On July 15, 2020, my AmeriCorps crew and I didn’t return to the area that we’d been working in for the past several days. Instead, we headed for a new location.
We parked our van at a small trailhead that was completely open to the sun. We got out, loaded ourselves up with tools, and then began hiking to our worksite.
The terrain here was markedly different from the hilly, brushy country we’d worked in before.
Our new location was relatively flat, and consisted almost entirely of open pastures. Fences bordered the trail at various points, some of them corralling cattle that were allowed to graze on segments of the City of Boulder’s public lands.
However, Boulder’s two constants were still with us: the looming Front Range and the intense sun.
We continued walking towards our worksite under this sun, which was already hot in the early hours of the morning.
At first our path was wide and flat – more of a dirt road than a trail – but then it became an uneven mess. Large rocks began to litter the trail, which in some places formed islands with washed-out trenches around them.
This is where we’d be working for the next two days.
Kait, our main City of Boulder contact, gave us our instructions. We were to widen the narrow portions of the jumbled track until they were at least three feet across, remove the large rocks, and flatten the trail.
This was a straightforward process – with one exception. Taking large rocks out of the trail often left holes, which we had to fill by making “crush.”
To make crush, we piled small rocks in a hole. We then took a hefty mallet called a “single jack” and pulverized the rocks until they were essentially gravel. Once our holes had solid, gravelly bases, we topped them off with dirt and stomped everything down.
While we widened and flattened the trail, one of our crew leaders, Nick, made up a whole film series about “Two McLeods Josh.” This is the nickname Kait had given me the day before, which Nick found hilarious.
Here’s the general storyline that Nick came up with:
- On a trip to the Brazilian Amazon, I was captured by a group of hand-hunters working for Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
- They cut off my hands, which somehow became surgically replaced by McLeods (trail tools that resemble rakes).
- Fueled by vengeance, I embark on a quest to recover my hands, killing people with my extra-sharp McLeod hands.
- Along the way, I learn that several world leaders are involved in a hand-smuggling ring. They have small, un-masculine hands (like Trump), and so steal other people’s hands.
The way Nick told the story was hilarious, and I had a hard time working through all the laughter.
Remarkably, I did manage to work, and as I did so I thought of archaeology.
Archaeology had become an important part of my life since I went to Belize in 2017, and I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be doing any field work during 2020. I therefore asked Kait if she knew of any archaeologists in Boulder.
To my astonishment, she replied that Boulder’s Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) department, whom we were working for, had an archaeology unit.
What’s more, Kait would see if any of OSMP’s archaeologists would be willing to speak with us.
This was fantastic news, and I ended the workday on an emotional high, since I was hopeful that I’d soon become re-acquainted with archaeology.