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Trails in transformation

An audio journey

Jamie Hinrichs
Pacific Southwest Region
September 11, 2023

Two people sitting on a forest hillside looking up the mountain. One person is pointing at something off camera.
California Conservation Corps crew member Louie de los Reyes and Inyo National Forest staff member Natalia Muglia use a chain and winch to move a boulder to restabilize a portion of the John Muir Trail within the Inyo National Forest August 17, 2022. The repair project was made possible with funding from the Great American Outdoors Act. (USDA Forest Service photo by Jamie Hinrichs)

*Listen to the audio documentary.

Where can we go to be transformed? A change of scenery and a change of pace can help. And we can find both on backcountry trails within national forests.

On a cloudy summer day, a backcountry trail crew was hard at work on one such trail, the JMT, which is shorthand for the John Muir Trail. Through 200 miles of the Sierra Nevada mountains in California, the JMT meanders mostly within wilderness areas and often follows the same route as the longer Pacific Crest Trail.

A person using a shovel to fill a bag with dirt.
California Conservation Corp crew member Adria Burneio shovels soil into a bag to backfill a check step – a rock or timber step placed in or across the trail to slow water flow and prevent erosion – on the John Muir Trail within the Inyo National Forest August 17, 2022. (USDA Forest Service photo by Jamie Hinrichs)

At work on this section of the trail, on the Inyo National Forest, were a few U.S. Forest Service employees, but mostly a crew from the California Conservation Corps – the oldest and longest running state conservation Corps in the country. The crews remaining in the wilderness for five and a half months with a backcountry cook and resupply support from Forest Service pack stock.

To encounter the rhythm of a cross saw, discover how to bake a vegan chocolate cake in the backcountry, and enter the soundscape of transformative trail work on the Inyo National Forest, listen to the audio documentary.

A person holding a cake he baked in the wilderness.
California Conservation Corps camp cook Alan Young shares a vegan chocolate cake he baked for the crew in backcountry using propane ovens brought in by the Region Five Pack Stock Center of Excellence program. Every week for five months, Forest Service mule teams bring food, supplies, propane into their camp to support the crew. August 2022. (USDA Forest Service photo by Jamie Hinrichs)