Backpacking has been something I have wanted to do for a couple of years now. I have watched countless videos on backpacking and have lived vicariously through these videos. I enjoyed the majestic vistas and stunning landscapes and the solitude of the wild all through the lens of someone else. I have slowly built up my gear to be able to do it. But there was always something in the way for me. Before joining GrizzlyCorps, I did not know anyone personally who had ever done it. I never really talked about it with anyone. I did not grow up around anyone who enjoyed the outdoors like that. That was just something none of my family or friends growing up had a concept of. The outdoors has largely been a space I have come into and navigated on my own.
I had the opportunity last month to backpack for the first time thanks to Mariposa Trails and a co-fellow, Raini, who connected myself, Tara, and Jenna to this opportunity. It was an exciting experience overall from being able to pack and prepare my pack to leaving the paved road behind and hitting remote roads and trails. We met Laurie, Beth, and Bill, who is doing amazing work with Mariposa Trails. We went on this trip to help them maintain and clear some remote trails just on the outskirts of Yosemite.
It was a surreal feeling to be out there with just me and my pack. I just had to trust that everything I needed for this was right on my back. It was hard to shake the feeling that I somehow did not belong in this space or that I had much to catch up on, but it was comforting to be out there with everyone who was super supportive. We hiked deeper into the wilderness past some recently burned forest up into a ridge overlooking the gulch where the trail was. We got to our site, set up camp, rested, and were ready to do what we came there to do.
From there, it was just about hiking and working on the trail, which was something I knew how to do. Bill, Beth, and Laurie were great hosts for the project and were very knowledgeable about the area and the outdoors. As an avid hiker, it was rewarding work to be able to work on a trail. And as a lover of history, it was super interesting to hear Bill mention that this trail was an old trail that the Buffalo Soldiers used when this area was actually part of the original Yosemite National Park grant!
Camping that night was really special. We got back up to our site overlooking the gulch and watched the fantastic sunset colors fade out into night over the gulch. All the while, we were whipping up some fantastic chili over the stove. Props to Raini for the recipe! It was some of the best food, camping or otherwise, that I have ever had. And we spent the rest of the night having fun and interesting conversations by the moonlight. No campfire of course! We had to be fire wise this time of year.
The next day we got up bright and early, had a quick breakfast, and packed up camp for when we came back from another day’s work. This day we ended up clearing trail all the way to the bottom of the gulch and were treated to a charming little waterful and a nice creek running through the gulch. Our goal was to thin out the area around the primitive campsite at the bottom and many hands made light work. My favorite activity was thinning out some potential ladder fuels and throwing branches into the creek to hopefully create a diverse creek that can help sustain pools of water during the driest times of year. This improves and creates new fish habitat by providing cover, controlling sediment, and restoring spawning and rearing grounds for the fish. The hike back up was no joke but it was awesome to see all the work we had done and be treated to great views. I was one of the slowest hikers in the group but that was no problem. I appreciate that Bill slowed down to stay with me and he also retrieved a helmet I had accidentally dropped down the side slope of the trail. Thank you Bill!
When we got back up it was time to go. I will be forever grateful for this experience and the company I was with. Mariposa Trails is doing some great work and I wish nothing but the best for them and to help out whenever I can. If you are interested in their work and getting out there then be sure to check them out at https://mariposatrails.org/.
Thanks to my co fellows for the support and the fun time. With this trip, I feel like I truly blazed my own trail in life and broke the mold I was in. The outdoors is a space for everyone and I am glad I took that space.