Here’s one of the wonderful people who has made this possible.
Chuck Ziehr (“Z with an ‘ear’” he often says) is a treasure. Chuck and Judy have been coming to the Wet Mountain Valley for years from their home base in Oklahoma. They have spent so many of their vacations discovering the wonders abounding in the American West. And this particular valley was literally a natural draw for him, as he had spent some of his childhood in a log cabin built in the 1870’s in northwest Arkansas. Life in those hills near White Rock Mountain was a dream for a boy, because, “If we did anything there, it was out-of-doors.” And he has carried that outdoor lifestyle into the mountains here, spending countless hours soloing, especially between Rainbow Lake and Mosca Pass.
Joining Trails For All in its infancy (2017) was also a natural draw for him. Chuck has a doctorate in geography from Indiana University, and for 36 years he taught physical geography, economic/cultural geography, and more recently the Geographic Information System (GIS): a system designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, manage, and present all types of geographical data. He is steeped in awareness and appreciation for “place,” landscape, and how the geography of an area shapes history and is shaped by history. As he told me, “Everything happens somewhere. . . for reasons. . . with consequences. . . so geography matters.” To Trails For All, Chuck brings all of this wealth and the curiosity it nurtures in him. Like I said, what a treasure.
This summer Chuck joined Chris Eichman, Herb Kober, Sue Pelletier, and Ken Butler as crew leaders for trails maintenance. Jeff Outhier asked Trails For All to take responsibility for 11 different trails, clearing them of downed trees and daylighting them ( that is, creating the horizontal and vertical space around a trail to make it more usable, especially for horses). He also encouraged us to reroute water off of trails where erosion is causing damage. These dedicated trail crew leaders formed a great team. In May and June they made countless scouting trips up the lake trails, reporting back about snow level, avalanche damage, erosion, need for daylighting, and the location of downed trees. Often, they would make trail repairs and remove downed trees while scouting. And together they formed priority lists and chose which days they could each one lead trips, which trails they would service, and at what elevation their work would begin. As the snow receded the recruiting of volunteers began in earnest, and trail crews began to go on a regular basis. Here’s a short summary of what they accomplished:
And the third reason he loves the work is “the people.” These are people who love the mountains like he does. He calls them, “The best. They do this hard work, not for recognition. For love.” Every crew worked hard, Chuck said, leaving the trailheads at 8 AM and arriving back around 2-3 PM, with probably no more than a 20 minute lunch. It’s something awesome to be part of.
In closing, I asked him what he would like to leave with you readers. He said emphatically, “WE MUST HAVE MORE VOLUNTEERS!” The system we’re developing requires more people in order to do the job well and more thoroughly. We’re just now completing the trail work for 2019, but in 2020 we long to have more of you sign up and at least go out one time. We will soon be in danger of burning out our dedicated leaders and volunteers without more of you stepping up and investing back into the mountains we all so love.
I promise you this: if you join up with one of our work crews, and when along the way you meet Chuck Ziehr (that’s Z with an “ear”), you’ll discover that he’s a treasure. I believe you will join us in saying, “WOW!”