Tired, sore, and covered in dirt

Tired, sore, and covered in dirt. Great way to spend a beautiful Saturday no? I’d say so.

As a volunteer and group leader at last Saturday’s Carderock Adopt-A-Crag event, my experience can be easily summed up by the above, but that’s not terribly interesting.

I showed up early (about 8 am), and exhausted after a long night of climbing the day prior, to help the MAC prep for the expected heavy turnout. After about 30 minutes of registration, heavy caffeination, and some fantastic free donuts and bread, we were ready to go.

Volunteers wait for mulch at the base of the cliff at Carderock during September's adopt-a-crag.
Volunteers wait for mulch at the base of the cliff at Carderock during September’s adopt-a-crag.

The event had enough attendees to split off into several project groups, and I was put in charge of taking a group out to brush the social trails in the area. If you don’t recall, social trails are unofficial access trails climbers and hikers stamp through the woods to get from A to B, instead of using the official trail. (These are NOT GOOD for the preservation of the area, so don’t do this!)

There were two groups of about 5-6 people each handling this task, so the whole project only took a little over an hour. We covered up practically every inch of social trail with almost more dead lumber than we knew what to do with, at one point wresting a heavy, dead log free with an axe and  a burly team shoulder-carry (that was the highlight of the day, I must admit).

Suddenly finding ourselves at a loss for something to do due owing to our unexpectedly ruthless efficiency, we all took turns rotating in with the wheelbarrow/mulching crew (I avoided graffiti removal due to inadequate clothing and a gross dislike of chemical burns). It’s about as straightforward as it sounds. You fill a wheelbarrow with mulch, wheel it to the cliff, and let the dumping crew send it over the side. For the record, only the mulch went over the cliff.

Eventually, I found myself with neither a branch nor a barrow in my hands, but a pitchfork….and standing atop a pile of mulch. Surprisingly, the pile didn’t seem to be any smaller than it had been when we started at 9 am. But after some good shuffling (and the return of several wheelbarrows from the base of the cliff), the steaming mulch when from zero to gone in about 15 minutes, with the help of a flurry of pitchforks (don’t worry, no one was hurt!).

Volunteers working hard shoveling mulch.
Volunteers working hard shoveling mulch.


When it was all gone, the time finally arrived to gorge ourselves (or at least myself), on grilled burgers and dogs courtesy of Earth Treks. Then there was the raffle, but unlike last year I didn’t win anything. Naturally I’ll be trying again at Great Falls on October 19.

All told, we had almost eighty volunteers show up to help keep Carderock clean and climbable. In a sold day’s work, we laid 53 cubic yards of mulch, cleaned up all of the social trails in the area, and removed some ugly graffiti that had been a blemish on the site since the winter.

And we can continue to keep Carderock up and running if we get this kind of support not just once a year, but every day we’re at the crag. But if you can only make it once a year, it really is a great way to spend a Saturday.

This post was written by Travis Senor, MAC Volunteer and Chesapeake and Ohio National Historical Park Carderock Canal Steward. 

To see more photos from the event, go to our Facebook page.