On our last hitch, we were lucky enough to head up to Crawford Notch State Park to build a new bridge on the Arethusa Falls Trail to help users cross a brook getting up to the falls. Before our crews came onto the site, the pre-existing bridge was decrepit and impassable. The stringers had completely rotted out and the bridge was falling into the stream, making a very dangerous crossing for all waterfall enthusiasts.
The old bridge before SCA crews came onto the site
This project took about a month in total to complete. We had two different crews at the site throughout the bridge construction. The first SCA crew came out to destroy the old bridge, begin setting up the abutments (the rock foundations that the bridge sits on), and carry up all of the new lumber. This was not an easy task by any means! This bridge is located about 1.0 mile up the very steep and rocky trail. Many of the crew members found creative ways to attach boards to their packs (or around their bodies!) to get it up the trail. In their 11 day hitch, they carried up all of the necessary lumber including three 250 lb stringers!
Crew members Ray Stubblefield-Tave (left), Maura Lowrie, and Dan Tuttle (right) creatively carrying up the lumber to the worksite
I was lucky enough to be co-leading the second crew. Our task was to build the bridge and approaches. In comparison to the crew before us, our crews work was not as difficult as what they had to do, but we still tested our newly learned carpentry skills. In 5 days, our crew was able to finish building the abutments, the bridge, and the approaches on both sides.
The bridge before, during, and after construction
Throughout the entire project, we were embracing our inner Ty Pennington from the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition tv show. As you can imagine, two important parts of carpentry projects are having accurate measurements and a level structure. We had fun with the “moment of truth” parts of the project.
When we were placing the stringers (the long pieces of wood parallel to the trail where the decking is laid upon), we would have half of the crew on one side and the other half on the other to make sure the overhang was the same on both sides. As we were fine tuning the outside measurements, we would all chant together “MOVE! THAT! STRINGER!” as one individual used the double jack to hit the stringer until it was at the correct measurement. This chant also translated to other mundane tasks such as collecting rocks for the abutment where we would chant, “MOVE! THOSE! ROCKS!”. We found many of the trail users joining us for these chants and celebrations throughout our project which made for happy crew members!
Our crew enjoying the finished product! From left to right: David Boxenbaum, Hollie Schultz, Megan Guy, Chrissie Edgeworth, Drake Deasley, and Aimee Posnanski
All in all, the biggest thing we learned throughout this project was not about the hard skills like carpentry, but more about the soft skills, like teamwork and communication with the crew as well as the general public. In comparison to past hitches, this was a more used trail than what we were used to working on. As a result, we were able to have more encounters with the general public as we were working. So many trail users stopped to admire the work that we are doing and thanked us over and over again. There were many comments saying “We were just wondering who does all of this work on the trails and now we know! Thank you!”
The completed approach to the bridge
Looking back, some of the most influential comments were from the youth. We had a few young girls and boys walk by and make comments about they want a job like this when they grow up. One that stuck out was a Mom saying to her little girl, “Look at all of the women doing this work! See, anything is possible!!”. The little girl came back on her way down the trail to thank the trees and roots for holding the bridge and trail in place. Being a part of these moments are why we are doing our job. We were happy to have played a small role in this bigger project of getting the public outside and appreciating nature!
To celebrate our completion, we made a human tunnel for the first visitors! As a crew, we were proud of the work we accomplished. Not only this, but we were excited for the future trail users to have a safer way to get up to the falls!
Our first trail visitor celebrated with us by going through a human tunnel!
If you ever find yourself in Crawford Notch, hike the trail and explore Arethusa Falls! And if you’re interested in camping, Dry River Campground is a must! You can’t beat the staff and it is in the perfect location for hiking in the area the notch!