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My Summer on a Trail Crew during COVID-19

Part 2: Thriving with The Tools at Hand

Four months later we are nearing the end of our season. It’s our first and only backcountry hitch due to COVID-19 related project changes. After a long day digging holes for log checks, my crewmates are seated around the clearing we used as our “kitchen”, hanging out, listening to music, and keeping our physical distance from one another. We can hear our project partners’ distant laughter filtering through the trees from their camp that is set up down the lake to maintain a healthy distance between us.

Cooking in the backcountry provides its own unique adaptations and cooking during COVID-19 is no exception. Only one person is allowed in the kitchen at a time and they have to be masked. I pull on my mask and make my way to the handwash station only to realize we are out of water. My crewmate volunteers to collect some from the lake, and after he returns we fill the upside-down dromedary. Gravity forces the water out of the flip-top cap in a steady trickle and I lather up with dish soap. This is a COVID-19 protocol implementation we enthusiastically welcome. Nothing can make you feel human more than washing the glove sweat off your hands after a ten-hour day of work in the backcountry. We are so used to the protocols that this hiccup doesn’t even break my stride. I get to cooking our veggie burgers. Everyone washes up and dinner is served within a half hour. Plates scraped clean we lay back in satisfaction, happy to fill our bellies after another day of hard work.

All things considered, the sense of normalcy that I experienced during my summer crew term was reassuring. I was able to socialize and bond with new people, gain skills and experiences to last a lifetime, and experience personal growth in a universally challenging time. The success of this season was due to effective protocols, supportive staff, and a shared dedication to health and safety. A handwash station like ours was one of several modifications in place to keep us safe and the program running that also integrated well with crew life. This summer was different than I expected when I signed up to do a field crew. The world changed and shifted dramatically in 2020, but MCC adapted and persevered. We were able to stay healthy without having to sacrifice much of what makes this experience special, and for that I am grateful.

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