My other job is 20 miles by horse into the Bob Marshall Wilderness.
Pam spends half the year in our National Park's backcountry. She knows the importance of good co-workers and her photos are like candy. Plus she booked 627.5 miles hiking while at work. All with a shovel. Stand back people, she wields a shovel!
Pam has spent 15 seasons in the backcountry digging paths so we can enjoy our national parks (and not get lost). She says 15 seasons has been great, yet she is ready to relook at the front country. This year she has put in for the maintenance job on the east side of Glacier National Park. A job with year-round health care would be nice too.
Her resume reads: 10 seasons on the Olympic Peninsula National Park and 3 seasons in Glacier National Park and a short stint in the Cascade National Park.
I know Pam because we worked together on a trail crew 14 years ago in Girdwood, Alaska. One dark and rainy night, two years later, I found her again while I was searching for a campsite in the Olympic Peninsula National Park. She was cooking dinner on a camp stove and I was asking for directions.
Me: uhhh, Pam?
Pam: uhhhh, Emily?
Pam + Emily: hahahahah, "what's the chances??!" "OMG, is that you?" *giggles*
Pam's first two seasons at Glacier National Park were stationed out of Goat Haunt (Haunt mean's a "hangout" or "stomping grounds" I don't think it means spooky goats, in this situation.) Pam's commute takes her across an international border, back into the US, and across the Waterton lakes on a boat to reach the Ranger Station. From there she and her crew hike in with a mule string to their work site.
Here is her commute. (Otherwise known as Glow's first feature film: Cars, Boats, and Boots.)
Who here has gone hiking in the National Forest or National Park? If you can, I recommend it.
Most trail crews do not build new trail. They maintain trails that already exist. Glacier National Park reports 700 miles of trail.
Trail crews are experts at erosion. As they correct or fix the trail in places that water is eroding the trail. They build steps, fix bridges, make reroutes as trail conditions change, and remove downed trees across trails. They beat back nature.
What I think is so rad and hard about trail crew is the level of self-sufficiency. Once you are at your job location, you get to work. You use all the resources that you carried in, your collective group brain, and the natural environment. You can't run to ace hardware or check out an internet forum to research a question.
I asked Pam to talk about a project that stands out. She said the crew was called upon to clear sections of the international border between the US and Canada. Once there, she would wear a chest harness attached to a brushcutter. It looks like a weed wacker but instead of a string whip, it has a circular saw. This project follows the terrain, so up and down mountains. The project got named profanities and went down as one of the hardest jobs to complete.
The Bob Marshall Wilderness
I sort of laugh when Pam tells me about her "fun" job. Like she is serving up lattes for extra cash. When the trail season ends she works as a hunting camp cook in the Bob Marshall Wilderness for the month of October. The camp is 20 miles in on horseback.
The setting is both austere and plush. She has her own wall tent with a wood stove. There is the kitchen tent that has all the food, wood cook stove, and propane oven. She makes 2 - 3 meals a day and starts the day at 4 or 5 am. She says the key to this schedule is an afternoon nap. Minimum of one nap per day. *Important words to live by!*
She calls this her relaxing, "I get to be a lady" job. That's rugged. And that's the problem with stereotypes. Stereotypes are not complete. They are not big and rich. If you meet Pam, she physically demands a lot of herself, and clearly enjoys it. She is sweet, tender and smiling. All to say, rugged can be oh so sweet and wear leggings and a skirt 20 miles by horseback in the Bob.
(If you are cool you say "the Bob" for the Bob Marshall Wilderness).
I had two closing questions for Pam during our conversation.
1. Clothes. What do you wear as camp cook and what do you wear on the trail?
2. Da Future? What's next for you?
Cooking she wears tights with a skirt because it's comfortable and she welcomes the opportunity to look like a woman again. She said she wears Blundstone, half booties - the insulated ones. She has really come to love them. Noted. I'm looking for a pair to try on.
She said packing in on horseback she wears Kenetrek boots. They do alright. Her toes get cold and she has to get off and walk the horse to warm up.
During trail work, she rocks double knee dickies pants and long sleeve shirts. She says the dickies are OK, not great. If it's hot she goes for cotton button downs for sun protection and the cooling effect. Wool t-shirts and wool long sleeves are staples. La Sportiva boots because they are rugged, yet lightweight.
She likes a heavier duty weight clothing for front country work like denim or duck canvas type pants. She likes the lighter weight and faster drying polyester or nylon pants for long distances in the backcountry.
Pam is eyeing a piece of land to buy in Montana and looks forward to building a house. She is hoping the maintenance job comes through. She is ready for a more front country time. We joke about the return of backpacking just-for-fun. Good Luck out there, Pam!
So where does the wardrobe lack?
Clothes that celebrate. Clothes that love your career choice. Clothes that love to work. Clothes that give high fives to your hips. Clothes that got something to say. They say, "Hey, I see you carrying that heavy pack. I gotch you. Let's articulate these knees. Put in a gusseted crotch cause that is pure magic. Construct 9 pockets for snacks and tools. Let's find some colors that portray authority and expertise in your field. Yeah... we get you."
Next post we will look at the third prototype of the legger and what we need to do to bring it to market. Are you as excited about this as I am? Share this post with one more person who could benefit from "tough as nails, yet oh so soft on the inside" workwear.