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Veteran trail planner tells his stories in verse

Roger Bell, a trail contractor for many years, has been turning the grit and labor of trail building into poetry.
From the Fall 2006 issue of Trail Tracks, the magazine of American Trails

Poetry by Roger Bell


A monster High Sierra job
I think we bid too tight
West across from Mono Pass
to Lake Edison, what a fight!

Wilderness meant no power tools
and packers brought our grub
Seventeen miles of rehab trail
by hand and there's the rub

We labored hard all summer long
and got as tough as nails
The crew were kids except for me
fed food and my tall tales

We pounded rock and cut a path
out there in Nature's glory
As stock kicked out our water bars
we fashioned quite a story

October storms were coming in
as we raced to finish up
Each afternoon the clouds would grow
they threatened to disrupt

Our best laid get-out plans
see, the mountain doesn't care
It warns you like a rattler's tail
a force that tends to scare

Get out right now flatlanders
or you're in big trouble sure
But we wanted strong to finish
and we surely could endure

A little early touch of snow
since we were seasoned now
But when it hit it buried all
brought furrow to my brow

Grab what we could and hit the trail
if we could find our way on down
Sticking close would help us all
t'was a damn long way to town

A good dozen miles with heavy packs
now you'll hear my tale of woe
I went back to grab my briefcase
all those papers, don't you know

Well my loyal crew just left me
as the White Out covered tracks
A shortcut over slippery cliffs
laugh on, I'm telling facts

I cursed them as I trudged
my anger covered fear
Would the mountain claim a victim?
melodrama hovered near

I can still recall the moment
as I came up o're a rise
And saw ahead a smallish break
I'd deny Mom Nature's prize

My guys musta' heard me coming
'cause they huddled closer still
But they'd know my ire fully
fiery eyes they thought could kill

Well, the story wasn't over
we had a ways to go
Two underpowered vehicles
in over a foot of snow

We scratched our heads in worry
when a minor miracle appeared
The last trip of the snow plow
would help with what we feared

We could follow close behind
tho' my truck had just one chain
The hippie van slipped off the road
can you say "that's insane"?

Well somehow we survived
tho' trailbuilding can turn dark
Adventures on the edge for us
but stories with a spark

Nature runs the show up there
we found that out next spring
An avalanche pushed trees uphill
surprises more to bring

"Cause our trail now was buried
ten feet below downed trees
Big job to clear without chain saws
workin' Wilderness ain't no breeze.

Well the Forest had a plan
volunteers would save the day
Damned if chain saws weren't approved
else you and I would pay

When all is said, my friends
these were Nature's times
She's harsh but ever bounteous
even yielding to my rhymes!

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