Thursday, February 10, 2011

My heros: the trail builders

  A nice long hike in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve brings me a deep feeling of peace; for me it's a form of meditation. This morning we caught the 7:30 bus up to the reserve and spent all day on some of the more than 6 miles/10 kilometers of well maintained trails. Among the things I meditate on as I hike is all the work that has gone into creating and maintaining the paths. Today we came upon the trail crew taking a well deserved rest and I asked them to pose for me. Most of the trail guys are not particularly large but they are incredibly tough.
   Over the years, the style of trail building has changed. The first time we hiked in the Monteverde Reserve in 1991, the trails were "cookies" or cross sections of fallen trees, usually covered in wire mesh. Cookies who have lost their mesh are incredibly slippery if wet and they are usually wet because they are in a cloud forest. In between cookies, there were places where we sank in mud almost to the top of our tall rubber boots. These days, that will never happen to you on the trails in the Monteverde Reserve; any good walking shoes are fine.
  Many of the paths are now paved in cement blocks. They are taken by truck to trail heads and carried  as much as a mile/1.6km. on someone's shoulder. Considering the hilly terrain, carrying a couple of cement blocks that far—and I've never seen a trail worker carry just one— is impressive indeed. Bags of fine rock are also carried in to fill the holes in the block. Just thinking about doing that all day makes my knees hurt. In this photo of blocks by a path being improved with cement blocks, you can see some old cookies too.
  In the last few years the preserve has changed to a new style of paths without steps. They install an edge of recycled plastic "wood" and fill the path with rock and fine gravel. This makes the paths a tiny bit more handicapped accessible and lets the trail builders transport some materials part of the way on a sort of wheelbarrow.  However, there is still of lot of human power used in carrying these sacks of fine gravel.
So as I walk along the trails, I'm not only grateful to be in a such a beautiful place, I am immensely grateful to the trail crew. ¡Gracias, amigos!

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