Declan’s Summer Service in Alaska

Restoring a Trail in the Tongass N.F., Juneau, Alaska
Declan Smith
I, along with 11 other high schoolers, traveled to Juneau Alaska, where we helped the Juneau Ranger District restore a trail. The trail we were restoring was the trail to the Windfall Lake Cabin. This cabin is the most popular cabin in the Tongass so the trail sees lots of traffic, which leads to the erosion and widening of the trail. Our job was to clear underbrush off of the trail, keep the trail to about 2 feet wide, and to clear muddy areas of the “organic”, muddy soil and fill in those areas with cobble and sand. To fix the muddy areas of the trail we would use McLoeds, which are like rakes combined with garden hoes, to clear the 3-4 inches of thick, muddy “organics”. At the same time people in an area called “the pit” would be collecting sand and stones. “The pit” was an area out of view of the trail where people would use pulaskis and shoves to gather the stones and sand. These materials were then brought to the newly cleared 2-foot wide trench and we would put down cobble, the stones, to help that section drain better, and then cover the stones with sand. To clear the trail of underbrush some of us got to use machete-like weed-whips to clear the edges of the trail of prickers, especially Devil’s Club, and other plants that were spilling onto the trail. We would also use a hand-saw to saw off low hanging tree branches that bikers could run into. By the end of our time working we had cleared the mud for 1/5 of a mile of trail and had “weed-whipped” 2 miles of trail.
Since all of our work was concentrated on a part of the trail that was on a small island created by two rivers we would camp at the tip of the river by night. We had 5 tents, 3 for the girls and 2 for the guys, and we packed in all the food we wanted and cook it all on little camping stoves on the beach. And since Juneau is very far north we would enjoy nights that stayed light until around 2 A.M. hanging out and playing cards. All in all the trip was a great way to earn community service hours.

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