Going from freezing morning temperatures to an 80-degree bluebird afternoon is just part of the fun and excitement of an Idaho Trails Association project.

In early June, our ITA crew started the day at Meyers Cove with a thick layer of frost on our tents. By afternoon we’d hiked 16 miles down Camas Creek to the famed Middle Fork of the Salmon River and it was was a balmy 82 degrees.

We set up camp at the confluence to spend the week working the main trail along the Middle Fork in the middle of the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. The work was steady and satisfying. The temperatures were pure Goldilocks — not too hot, not too cold, just right — 80s days, high 40s nights.

Our crew of 10 dug and rebuilt tread, chopped brush and buffed up 7 miles of trail to a high standard for a mainline route. We didn’t even take the crosscut saw out of the sheath. That’s a rare occurrence in these days of massive windfalls but not so unexpected in the open country of the Middle Fork. We moved lots of dirt and rocks instead, doing what trail crews do, whatever is needed.

As the crew leader, I found a varying range of skills, ages and backgrounds among the participants, with one solid consistency — a great attitude about getting a lot done and sharing all aspects of the project. Folks shared both the chores in camp, helping out our great cook, and the tasks of the trail. We had good times around the camp and out exploring the area.

In my 10 years of leading ITA projects, starting with the first overnight project at Duck and Hum Lakes on the Payette National Forest in 2010, I’ve grown to expect challenges, surprises, tough spots and a lot of sweat. The people on the crews and the practical reality of seeing trail work happen with volunteers are the best parts of these projects.

I’m often the oldest person on the crew and I’m never the strongest. It doesn’t matter what volunteers bring — other than a good attitude and a keen interest to learn. We’ll teach you tools and skills. You get to do real work in some of the most beautiful places in the world. Join us.

John McCarthy, ITA advisory board and project leader

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