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[pct-l] Pathos, freedom, new companions, and new sore muscles on the PCT

Well, I was told that trail maintenance was going to be fulfilling and
rewarding before I left.  However, I could not have envisioned just how
memorable it would be.

First off, of the 19 days that I was in Southern California, it rained all
but 3 of those days.  Most of the nights were spent in my home made 2 lb.
tent (single wall and one hoop).  It got a testing unlike anything that
happened on the PCT last summer (apart from the wind in the Goat Rocks).  I
was never sure that I was going to be dry in the morning, but every night
the miracle of my tent held forth. ( There was only one night in Anza with
a heavy rain and lots of wind, where water blew into the tent.)  And my
tent was testing in a circumstances where  much of the roofing was blown
off the nearby bathroom in the Oak Grove Campground.

In the first project, we were able to work 2 of the 3 days as the rain
ameliorated during the day and really let loose at night.  the last 10 day
project, we were unable to work on 3 of the days  - but put together a
string of the last 4 consecutive days in spite of the weather.  Enough to
get a lot of stiff muscles and a sore back.

 In the interim between the two projects ,I hiked up to Anza from Warner
Springs for 3 days and found more sore muscles, and bruised hips from my
waist strap. And in the third day, I found that wonderful sense of freedom
where all the tension and expectations just unravel, and  time slows down
and everything becomes complete and perfect. As I was sitting in a
momentary bit of sunshine, having lunch next to the gurgling water that is
Tule Canyon Creek, I wrote a prayer for the support, long life, success and
happiness of all those folks who have built the PCT, who maintain it, who
walk it and those that support them, and  those who seek to protect it.
This was folded, put into a red prayer-tie which was tied to a willow on
the creek bottom.  It is a custom in many parts of the world to leave
"prayers" or intentions at sacred spots,  and many of these are water

Part of trail maintenance is the variety of people that show up to put
their hand to the work. After a few days one gets to know one's companions
fairly well, and in a way that is not often afforded in most social
settings.  Working together starts to mesh, eating and living together
takes on interesting dimensions.  Like walking the PCT , sometimes very
small favors or interactions can take on a lot of significance and be

I was most happy to make the acquaintance of Pete Fish, whose humility,
unrelenting effort, leadership, and great strength of character show that
one person can make a tremendous difference.  To some extent I feel this
about every person that I worked with.

For three days I worked with 17-18 female prison inmates, 2 different
crews.  Big women for the most part, good workers generally, many bright,
fresh faces, a few jaded and tired ones as well.  For a lot of reasons, I
seemed to be the principle trail project person working with the inmates. 
It was not always easy.  I learned who was the "swamper", who was the "drag
spoon", what "bumping" meant.("Girl, why you be teaching that nice lady
jailhouse slang").  I learned what they ate, how many kids some of them
had, how much time some had to serve.  I did not ask, nor ever found out
why any of them were inmates, only that a number had been repeat offenders.
They seem to need to be told exactly what to do, I ceased explaining what
to do - which side of the trail was uphill and which downhill, etc.  But
any new insect, milliped, interesting rock, etc became a special event
where they could not learn enough.  They could only "bump" forward, they
could not rest, or sit down unless it was lunch, they walked with a "dime"
(ten steps) between them, and asked to pee.  I could walk back down the
trail and sit down when I wanted, although I usually was keep busy enough
when they were around to forego this freedom.  I thought of the prayer-tie
in Tule Creek, of the hope for  all who maintain the trail to find support,
long life, success and happiness.  My heart ached more than my back did. 
When they left on Friday ("Marching out, keeping time, a dime between"), I
watched the yellow rain suits filing up the trail, took a photo, and  then
the only thing that was left was the Mystery, and  the memory of those
faces.  The memory of those faces will live in a lot of odd moments for a
lot of years.  The Mystery will remain forever.

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