Marcy Dam was my first tool pack-in, back in the summer of 2012. I was fresh out of finals week, the airless world of fluorescent screens and dim libraries, and wholly intoxicated by the smell of balsam fir, the sun glinting off Heart Lake, the entire summer before me. It was late May, but the morning was already warm.
Outside the Wiezel Trails Cabin, my fellow first-years and I practiced tying-on—the artful process of lashing a share of gear and tools to one’s pack-frame with parachute cord. I situated a box full of cans of tuna and pineapple on my frame’s shelf and pulled the cord tight across the cardboard, securing it with a clumsy half-hitch. Holding the frame steady with my knee, I looked at the massive pile of tools beside me and tried to envision how they could all fit onto this small rectangle of metal, which would then, somehow, be strapped to my body.
After a lot of swearing, shaking of the frame, untying, and retying, I recomposed the pile of tools from the ground onto the frame itself. Everything seemed secure enough. I sat down on the dirt and gravel and slipped my arms through the straps, fastening the clips at my chest and navel, pulling each strap tight against my torso. The whole process gave me the strange sensation that I had just locked myself into a prison cell. I took a deep breath, and, for a moment, strained forward in a comically unsuccessful attempt to lift the pack and stand up.
“Hey, uh…you guys? I might need some help over here.”
A more seasoned crewmember was already there. He grabbed either side of the frame and hoisted it straight up, allowing me to struggle to my feet. But when he let go, I staggered forward under the weight, my knees almost buckling.
That was the first step. I stood there and swayed for a moment, in disbelief. How could this clearly impossible task be a legitimate part of the job description? I resigned myself to pain and took another step.
Article by Dove Henry
For the full article pick up your March-April edition of the Adirondac available March 1. Members can view the magazine in their Members Area on the website. Non-members can purchase the magazine in our online shop.