In this electronic age, cameras have been replaced by tiny phones with even tinier cameras. What would Alexander Bell think of that? He probably would have said, "a thousand words is better than a picture." Ergo, there are no pictures of the fantastic Trail Day crew hard at work. Instead, you'll have to settle for this long winded report. [The short winded report by Craig reads: "We came. We hammered nails. We ate muffins."]

For the first time in many years, we weren't working on the Baden Powell Trail. Instead, District priority dictated that more boardwalk was needed on a section of the Sea to Sky trail. So our worksite was on the north side of Inter River Park, before Lynn Canyon. But we're getting slightly ahead of ourselves.

A large contingent of Knee Knacker runners and friends met on Saturday morning. It was another glorious day in Vancouver's unusually dry spring, continuing a Knee Knacker tradition of perfect working conditions for Trail Day. Craig greeted everyone with muffins and coffee, generously donated by Delany's. Looking at the group of excited runners, we noticed new Trail Day inductees and various old hands. Like John Machray and his trusty chainsaw. (Although Graham Knell, North Van District Trail & Habitat Co-ordinator, hadn't requested a chainsaw for the day, John was following the guy creed rule #15: if you have gear, you must bring it.) We left the cars at 9am to meet Graham, just down the road. In suitable fashion, the head of the pack promptly led us into a dead-end. Where's trail tape when you need it?

We made a short u-turn and found Graham at his truck. After officially signing in, the group (28 strong) quickly carried all the materials and tools from the truck to the worksite. The coffee and muffins were also moved. Especially the coffee. It's a west coast thing.

At the worksite, we divided into three teams: boardwalk contructionists (who wielded hammers, nails, and a can-do attitude), rock hunter-gatherers (who hunted and gathered rocks for the constructionists), and slope reshapers (who wandered ahead to fix slopes and rid the world of unsightly footpaths). While the constructionists set about building the boardwalk (connect piece "A" to piece "B"...) I joined the rock hounds in stripping the surrounding forest of all visible rocks. Oh, how quickly that motto "take only pictures, leave only footprints" takes a beating when a trail party gets busy digging holes, moving earth, and generally tromping around the forest!

After an hour of leaving no stone unturned, some of us went to help the last team who were working on a switchback a few minutes away. Once there, we gathered rocks again but this time, we were more selective in the sizing. Specifically, we needed rocks that were grapefruit sized. Or softball sized. Or exactly 30mm in diameter. One can never be too fussy. Instead of filling a crib to hold up a boardwalk, we needed these rocks to form the trail bed that we would cover with dirt.

(A quick lesson on getting good dirt for trail work. You'll need three shovels, two buckets, and one pick. And people to wield those tools. Now find a spot just off to the side of the trail. Start digging. Don't worry about the hole you're making in Mother Nature's backyard. She'll recover. The worse that can happen is she'll drop a tree on you in retaliation. Once you get past the thin, top layer of organic material, you'll hit the "paydirt": a deep, inorganic layer of dull orange-reddish brown, mineral like dirt. It's lousy for growing things, but perfect for covering trails.)

While we filled in the eroded parts of the trail to protect the tree roots (and prevent tripping), more steps were added into the switchback. All this happened with lightning speed. It was such an eager crew that they would have built little stonehenge mounds of pinecones, if I'd told them that was the new North Van Parks requirement. As a finishing touch, stonework was placed along the trail's edges to form an attractive boundary. Hey, aesthetics count in trail work!

We went back to rejoin the main group, and like a mushroom sprouting overnight on your lawn, a boardwalk suddenly appeared out of nowhere. The lack of engineering plans clearly hadn't deterred the constructionsts. We gathered around and munched the last of the muffins, waiting for the last spike to be driven in the final step. Applause and high-fives broke out with the last "thwack!" into the cedar plank.

The final summary? Upper body workout on Saturday's trail day. Lower body on Sunday's training run. And pride in a job well done.

Andrew Wong
e-mail me with our feedback form