Smack in the middle of the trail tread. The path split to the left. To the right. A bundle of five rocks asserting dominance of the right of way. It was annoying. Sure, the continuation of traveling around was optional but wouldn’t it be easier to simply remove the offending structure?
By now, I’d already been nearly beaten by a seemingly small rock 100 yards north on the trail. Her removal required the follow-up construction of a water drain to hide the hole. I should have known – one rock really equals lots of accompanying rocks that the Pulaski strikes, bounces and ultimately requires I bend down to remove a mass considerably older than myself.
Still – I had to remove the mineral growth. It was taunting me. It was unfinished business in a trail tread where we had made numerous accomplishments.
Reaching the site, I walked all sides. Walked below – looked up the pathway. Walked above – looked down the pathway. It was a good decision. Soon, an difficulty for hikers and stock would be gone. None knowing there had existed an obstruction.
Easily I tapped each of the rocks with the Pulaski searching for an opening to guide a release. None came. More assertive strikes for dirt were initially unsuccessful before reaching bottom of an edge. Using the handle, I firmly pushed downward as the hoe end pushed upward to release a moveable, though still heavy, round glob of solid rock. I push rolled it to the side of the trail.
Back to work I walked around still striking for my next removal. Found good purchase. Sat on my butt and pushed an upper edge with straight legs for just enough space that released a dirty grip. Again, I push rolled the glob of solid rock to the side of the trail.
Downhill rock, by now, looked a little intimidating. I began to wonder if my choice a good one. Standing I swing again, and again, and again. With my fingernails, I dug looking for a bottom edge. With the axe end I cut between a sliver of dirt holding the nearby rock tight. I frantically began digging and pushing, nearly stressing. What if I had to leave behind a hole with a half-buried rock?
A “smaller” rock was still upslope and with all the movement maybe it would release. Persistence, good swing strokes, one good foot kick and she was unwedged and with a small, nearly stifled laugh I push rolled her to the side of the trail.
Still … two to go.
Back to the problem. Dig a little. Poke a little. Rock a little. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. When she finally unveiled herself fully to me I realized she was a hernia rock. Congratulating her for her size I laid back and rested. Catching my breath; attempting to bring extra oxygen to my 10,000-foot elevation deprived arms.
One of my crew arrived and asked if I needed medical attention and knowing all was well, generally, continued. By the way, he mentioned the hole I was creating in the trail and if I was going after that one pointy structure still protruding from the dirt. I was. It was an obstacle.
Know now. This rock was fully fortified with wedge rocks. Protective layers that would keep her in place for generations to come. Too bad there was no notation on her topmost exposure of this small factoid.
After awhile I grew tired and a bit frustrated. The effort looked messy and no doubt was going to take me the rest of the day. And then … well …
Mark, another crew member walked past anxious for a break and lunch. He also had the big boy Pulaski.
It took another 20-minutes of digging, of kicking, of shoving, of assuaging. We’d excavated nearly 1 ½ feet and still couldn’t feel bottom. A few moments and we removed a handful of mid sized rocks that finally gave a holey space that continued downward.
She was free. A pointy top on a two-foot-deep, a large obstruction.
The hole was immense.
It was laughable.
Grabbing stones and rocks from the trail edge it was desperate grabs to fill a gargantuan hole that no foot or hoof could ever be permitted. The small rocks we had so aptly removed were being tossed back in like a mistake had been made with their prior removal.
Finally, dirt was pulled from edges. Segments were stepped on, stomped on, tamped on.
Not exactly a level tread way … but, no million-year-old obstruction.