The Mound became our nemesis during our stay at Vogelsang.
The Mound needed to be one hundred feet long by one hundred feet wide. It was constructed of crushed granite. The granite pieces could not be too small, of the effluent would not perc right through the rock. The ideal size for each piece of rock in the mound was 2”x2”x6”. (I will never be able to get the phrase “twobytwobysix” out of my head!)
First, big granite blocks needed to be moved to the site. We rolled them there. We rolled every piece of loose granite in the area to The Mound site. Trail workers call this ‘piss-anting’. Granite weighs 150 pounds per cubic foot. A rock only two feet high, by two feet wide, by three feet long…not a big rock at all up there…weighed 1800 pounds. We piss-anted a lot of rock to the mound site. After a few weeks we had exhausted the supply of readily available rock. NPS then brought in a draft horse to haul rock for us.
Once we had a decent assortment of rocks at The Mound site, we began turning the big rocks into little rocks with sledge hammers, or double jacks, as trail crews call them. We became experts on the fracturing properties of rock, especially granite. We could look at a rock and be able to tell exactly where we needed to hit it, and how hard we needed to hit it, to break it into pieces.
The ten thousand square feet of surface area needed to be covered with crushed rock to a minimum depth of eighteen inches. In order to make the top of The Mound level, some spots were going to be much deeper than that.
At first the entire crew…all that were left of us…were crushing fill on The Mound. At first people were just stoked to be here and wailed away at the granite willy nilly. It didn’t take long for the shine to wear off. We had to learn how to pace ourselves to keep swinging that hammer all day, every day. You start finding different ways to keep your mind occupied. You actually do study the fracturing properties of granite. You listen to the rhythm of hammers banging on rock all around. You don’t talk much. Talking breaks your rhythm and slows you down. You notice little details, like the way steel hammers can actually make sparks off the granite, and that sparks have a gunpowder-like aroma.
Sure enough, we hit upon a few Corpsmember tricks to sneak an extra break in here or there. My favorite was to ask Joe a geology question. Joe was an NPS worker who joined us at Vogelsang for the septic project. He had recently taken up geology as a hobby. If we saw an unusual looking rock, all we had to do was ask “Hey, Joe. What kind of rock is this?”
“Well, I’m not a professional geologist who’s been studying this for years and years, but the red in this rock, of course, indicates the presence of iron…” and away we would go for five minutes or so. The best part of these types of breaks was that we actually learned something at the same time.
After a week or ten days of concentration on The Mound, Erin and Moose started rotating a few people at a time off The Mound to go out and work on the trail. Those were precious days, indeed.