Note: This was written by Richard Goepfrich, Grand Canyon Maintenance Worker Supervisor (Trails) and first appeared on Grand Canyon National Park’s Web Page.

It’s the middle of July and work starts at 6:00 a.m. I head to where the Grand Canyon Trail Crew is meeting and we talk about the plan for the day. After discussions on safety, we leave to join the local conservation group working with us for the summer. Everyone gathers at the South Kaibab trailhead.

We do a big group stretch and then it is time for our daily commute to begin – hiking down the South Kaibab Trail to the jobsite. Once there we put on safety gear and start building trail. We use shovels, picks, and hammers just like they used in the old days. But we also have the benefit of jackhammers and other modern equipment to help us get our job done. Like roads, trails used by mules and hikers need to be of solid design, or they won’t last very long. In the Grand Canyon, where trail crews battle constant erosion, trails need to be even more solid and durable.

It is getting later in the morning, and not only is the hiker traffic picking up on the trail, so too is the heat. By now it is over 100 degrees F (38 degrees C) and I need to remind myself to keep drinking water, eating food, and taking breaks. The advice we give to those hiking in the canyon during the summer heat also applies to trail workers. I need to keep my strength up not only to continue working, but also to hike back out of the canyon carrying my tools. After a quick snack and some water I feel better, back to work on my project.

 I am building a liner rock feature on the outside of the South Kaibab Trail. It helps hold the rest of the stone structures in, and also helps guide people and mules, keeping them on the trail. I’ve collected a lot of rock from the surrounding area, not easy, and now I am ready to build. I love building things with my hands, and I get a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day when I see what I have completed.
All of a sudden I realize it is afternoon. Where has the day gone? It’s been roughly eight hours. Time went by fast. I got pretty far with my liner rock, assisted a lot of hikers through the jobsite,and now it is time to “tool up” and hike out. I look with pride at what the trail crew and conservation volunteers accomplished for the day. The trail crew leader signals us with a “thumbs up”. We start hiking out.
Sometimes, we hike below the rim to a bunkhouse or “spike” camp, where the trail crew can live for nine days at a time. For those nights either mules pack in our food or we are supplied by helicopter, often in a remote backcountry setting. But today we hike to the rim. I go home to rest up, and prepare to do it again tomorrow. The Grand Canyon is my office, can life get any better?
Written by: Richie Goepfrich, Grand Canyon Maintenance Worker Supervisor (Trails)
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