There is nothing a smile cannot do.

Xterra Trail Restoration at Cheyenne Mountain State Park

Under a drizzle poised to become a hurricane, I pulled in to a small spot in the Meadows Group Campsite, finishing off an hour-and-a-half-long drive but knowing the adventure was just beginning. The forecast predicted rain, but I disagreed. This weekend would be much more. I could feel it as I was pitching my tent. It was that uplifting sort of feeling you get when you are sure you have no idea how to set up a tent, but you are just as sure that there are ten people around the corner excited to help you anyway. I was proven correct when a new face pulled into the site across the road, responded to my wave, and met me in the middle. She, Sarah, was just as excited for the weekend as I was, but even more excited about her gigantic eight-person tent, complete, or rather, incomplete, with a snapped bungee in one pole and some missing stakes. With enormous smiles on our faces, she patched up the wonky pole with orange electrical tape, I tied down the rain fly with surplus stakes, and we laughed together at the lopsided but proudly standing tent. It was this kind of unwavering positivity and companionship that filled the entire weekend.

That very afternoon, we learned the ways of the trail: how to refine the path to make it last longer, how to smooth out roots and rocks under the dirt, how to tell the difference between tools like a Pulaski and a Pickmatic. Did you know trails function best when slanted five degrees downward, or that a McLeod tool can be used to rake, hoe, and tamp down soil? Living in Colorado my entire life, I had always taken our thousands of miles of accessible trails for granted, completely unaware of the dedicated labor and intelligence poured into every inch. Very quickly, I was humbled by the weight of those Pulaskis, Pickmatics and McLeods, as well as the knowledge of the Cheyenne Mountain State Park volunteers we had with us every step of the way. Just like the leaders we strive to be, park volunteers Joyce, Warren and Jack were investing their time in making a greater world without expecting anything in return; it was amazing to see the difference their sweat and passion made for the Park, and it was even more amazing to be able to help on our own little section of the path. After all, that little path would get some heavy traffic the following day during the Spring Xterra Trail Run.

We rose with the sun at six A.M. and reported to the start, full of anticipation. The game plan was this: smile your biggest, cheer your loudest, and keep every racer on the right track. My station was responsible for congratulating each finisher with a medal over his or her neck, which we did with overwhelming eagerness (and a few shameless dance moves). Whether the racer was first in the 5k or last in the 24k race, every finish was celebrated like an accomplishment with blasting music and fresh orange slices. The atmosphere was infused with energy, excitement, and lots of sweat, but that’s what I liked best: that with CYL, every bit of hard work was rewarding and fun. Even trekking along the 5k course to collect trail markers was an opportunity for adventure, since we got to explore and laugh and, of course, discuss existential questions. We made it back just in time to see the final racer sprint under the finish arch with his walking sticks flashing behind him, concluding his 24 kilometers, and our weekend, with a bang.

The Xterra Trail Building Service Adventure took my breath away in every way possible. Over two too-short days, I came to know fifteen people as bright individuals, strong leaders, and close friends. I came to know one of our newest state parks as a quiet but magnificent force of nature; I came to know that tents come with instructions, and smoke comes with s’mores, and friends come with enthusiasm. Yet what I’ve seemed to remember most is this: while there is limited power in a Pickmatic, there is infinite power in positivity. As a Colorado Young Leader, trail building with Xterra proved to me there is nothing a smile cannot do.

Molly Cunningham

Colorado Young Leader

Arapahoe County Chapter