Eight Days in the Desolation Wilderness – Part 2

Eight Days in the Desolation Wilderness - Part 2


So yes, in my first season on a Forest Service trail crew, I forgot rain gear in August in the high country of the Sierras.

When I finally made it to base camp, I met my trail crew foreman with pure exhaustion and wetness.  I had to suck up my ego to tell him that I failed to bring rain gear and I was wet and cold.  The look on his face was out of pure concern.  He thinks that I am going to get hypothermia.  

He immediately told me to go set up my tent and get dry and to report back to him if I had any trouble.  Becky, you are strong and I know you are miserable, but you are going to get dry and warm.  All is going to be just fine.

Becky Shufelt works trails in the Marble Mountains Wilderness.

And I was fine! After setting up the shared tent with Whitney and sheltering my gear and one set of extra clothing, I finally had a break. While getting settled in the tent, I had a conversation with Whitney that shed the uncomfortable and miserable feeling. I got dry and warm and called it a day.

The next day, the rain kept falling and I had nothing to keep me dry.  I looked over every item that I had brought in my backpack to help me think of something (anything) that would help. Then I saw the plastic trash bags that I had stuffed away in a pocket.  I had this!

Quickly, I made a makeshift rain jacket out of the trash bags.  I reported for duty the next morning (looking ridiculous by the way),but I was ready to work—trash bag ensemble and all.  I read the look on my foreman’s face (not to mention my crew members) that seemed relieved and skeptical that I was going to make it through the day—again, the weak link. I’m going to prove them wrong.

We continued up the trail, using crosscut saws to clear the trail.  I was dry in my trash bag gear. I felt that my mental toughness had grown and that I could do anything I put my mind to. In fact, these were the toughest days of them all—backpacking up a trail with 50-pounds and a 2,000-elevation gain in just a few miles.  With my new confidence and improved mental toughness, I hiked and hiked (and hiked some more) until I thought I was going to sit down and never get up again—but I kept on moving.

Finally!  We made it to the top of the mountain and saw the most beautiful scenery you couldn’t possibly see from any road–only deep in the backcountry of the Desolation Wilderness.  I took in every second and thought to myself:  This view was worth all of the challenges I’ve endured on this trip and now I can rest.  We had reached Lake Aloha, and the next day we would be going home.

Discover more stories through Life in the Widland’s Blog