The opportunity to help build the trail I will hike has been a driving force for the past 8 years. After finishing the Pacific Crest Trail in 2006, I knew something in my life had to change. Up until that point I had been working as a graphic designer in Portland, but the desire to make hiking my career had been stewing for months as I hiked north.
I met other hikers who had devoted their careers to the outdoors, including NOLS instructors, outdoor educators, guides, fire fighters and even the serial backpackers who would work a job, any job, during the winter months just to save up enough money to be able to hike the next year.
I returned to Portland and began scouring the internet for outdoor jobs.
What I became immediately drawn to was a position with the Southwest Conservation Corps (SCC) out of Durango, Colorado. They had a trail crew leadership development program where I could not only learn how to build and maintain trails (what a chance to give back to the hiking community!) but also lead crews around the state to…wait for it…build the Continental Divide Trail! SCC had been contracted to build/maintain many parts of the CDT in New Mexico and Colorado and the opportunity seemed perfect. Help build the trail I will hike next. Done.
I arrived in Durango in February 2007 and quickly dove into the training: chainsaws, pick axes, and rock bars filled our training hours, and we worked everywhere from Mesa Verde and Canyon of the Ancients, to the Great Sand Dunes and backcountry trails in the San Juans. What didn’t materialize, however, was the Continental Divide Trail work. That year Congress kept the funding for things like trail work caught up in their bi-partisan bickering when they didn’t pass the budget. Bummer.
I had a great season though, My crew and I spent six weeks in a backcountry hitch building massive rock and log retaining walls. I worked with Zuni and Navajo youth from near-by reservations, and met some great friends that last today.
Now the Continental Divide Trail Coalition (CDTC) has taken matters into their own hands, and instead of just relying on the federal budget for their trail work dollars, has started a campaign to raise funds to build 32 more miles of trail in Colorado, and SCC will be one of their partners in the project. And they couldn’t hire a better organization.
Funding finally did come through for some CDT work in the Fall, but by that time I had already committed to thru-hiking the Colorado Trail. It would be a north-bound fall hike, when most hiked it south in the summer, but I found I missed most of the summer afternoon lightening storms and had amazing weather most of the hike. I did encounter one nasty storm when I got onto the divide near Stony Pass, but the next morning (after I surely thought I was going to die in an above-tree-line electrical storm) I found the SCC crew working on the CDT!
I love that there will be trail built in a pristine area where I encountered dirt bikes and four-wheeled vehicles. Lets get some more trail built. You can donate here, and you can be assured the folks who build it will be some of the best out there. They love the wilderness and are probably former/future thru-hikers too!