Project Report: Lassen Park Campground

Project reports are another way that CCC alumni can contribute to the story of the CCC blog. These are not quite the same thing as an official CCC media announcement. These will be actual former Corpsmembers going out to see what CCC crews are doing today. Project reports are a little more involved than a Corpsmember profile. Project reports are a blast for old Corpsmembers to write! If you would like to take a shot at writing a project report, contact me and we will develop a plan. I have a protocol for making contact with the appropriate center and making arrangements to visit the crew. This will help to make sure we maintain a good working relationship with the CCC.

Here is a project report on a multi-crew project that happened in 2016 at Lassen Volcanic National Park. The Lassen Park Foundation provided funds for the construction of an Americans with Disabilities Act compliant campground to be built inside the park. The NPS provided the technical knowledge and Redding Center provided a lot of the labor.

Lassen Volcanic National Park will soon have a new camping attraction, and the Redding CCC has gone a long way towards helping to make it happen.

Tomorrow, August 6,  will be the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for the Volcano Adventure Camp at the old Crags Campground. The Ribbon Cutting Ceremony is part of Lassen Park’s Centennial Celebration, commemorating 100 years of the National Park Service. The revamped Crags Campground will feature tent cabins, picnic pavilions, and shower facilities, all connected by Adults with Disabilities Act quality trails. Redding CCC crews have been spiking continuously at the campground for several weeks to build these trails, and to help finish the buildings at the facility. A crew would camp out here are the work site from Wednesday of one week until Wednesday of the following week, and then be replaced by another crew. Construction has been able to continue seven days a week for the last month.

Tent Cabin Sites and Trails
Tent Cabin Sites and Trails

To the right, you can see the tent cabin decks, and trails under construction. The tent cabin deck here is almost complete and only needs painting before it is ready for the tent canvas. The trails are marked out by locally obtained logs. The trails will be built up between these logs.



TeachingHere, NPS worker Mike Buck discusses with members of Terrance Johnson’s Crew 25 how to best lay out, square off, and secure the logs for the trail edge. Two years ago, Mike was a Corpsmember on this very CCC crew. This is Mike’s second season with NPS.






Custom FitTo ensure a perfect, custom fit, the logs are butted up against each other and then both logs are trimmed with one cut with a chain saw.




FittingThe logs can then be snugged up against each other and pinned to the ground, to make sure they stay in place.





Trail Fill 5To make the trails ADA compliant, several layers are needed. First, a layer of gravel is laid down in the trail path. Then the gravel is covered with a layer of dirt, which is tamped down with shovels as compact as possible.



Trail Fill 4






Trail Fill 3






Trail Fill 2








Tamping PrepAric Anderson’s Crew 20 alternated weeks with Crew 25 to finish the project. Here, Corpsmembers prep a section of trail for final tamping.




Tamping 3A machine is used in the final stage for compacting the trail tread. This leaves a surface solid enough and smooth enough for anybody to use.




Finished Cabin Trail



This is a finished trail leading to a tent cabin.








Trail Bed 1To ensure a gentle grade, even up to the tent cabin entrances, sometimes the trails need to be built up. A trail can consist of a couple of layers of logs, with rock fill to raise the tread level.



Trail Bed 2






The tent cabin framing needed to be painted. The tent cabin foundations and flooring were built by Don Ajamian Construction. Keith, who works for Don Ajamian, loves working with Corpsmembers Keith says they are highly motivated and love to learn.


Painted Cabin DeckHere is a tent cabin floor, painted and ready for canvas.





LevelNPS worker Gary Mott with Corpsmembers ensuring that the logs have been placed level before pinning into place.



















Ian Dalziel
Ian Dalziel

This is a very special project for one Corpsmember in particular, Ian Dalziel. This will be Ian’s last spike as a Corpsmember from Redding. Next week Ian leaves for Australia as part of an exchange program with their version of the CCC, the Conservation Volunteers Australia.

When Ian finishes the exchange program in October, his time with the CCC will be completed. We’ll hear more from Ian next week.




The Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for the Volcano Adventure Camp will be Saturday, August 6, at 10:00 AM at the old Crags Campground facility. Come on out and see what your Redding Corpsmembers have built!

Categories: CCC, Lassen Volcanic National Park | Leave a comment

Corpsmember Profile: Ian Dalziel

Howdy. I’m using Three Years With the C’s today as a launching post for a new blog, CCC: Hard Corps. This week, I will post examples of the types of stories you will be seeing in CCC: Hard Corps.If you were in the CCC and would be interested in telling your CCC story to the world, there are several ways you could contribute.
The first is a basic Corpsmember profile. Simply answer the questions:
  • What did you do before the C’s?
  • How did you find out about the C’s, and how did you join?
  • What did you do in the C’s? What centers were you at? Was it a residential center or non-res? What kind of projects did you do?
  • What have you been doing since you left the C’s?
  • How did being in the C’s help you after you left?

This is the most basic type of story to write, and one of the most popular that people like to read. It shouldn’t be long, only about 500-1000 words. Include a photo or three. You can write about yourself, or you can interview other people you knew in the C’s and write profiles about each other. The more the better! The guiding philosophy for this blog project is that every Corpsmember  has a story worth telling. And I do mean every Corpsmember!

Ian’s was the first CM profile submitted to the blog. It did need a revision, so don’t feel that you need to write it perfectly before you send it. Getting it down on page in the first place is the hard part. I will help you edit your piece to make sure you tell your story in the best way possible. Ian’s story hits all of the major parts for the profile: what he did before the C’s, what he did in the C’s, and what he did after the C’s.

Here’s Ian:

My name is Ian Dalziel. I joined the California Conservation Corps in Redding, during September, 2013. Before this, I spent the majority of my time getting as much experience as possible in the field of acting, both for in front of the camera, or on the stage. But a fun hobby that you dream of making into a career can only take you so far in the short term, so, it was off to the job fair with me.

The last booth I found belonged to something that said “CCC – Hard Work, Low Pay, Miserable Conditions, and more!” along with some pictures showing the sort of work and wilderness living conditions experienced by the Corps, past and present. The chance to have a full work week, get paid to camp, get in shape, and explore the great outdoors of this great state? Irresistible.

So I joined up, with my love of the Rams football team leading to me being placed on then Crew 29 under C1 Aaron Dunson, another Rams man, and last I checked, the Statewide Trail Coordinator for the Corps. My first foray into the program was a spike at Mt. Tamalpais overlooking the Bay Area, with an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant dry stone masonry rock wall project near the peak parking lot. Before my COMET (Corpsmember Orientation, Motivation, Education, and Training) group had arrived, the crew had already partook in six spikes on this project already, with another five after we joined.

Not too long after the spikes at Mt. Tam ended, Aaron Dunson got his marching orders, and Crew 29 would be getting a new C1. Being new and getting used to the crew dynamic, and Aaron as a supervisor, I was hesitant at first, because the gentleman being assigned as C1 was not known to me. I hadn’t yet met him around the Center. His name is Terrance Johnson, the trail building, spam loving, Bronco footballing legend.

During one of our first encounters as Supervisor to Crewmember, he said I would be his red-hat, if I wanted to take on the challenge. Having been impressed by “T”, and wanting to learn more from this font of life experience and trail knowledge, I decided I would go all the way. Three months after T took over and rechristened us as Crew 25, I earned the official position of Crewleader I on the day we left for my longest project with the CCC, the Lassen Peak Trail Restoration.

ian dalziel

I experienced twenty-three spikes, four fire camps for five fires, no floods, no stint in Backcountry, and a career-topping experience as part of the most recent Australian Exchange, thus ending my 37 months in the Corps, in October of 2016. Of that time, I was a boy in the blue hat for 8 months, rocked the red hat for 16 months, and finished out as an orange overseer for 13 months. Along the way I made some invaluable friends, while constantly gaining new experience with hand and power tools, trail building, brush cutting, roadside maintenance, tree planting, invasive species removal, safety practices, and so much more as anyone who experiences the CCC can relate to.

These days I look for my next job experience to enjoy, while being signed on as a volunteer for the CCC in Redding so I can still come in and bug the staff and possibly help out on a project or two with my old, now almost entirely different crew. I’m also sure to honk at Terrance Johnson’s house since we live in the same small town about twenty-miles out of Redding. Old habits, and worth it just to see that big grin of his. I encourage anyone who has the opportunity to take on the Corps, to do so in earnest.

So now you see what a basic Corpsmember profile looks like. Write your own! We would love to hear it! You can submit it to me at .
Stay tuned for other ways that you could contribute to the CCC story.
Categories: CCC | 1 Comment

Here’s What’s Going On


Three Years With the Cs has been pretty inactive for most of this year. I wanted to tell followers what’s been going on, and what I would like to have happen up ahead.

Last year was an in incredibly productive flurry of activity. I had been planning on putting together a Backcountry memoir for years. I would write some stories here and there, but it was mostly talk and precious little work.

In April of 2014, right at the beginning of the new Backcountry season, I had a great idea. I had my Backcountry journal. I would transcribe entries from the journal to post on this blog on the same date it was actually written in 1987. Then I could fill in between journal entries with other stories as they were brought up by the journal entries. This idea took off. I had deadlines to meet if I wanted a piece included around the date that it actually had occurred. I have to admit that feedback from readers also encouraged me to keep writing. This kept me quite productive through September.

Then the season ended.

I didn’t have these journal-entry deadlines any more. I had gathered a lot stories from a Backcountry season. There are around 50,000 words here. This sounds great, and it is, but right now they are 50,000 words arranged in a spattering of related short, short stories. The next step is to arrange them together into one coherent narrative. To use a trail crew analogy…I’ve pissanted a lot of rocks down here to the work site. Now I have to figure out how to lay them together. I have to admit to some delays as I try to figure out the best way to arrange these pieces, and exactly how to fit them together.

Then there is the technical issue with the blog itself.

When I set the blog up, it looked great, and I had positive feedback on the appearance. However, it has one potentially fatal flaw.

I wanted people to be able to start reading from the beginning of the season and follow through to the end. As you can tell, the current structure does not allow that. I need to figure out a way for people to start at the beginning, not the end, and I need to find a way for it to stay that way. Right now, Three Years With the Cs lacks coherence.

So that’s where we’ve been. Here’s where I need to go:

  • Figure out the narrative structure
  • Make the blog more navigable

In the meantime, as I work those out, I think I can keep posting other stories from my three years with the Cs. I would also like to post reviews for books that I think Backcountry-followers might enjoy.

Until next time…hike fast!

Categories: Writing | Tags: | Leave a comment

Cold Weather Prep

Part of the selection process for choosing Backcountry workers is an oral interview with a Backcountry program staff member. Just like a regular job interview, this helps to weed out people whose ambition might outpace their ability to live and work in the Backcountry. One of the questions I was asked in my interview was “What are the harshest conditions you have ever been through?”

My Illinois upbringing gave me an edge on this one.

Not only did I grow up outside of Chicago, a Land of Ice and Snow for half of the year, but I thrived outside in those conditions. I walked everywhere I went until I was eighteen, even in the dead of winter. Drifting snow or sub-zero temperatures did not matter. If I wanted to get somewhere, I had to walk.

I lived a tenth of a mile too close to the high school to ride the bus for free. A student had to live 1.5 miles from the school to ride for free. The bus stop was on the corner just west of our house, literally three houses down. Kids right around the corner from us rode the bus for free. We protested to the school, but they showed us the bus route map. There was a circle drawn with a radius of a mile and a half from the school. Our house was just inside the line. I mean, if we had Google Earth back them, the edge of our lot would have been just on the edge of the line. My parents couldn’t believe this. They tried driving the shortest route from our house to the high school. It was definitely 1.4 miles. We didn’t have a lot of money, and the bus was going to cost us ten dollars a week. My parents were on the verge of caving in and scraping up the extra forty dollars a month when I told them that I was fine with walking. They asked me, “What about when it rains? Or winter?”

“I’ll just walk.”

So I walked. Everywhere. All the time. In all weather.

I learned how to layer. I had a letterman jacket for a winter coat. (Yes, this non-athlete earned my numbers, JV letters, and varsity letters. I played tennis. I pretty much just had to show up and give it my best. But I came by those letters honestly!) I learned how to layer thermals, flannel, and a sweatshirt under the jacket. I had an insulated camo hunting cap with ear flaps that folded down. In sub-zero temps, I learned that a scarf wrapped around my face was essential. You’ve heard of ‘brain freeze’ from eating very cold food? Without the scarf, I had ‘throat and lung freeze’ just by breathing in the Arctic air. With the scarf, my breath would warm the wool. This would preheat air that I breathed in.

One very frigid winter the temperature dropped to -20°F. Add a stiff wind to that, and the wind chill made it -60°. Nobody was moving anywhere, because cars were not starting. Then my Mom ran out of feminine hygiene product. My Dad and I buddied up and hiked about five blocks to the local White Hen Pantry. That was one cold day!

If that wasn’t enough outdoors activity for me, I also signed up for the Eskimo Unit for gym class every time it was offered. We would suit up with sweats over our gym suits and head outside for the snow. It didn’t even matter if the snow was still coming down or not…we went outside in it! Even when the temperatures dropped below freezing, we would go out for 40 minutes, anyway, and throw the ball around, run around, and make some contact. Everybody else thought we were nuts, but we reveled in our ruggedness. The harsh conditions helped to keep the class on the small side. We always had enough people to field two teams, but there were never so many people that anybody was left out of the action. And that made all the difference.

And if all of that weren’t harsh enough conditions, I lived for a Round Lake winter in a house with no heat.

I moved out of my house one summer after high school when my Mom and I were having some serious differences of opinion. I rented a room at Mark Rhodes’ house. I had a job, and paid Mark’s mom, Angie, room and board. Angie was divorced and money was tight, so the extra money was a help to the family.

There was an Illinois law that said the utility services could not shut off utilities for non-payment in the winter. I believe this is a compassionate law. However, the law also said that if utility services were cut off in the summer, they did not have to be reconnected in the winter.
Money being tight at the Rhodes household, Angie had let the natural gas bill lapse. She still had electricity, which operated the lights, stove, and water heater. (Electricity and gas came from two separate companies.) We had no gas when I moved in, and were never able to get it back on before winter set in. This turned out to be an advanced course in layering. Lotsa blankets. Thermals. Layers of clothes. We knew it was getting cold when our breath fogged inside. And then when we started getting frost on the inside of the windows. I remember Angie frying up huge skillets of potatoes and sausage with Mark, his little brother, and myself huddled around the electric stove for the heat. There were two nights that winter that got so cold, everybody in the house spent the night at other places.

So when the Backcountry program recruiter asked me about harshest conditions, I aced that answer. Thank you, Illinois!

Categories: Backcountry, CCC, Illinois | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Who Goes to the Backcountry?

What makes a person apply to the California Conservation Corps’ Backcountry Trail Crew Program? What kind of people volunteer to go live out of a backpack for six months, doing back breaking labor, with a crew of people you did not know before the season started? What prepares a person for this kind of adventure?

There is no one size fits all answer. We are people who love adventure. We are people who love the outdoors and want to experience the outdoors in a bigger, more immersive way than we had ever thought possible. Outside of those basic traits, we are people who are hard to categorize. Some of us come from the inner city, have never really experienced the outdoors before, and are only one step ahead of serious trouble without a significant life change. Others are rural raised who want to test our outdoors skills to the limit. Some prefer rock music. Some prefer country. Some prefer hip hop. And we are everything in between.

The one thing I know for sure is my own background that took me to the Backcountry. I think there are a couple of factors that led to my volunteering for a Backcountry trail crew. I grew up in a semi-rural area, and spent a lot of time outdoors. I was challenged by reading in history of people overcoming difficult circumstances. People like the pioneers as they drove their wagon trains west through the plains and the deserts. People like the Army veterans enduring frozen Bastogne, and the Chosin Reservoir. I wondered if I might be made of the same stuff as they were. I grew up thinking that the military was going to be my ticket to this adventure and self-discovery, but that was not to be.

I grew up in Round Lake, Illinois. We were in Lake County, between Chicago and Wisconsin. We lived on the border between the suburbs and ‘the country’. Many people in Round Lake commuted to Chicago or the ‘real’ suburbs for work. Our part of the county still had dairy farms, corn fields, and orchards. We lived in neighborhoods, just like the suburbs, but we didn’t have sidewalks. We were also lucky enough to live close to plenty of open spaces. I lived less than a mile away from my favorite open space haunt…The Ridge.

‘The Ridge’ was a general term for an open space south of Long Lake which covered a lot more than just the ridge. It was over two hundred acres of swamp, rolling pasture, and a huge hill. A creek flowed south out of Long Lake. The creek left the lake through a marsh. A steep hill rose quickly from the marsh. The creek cut through the middle of the hill, leaving a steep ridge on both sides of the creek. The ridges were covered with deciduous trees, mostly oak. The Ridge had two main trails. One followed the crest. The other circled all the way around the base. Connecting trails between the crest and base were few.

Between the ridge proper and the nearest homes on Villa Vista Way was a big field we called ‘the cow pasture’. We never saw any cows on it, and the grass grew tall enough in it to prove that domestic animals no longer grazed there. The cow pasture was relatively flat with some gentle rolls. From the trail at the base of the ridge, you could see across the pasture to the houses on Villa Vista. An occasional scrub oak or crabapple tree popped up here and there around the pasture.

This was my playground through junior high and high school in the late ’70s and early ’80s. If I wasn’t building World War Two airplane models or playing board wargames, I could usually be found out on The Ridge. My best friend Jerry lived at the end of Villa Vista, on the edge of the cow pasture. Ridge adventures usually started at Jerry’s house. We played a lot of Army on The Ridge in junior high school. By high school we had been bitten by the Lord of the Rings and Dungeons and Dragons bug. I read about the Society for Creative Anachronism. The SCA was a group of people who enjoyed dressing up in medieval garb and role playing the adventurous and glamorous parts of medieval life. (Reenacting the plague, for instance, was not so popular.) I read about the rules the SCA established to guide play acting sword fights and tournaments. By the next weekend we all had our makeshift swords and shields, and were running around the ridge bashing on each other with lumber.

My first non-family camping experiences were out on The Ridge. The Ridge did have another local nickname, Reefer Ridge. If you talked about camping on The Ridge, people assumed it was for partying, but that was not the kind of camping we did. We would have a fire, and a boom box with a stack of cassette tapes, sleeping bags, and munchies. Great times.

The Ridge was even a winter playground. We didn’t head out as often in the winter as we did in the summer, but we did explore the snow covered woods. We learned how to move through deep snow drifts and avoid hypothermia. There was a great sledding hill across the creek and past the ridge. The crowds would go to Hart’s Hill. We had our own private hill.

One day after high school, my friend Mark ‘The Barbarian’ Rhodes and I were talking at my kitchen table. We were talking about the wilderness and camping, and how much fun it would be to take off to the woods and never come back. We called it a ‘permanent camping trip’.

My Mom was listening in to the conversation, and said that it sounded like a great idea. She told us that we had better do something like that pretty soon, though, because once we got settled in with careers and families we would never have the opportunity again.

Mom’s advice was definitely on my mind when I headed for California a few years later, and ultimately, the Backcountry. The Ridge was my training ground for so many of the things I was to achieve on a Yosemite Backcountry trail crew.

Categories: Backpacking, CCC, Uncategorized | Tags: | Leave a comment

High Water Crossing

There is a scene in the movie Wild in which Cheryl Strayed crosses a mountain creek and is literally swept off her feet and winds up crawling out of the creek. This scene reminded me of one particular creek crossing I had in my CCC days.

Del Norte Center. December, 1988. We had been working a habitat restoration project on Hunter Creek, a tributary near the mouth of the Klamath River. Dan Burgess and I were the Fisheries Special Corpsmembers acting as technical advisors on the project. We had been working several sites on the creek with Corpsmembers from different crews. One particular site was up the East Fork of Hunter Creek. To get to this site involved a little hiking up the creek in our hip waders. We had seen several redds, or steelhead spawning nests, on the way up the creek. We were working to protect the steelhead, so we needed to stay away from these redds to avoid potentially destroying eggs or fry. We tied some colored ribbon into trees near them so Corpsmembers would know to avoid crossing the creek near those spots. We also had to scramble up and over a fifteen foot ledge to get above a log jam. Above this jam was our last creek crossing before we got to the work site. Throughout the fall, this has been a nice but easy hike through redwood riparian habitat.

Some storms came through in early December. These storms dumped several inches of rain in a few days. The creeks swelled. We probably would not have gone back into Hunter Creek, but there were some loose ends to secure before we left for the winter. We also had tools that we had left stashed at the work site. We needed to retrieve these. Dan and I took crew leader Todd Schabek and several other Crew One Corpsmembers out to finish up a final day’s work.

The creek we hiked up on this day was very different from the last time we had hiked it. What had been hardly more than a shin deep trickle of water now filled the creek bed banks from side to side. The water was thigh high and forced us to wear chest waders instead of our more comfortable hip waders. The current was strong. We had to use all of our creek-walking skills in the crossing we had below the log jam. If we paused and left a foot in one place on the bottom too long, the current would wash the gravel away from beneath our feet and take us down. If we lifted a foot too high, the current would get under our foot and keep us from getting it back down on the bottom before being knocked down. Creek-walking involved a quick shuffle step, feet flat on the bottom with no hesitation at all. We didn’t stay in the water long in these conditions. We needed to get across as fast as we could.

We got to the log jam, and as we climbed the rocks, what had been a trickle of water flowing down through the jam was now a genuine waterfall, pouring over the top log and filling the air with mist as it roared right next to our route. It reminded me of waterfalls I had seen in Yosemite. We could not communicate in normal voices. We had to shout to each other, even when standing right next to each other.

We got to the top of the log jam. Our last creek crossing was about fifteen yards above the jam…now a waterfall. The creek seemed deeper and faster up here as it approached the logs. Dan, Todd and I huddled up.

Dan shouted, “I don’t know if we can cross here right now.” We could barely hear him above the creek’s thunder.

Todd shouted, “I think you’re right. Let’s look a little further up for another crossing.”

I thought the creek looked high, but not necessarily too high. I shook my head. “I think we should try and see it we can make it over here. I’ll go first and try it.”

Dan and Todd looked skeptical, but nodded agreement.

I started out into the creek. I had never been in water so fast. Mindful of the waterfall just yards downstream, I started hustling my way across. The water quickly came up to my thighs. It crashed into my right leg, my upstream leg, and constantly threatened to push me down. I gritted my teeth and forced my way across, pushing hard against the current and swinging my arms wildly to add to my momentum.

I was just a few feet from the opposite bank when I almost lost my balance. I was almost knocked off my feet, but managed to stay up. However, in regaining my balance, my right foot stayed down just a hair too long. I felt the gravel give way under my foot. My right foot got pushed left, and I started going down over my now crossed feet.

I could see the waterfall in my peripheral vision. Crap!

I threw myself for the bank. I lunged once and the current carried me several feet downstream. Water crashed over the tops of my waders and under my jacket. I lunged again, getting pushed further downstream. My day pack, filled with my lunch, water bottles, notebook, and a few hand tools started pulling me off balance to the downstream side as it got knocked cockeyed. On the third lunge, I crashed into a redwood log on the bank and threw my arms around it. I bounced once, but then had the log fixed in a death grip. I hauled myself up out of the water and onto the bank. My chest hurt where it had slammed into the log. I turned and looked back across the creek. Dan, Todd, and the crew were all stunned. Dan hollered, but I couldn’t hear him. He made a funnel with his hands in front of his mouth and shouted again. I could still barely hear him, and it was partly lip reading, but I could tell he was shouting “Are you okay?”

I flashed a thumbs up, then cupped my hands around my mouth and shouted back, “Yeah…we aren’t going to be able to cross here!”

Dan gave me a thumbs up.

I shouted, “I’m just gonna rest here a minute and dump the water out of my waders!”

Dan gave me another thumbs up. They all started to work their way upstream. I stood and walked farther up the bank to another big log. I slid my day pack off my shoulders and put it on the ground. I took off my jacket, laid it down on the log, and rolled my waders down. Water poured out before I even had them down past my waist. I sat on the log and kicked the waders off the rest of the way. I was soaked…khaki shirt, Ben Davis jeans, socks…everything. I picked the waders up by the feet, turned them upside down, and poured the rest of the water out. I took off my socks and wrung them out the best I could. I had an extra pair of dry socks in my day pack that had managed to stay dry and put them on. I think the help that gave me was more psychological than anything else, because as soon as I put my waders back on, it wasn’t long before the fresh socks were soggy, too.

We finished up the project for the season that day…and used the alternate crossing Dan and Todd found on the way out!

Categories: CCC, Del Norte Center, Salmon Habitat Restoration | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

We Will Miss You, Erin

Starting a Causeway Near Tuolumne Meadows photo 43.jpg

It was with great sorrow that I learned recently of the passing of Erin Anders. This is the first death of which I am aware of anybody from Yosemite 2.

We met Erin on the very first day of our Backcountry season. He drove one of the NPS vehicles to pick us up from orientation in Stockton. He was the ramrod who saw that we got our first camp set up at Comfort House in Wawona. Erin was the maintenance worker on our crew in the front country. Most of the first lessons we had about the mountains and trail work came from Erin. He gave many of the morning safety meetings and taught us about first aid and living in the mountains. He taught us to identify hypothermia and how to treat it. He taught us the importance of staying hydrated. For many of us, this was only the beginning of lifelong skills we would develop, and we would build on the foundation that Erin laid. How fitting.

He also taught us about trails. We had already demonstrated a strong work ethic in order to earn a place on a Backcountry trail crew, but Erin taught us how to take our work ethic to an even higher level of commitment. He taught us all about ‘assholes and elbows’. Erin taught us how to read the lay of a trail and figure out how water flowed down and around the trail even when no water had been down the trail for months, and how to figure out the best way to get the water off the trail, which is the essence of all trail work.

Erin taught us to do all of this while at the same time having fun and enjoying life. At the beginning of the season, the thing Erin was the most excited about was the winter he had just had with the Yosemite Nordic Ski Patrol. He had been able to get in eighty days of telemark skiing that season. That was eighty days in the Backcountry in the dead of winter. That was the sort of thing Erin lived for…immersing himself in everything the outdoors had to offer.

Erin became our NPS foreman when we hit the Backcountry. He was eager to try new approaches to Backcountry camps that had not been tried before. He and Marty decided to try composting garbage. (Didn’t work. The compost pile drew in bears. But they tried!) He and Patti, our cook, decided to vary the menu from typical meat and potatoes to include other proteins and starches. (This one worked!)

Our memories of Erin would not be complete without thinking about him sitting by the campfire at night with his guitar. Many times he would strum quietly and talk to us about the mountains. Other times he would passionately pound out an amazing program of acoustic guitar songs. I don’t know how his tastes went in other seasons, but in 1987 he was particularly fond of John Prine. Erin also loved to make up his own lyrics, always funny, often a little bawdy, but always with passion.

Every Corpsmember who passed through his Backcountry trail crews was changed forever for the better by having known Erin and having him as a role model.

Thank you for everything, Erin.

Categories: Backcountry, CCC, Yosemite | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

April 24, 1987: First Work Day

Today was our first real work day here. It was great! We spent the day hiking up Alder Creek Trail putting in drainage swills. I caught on pretty quick, but then I was doing something real similar on Salt Creek a couple of weeks ago (when we got a two day break from the deMartin house). Kristin gave me the low down then on the theories of drainage.

I felt pretty good about the hiking, too. When we were hiking back I kept pace real well with Erin. We all did well, for that matter. We didn’t get all strung out all over the place.

Categories: Backcountry, CCC, Yosemite | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

April 23, 1987: Yosemite Orientation

Most of today was orientation. Most people complained that it was pretty boring, but I enjoyed it. I’m really going to enjoy working with Tim. Kris and Mira told me a lot about him—how much he enjoys working with Corpsmembers, how much he knows, and how much he is willing to teach about trails.

Right now I’m sitting on the bank of the South Fork of the Merced River. The sun is going down. It just dropped behind the trees, but the light is still shining on the bare cliffs of Turner Ridge, just north of here. Tim said earlier that there is a magnetism about rocks and high places that just draws people to try and scale them. He’s right. I don’t know what it is but there’s just something about them that makes me want to see what they’re like up close.

Categories: Backcountry, CCC, Yosemite | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

April 22, 1987: First View

We finally made it. We were kinda doubting it this morning, though. We were supposed to be picked up at 9:00, and the vans didn’t make it ‘til almost noon.

Any irritation caused by the inconvenience was totally dispelled when the van rounded a bend and El Capitan and Half Dome came into view.

I’ve seen countless pictures of those two, from all angles, and I’ve read a bit about them (the whole valley, for that matter) including by John Muir, but it ain’t the same as being there. I’m afraid that the same thing will happen when I write the people I know back in Illinois. They might think “Oh, wow!” That’s neat!”, but they just won’t have the awesome feel of it all.

Categories: Backcountry, CCC, Yosemite | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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