the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). It was really fun to see everyone fearlessly exploring the space we now called home. I think we all began to realize how we would miss camp, the work, not to mention the friends we had made.
At week's end, our hike back down to the trailhead was beautifully quick (and downhill!) and so after we said our goodbyes and made a quick stop (for Sarah's junk food) in Callahan we drove back south towards the Bay Area stopping just north of Napa and Sonoma Counties to camp on Clear Lake. With the idea to cook our own dinner we stopped at the grocery store and picked up some veggies, hot dogs and sausages to grill. We got to the campsite (stark contrast to our week in the mountains- we were now surrounded by loud groups of people, lots of cars, rolling coolers, lawn chairs and pets!) with just enough time to set up our tents (independently-yay team!), build a fire and get to work making dinner. While we did a great job, we were missing Didi for sure! The next morning, after our first warm showers in a week, we packed up and headed into the city for a fun day of exploring San Francisco before the afternoon flight back to Boston.
It was a great week, lessons were learned, trail was created and groomed, and many memories were made. Thanks to the Sierra Club for making this trip possible, to our fearless leader Jim for his patience and goodwill, to cook Didi for the most amazing meals we could have ever thought possible in the back country, Dan from Zumix for the many laughs and to the kids for being open to this new experience and so fun to be around! ICO hopes to see you all on many more trips in the future!