Hammer Time | St. Lawrence University Adirondack Semester

Hammer Time

by: Zach Lawrence
&
Sophie Robie

“Get in there, you!” assistant director Kim Covill exclaimed at the nail sticking out mockingly and unmoving from the 2x6 plank. That knotted piece of wood made up the frame of the new footbridge that we were assembling on the White Trail circumnavigating Massawepie Lake.

On Saturday morning it was hammer time in Arcadia as we woke up extra early and divvied up hammers, saws, and trail names. These names are a defining aspect of trail crews such as the Adirondack Mountain Club’s TFC (“Trail Fixing Crew”), the members of which adopt their trail names like a new lifestyle. With tools in tow, we hooted and hollered and took our new personas to meet up with Massawepie Ranger Ben Geiger. Ben awaited our arrival in the company of Massawepie’s Trail Coordinator, Peter -----------, and a collection of chainsaws, gloves, and the stacks of wood that we would soon transform into footbridges.

Trail Work Day is an annual event in our Arcadian community. In the early years of the program, students assisted with trail projects in the High Peaks region, but about ten years ago, Ben suggested moving our trail work efforts to Massawepie’s trails. While we traveled through the High Peaks for a week, the trails around Massawepie are part of our everyday lives. Ben also pointed out that once the Boy Scouts leave the easement at the end of the summer, we are the primary users of the trails.

After splitting up into two groups, we got right to work. The first group, consisting of Monstertruck (Caroline), Ravioli (Julia), Shingles (Tim), Weenie Hut Jr. (Elsa), and Eagle Scout (Will), headed off to build two twelve-foot boardwalks over muddy parts of the trail. The second group, made up of Death Falcon (Zach), Daisyface (Hope), Rat King (Sophie), Scales (Langley), and Zoom-zoom Frank (Kim), set off in the other direction intending to build a bridge over some sizable puddles. As the group assembled a frame for the boardwalk, Rat King exclaimed, “This puddle’s a hoss!” While some of us held boards in place and others hammered them together, our vision began to take shape.

It wasn’t long, however, before many members of our trail crew expressed exasperation as our hammers missed and our nails bent. This challenge reminded us of the trails of the High Peaks, where trail crews had to carry the same materials up thousands of feet and assemble them in the same manner. Humbled and inspired, we swung our hammers with a little more zest and gained a deeper appreciation for the trails around Massawepie.

Once the groups finished their respective projects, we all came together to build the final boardwalk of the day. With our newfound skills and all hands on deck, we joined together as a community to construct a physical and a metaphorical bridge. Kneeling beside the frame, Monstertruck and Scales hammered planks across the top of one side while Weenie Hut Jr. and Shingles followed suit on the other side. Everyone else pitched in by holding boards together and offering nails and advice. We each took a swing at the last nail, hammering home our principle of working together to achieve a common goal.

“We don’t do trail work to keep people’s boots dry,” Peter suggested. “We do trail work to protect the environment.” He went on to explain that when trails become flooded and muddy, people tend to walk on the edges of the trail to avoid these obstructions. This behavior widens the trail and harms the fragile ecosystem that borders it. By building boardwalks over these obstructions, we worked to protect our home. This sense of pride and accomplishment carried through the rest of the weekend as many of us went for runs over the new boardwalks that will benefit Arcadians—and the environment—for years to come.