Today is the first day of orientation for the 2017 Backcountry Trail crew season. About 90 people are assembling at Placer Center for the orientation and training to accomplish the feat of spending the next five months living out of a backpack and maintaining trails in some of the most beautiful wilderness country in California. Backcountry trail crew members have come from all over the United States to dedicate the summer to the ultimate Hard Work, Low Pay, Miserable Conditions…and More!!
The Backcountry Trails program in the CCC has been around since 1979, but the trails work they will be doing is part of a far older tradition. They will be using dry rock masonry techniques to built stone structures with no concrete or cement. Some of the techniques have been around since the Egyptians built the Pyramids. Even trails work in the United States has a long and honored tradition. The first caretakers and trail builders of Yosemite National Park were troopers of the US Calvary in the late-1800s.
Backcountry orientation used to be a one day event. The Monday of orientation week was a travel day, and Backcountry Corpsmembers would show up at Delta Center in Stockton all day and slowly meet the rest of the Backcountry Corpsmembers as they all arrived. On Tuesday morning, Backcountry Program Director Peter Lewis would give a literal orientation to the season, describing what the season would be like and explaining the rules and expectations of the Corpsmembers. Tuesday afternoon was the first day the Corpsmembers officially met their crews. Introductions were made and each Crew Supervisor, or C1, would explain the projects they would be working on over the summer, and reinforce the expectations on Backcountry Corpsmembers. Tuesday evening was generally free time, and then the crews would roll out on Wednesday morning to their new assignments.
The program has changed since I went through it in 1987. Delta Center having long been closed, the crews now meet at Placer Center. (Okay…there is a CCC Center in Stockton today, but it is not the same one from the 1980s. That’s a whole other blog post. It’s on the agenda!) Orientation lasts a week now, with every Corpsmember receiving additional training that will help them succeed in their season.
I will be at orientation for the first couple of days this week. I’ll be posting stories and pics from there, and about the process.You can expect regular updates to our new Facebook page, also called CCC: Hard Corps.
Meanwhile, here is a 12 minute video that talks about the Backcountry Trails program. The video is from 1995, but it’s the best one I’ve found that gives a balanced view of the program. It includes information on the trails work, and thoughts from some of the Corpsmembers, crew supervisors, and sponsors.