A couple of years ago, in winter, I worked widening a trail near Upper Trestle Falls, above Brice Creek in the Umpqua National Forest.  I had significant job constraints: a rock cliff on one side and a 50 foot drop off down the other on the other side, with maybe 4 feet of usable space between.  

Cold day at Upper Trestle Falls

The work was safe enough; I had room to maneuver, could work a little with the Pulaski while standing just below the trail, digging into mud, clearing branches, moving rocks, establishing drainage—all the things that one does with trail work.  I had about 60 feet of trail to work on, and at 11:30, I took a break for lunch.  

Nobody else from the Crew was nearby; they were filling in root wads a half mile back down the trail, trying at least to re-establish the trail, an honorable job I have done as well, but I didn’t see any point in hiking back there for lunch.  A few weeks earlier, on the other side of the ravine, I was again working solo at lunch time, decided to hike back to the Crew to eat, arriving as they were just finishing lunch, and then had to rush mine to rejoin the group. I look forward to lunch all morning; I am a morning person and do my best hiking and trail work early, and lunch in the woods if I am camped out is my favorite meal.  I usually have a protein bar sometime between 9 and 10, a holdover from 30 years ago in the Canoe Country, when doing trail work, I needed extra calories, so I downed a large Hershey bar in mid-morning.  It may not have been healthy, but it really perked me up.  Three decades later, doing trail work, or hiking, I have a mid-morning snack. It’s a little healthier but tastes just as good, and I look forward to it just as much.

At lunch, I get to sit down, take off my hard hat, lie down against my pack if I wish, and relax while I eat my sandwich.  Some of the crew have their lunches made by their spouses. Mine would laugh if I asked her to.  I’ve been making my lunch since I was a latchkey kid, some 65 years ago, and I know exactly what I want, adding a few more calories when I am doing trail work. I do not like being hungry on the job. 

This lunch spot was special. I had a bird’s eye seat at Upper Trestle Falls, and I can stare at water for hours.  I watched the water hit the creek far below and drop towards Brice Creek, then the Coast Fork, the main Willamette, and finally the Columbia before entering the Pacific Ocean. I wasn’t too concerned about the distance the water was going to travel. I was savoring my food, relaxing for the thirty minutes I allotted myself to finish raisins, chocolate, and apple, get a good drink, and steel myself for finishing this part of the trail before going back down and working on a root wad.

Behind the falls, on the trail

Sometimes, I have lunches at overlooks near the trail, other times, it’s just on a nearby log, with a place to put my foam pad and weary body, and stare at the woods across the way.  On Gold Point Trail, I relaxed against the steep backrest of the cliff behind me, staring at a tree that I suddenly noted had at least nine holes drilled in it for various nests, a woodpecker apartment building. You see a lot more in the woods when you can stop and just stare, without specifically looking for something. Trail work gives one plenty of chances to do that. Last week, lunch was near Lillian Falls below us, in lovely shade before we headed off to a remove a series of large logs that would be in bright sunshine, although when I played my cards right, I was able to wrangle the side in the shade to do my cutting. Lunch marks the half way point of the work day, it is the end of the best work I am going to be doing, and I need to pace myself carefully for the rest of the day, both working and for the hike back out of there.  I’ve still got an extra protein bar in the lunch bag; somewhere in the backpack are more calories. They need to be swapped out for something with a more recent expiration date, and I am not sure where they are, other than I know they are in there, along with a small bottle of water that is always good to see when it’s a hot day, and I have been vigorously hydrating.  

I usually don’t talk much during lunch. It’s sort of “Let your victuals close your mouth,” I learned as a kid.  Of course, if I am alone when I eat, that’s easy, but I usually don’t have much to say, so I listen and get a close look at the woods around me.  The nice thing about the Crew is we don’t talk politics.  I’m frankly hard pressed to remember what we talked about at the last lunch.  Maybe nothing. The other guys are just as hungry and tired as I am.  

A month back, on a rainy day at Erma Bell Lakes, I sat down in the woods in a relatively dry spot. I took off my hard hat and put on a wool hat that I had fortunately remembered to bring along. It was chilly, about 50, but I was fine until about 15 minutes into lunch, when I began feeling cold.  I cut the time short, got up, changed my gloves to dry ones, shivered a little it, and followed the rest of the guys down the trail to the next log. Lunch was necessary, but movement was more so, and I wouldn’t be warm again for an hour and three more logs cut out. 

Right after lunch on the Erma Bell Lakes trail

Half hour passed, time to get up, get the stiffness out of me, and get back to work.  Want people to have a good experience on this trail.

Working on a root wad in the rain in December, an honorable way to spend the day.
Oregon Anemone near Lillian Falls
Lunch spot at Vivian Lake, Diamond Peak Wilderness

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