Saturday, October 18, 2003

So there I was standing in the middle of a gravel road out in the middle of Wisconsin nowhere with a bottle of beer in one hand and animal crackers in the other. Must be another Mobile Skills Crew weekend.

Saturday I teamed with fellow skillers Drew H. and Mike W., along with newbie and local Lincoln County resident Greg Something-something to clear brush around trail markers in the New Wood segment of the Ice Age Trail. It made for a fairly unremarkable day of trail work. We cut tree limbs around yellow blazes and carted off the fresh pine pitch smelling limbs deeper into the forest (at least 15 feet, crew leader Drew said). The day was warm and sunny and there was no cover because all the leaves were gone. Greg S. said a wind storm blew through about a week ago. Figures I’d forget my cap on such a day.

But the biting lady bug/Japanese beetles were out in full force, and even a few confused mosquitoes and gnats. We stopped for lunch in the shade of a beautiful hemlock. Most of this section of trail follows old logging roads and changes direction at once-clearcut intersections. Posts with arrows need to be put up to direct the wandering hiker on the proper path. New Wood lives up to its name. Except for a few majestic white pines and hemlocks, the only other evidence of the once-great forest are huge moss-covered stumps.

Greg S. objected to cutting down saplings that blocked the view. He said it would only widen the trail. I felt the same way once, thinking this destruction we do for the trail is counterintuitive to my environmental preserving predilections.

We finished about 3:30 p.m. and were sent on a beer run into Merrill. Shortly after we got back, the rest of the crew arrived. We all stood by the road with beers in our dirty hands, talking trail and watching the golden evening sun creep up the birches.

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