Elderhostel Service Project, October 17 -24, 1998
George Williams College
Lake Geneva Campus, Wisconsin

The Elderhostel group was divided by special interests: 1) archiving and 2) trail work. This report is about the work outdoors - the work on the trail to Vision Hill. Rod and Betty Conser, Dick and Val Dunagan, Bob Chalmers, Jeanne DiLisio, Elsa Eickstedt, Jena Marie, Dick Loveland, Naomi Sherer, Dick Skochdopole, Jackie Ess, Gloria Rowe and Bill Whitcomb ploughed into the task of clearing the trail and the steep banks of Vision Hill.

Motherwort and garlic mustard were pulled without mercy by gloved hands and piled for burning. Loppers, saws and pruners attacked buckthorn and honeysuckle, which were dragged downhill (or up) and piled for the chipper crew whose noisy machinery made vocal communication for trail builders nearly impossible. Many Elders left the vicinity entirely. Birds also made themselves scarce as we discovered while on a birding hike while the chipper whined through the treetops.

The incredible amount of brush and groundcover removed is due to the desire of the Elderhostel crew to be doing something useful, vigorously, in the outdoors. To do something so visually noticeable was doubly rewarding. An extraordinary chemistry took over the entire group. The camradery that infected a group installing the poles along several hundred feet of trail close to a steep dropoff was a pleasure to see in action.

At first the chips had to be raked back to make way for a slight trench in which reclaimed cedar telephone poles were laid. The trenches were dug straight as far as possible then sharply angled to form straight lines that would accommodate the poles. The challenge was to get the poles up the hill to the construction spot.

Not only was the hill formidable but the poles were heavy and only very strong people could carry a five-foot length. We needed lengths much longer. The people, just days ago complete strangers, devised a method with ropes where pairs would lift and carry 8 foot lengths of 12-inch-diameter poles.

Like Egyptians hauling blocks up to the summit of a pyramid, these old folk grunted and joked as they hauled 210 feet of poles to the appointed trenches, albeit in 10 to 16 foot lengths. What a formidable crew they became! What synergism! What comradery! Often wise ones traded off to let another take their place, but while hefting, they did an awesome job. Sharing, cajoling, joking, cheering. Laughing and applauding.

Almost miraculously the heavy poles inched their way up the newly laid slab steps by the power of elders (and some younger who joined the challenge) hefting ropes in unison like some giant millepede inching its way to a preordained appointment with no doubt of successful conclusion. And it was done! A pole barrier had been placed between the bark lain on the path to Vision Hill and the precipice that threatened to claim the person who made the slightest misstep to certain disaster over a ten-foot drop.

The accomplished feat was almost an anticlimax. The triumph was in the raising. And what a triumph it was! No major motorized mechanism needed. Only determination and cooperation and acknowledgment erupted. Human response took care of the results.

The hope of those who worked is that the students who pass through will appreciate the natural world in which they have a most critical stake.

Naomi Sherer