Bill was going off to Cloudbridge Reserve to volunteer for the first time.  I decided to go along, find out what job he had, and then hike around on my own.    Maybe I should have stuck to my original plan!  Tom, the director, showed us some projects the volunteers had, introduced us to a few, and mentioned a group of French Canadian students are arriving Saturday to help plant trees.  He asked if we would be interested in helping supervise these kids who were having trouble staying in school…..When Bill heard some may only speak French, he piped up that I speak it….uh, no.   Yes, he insisted, because twenty-three years ago when we landed in Luxembourg I called a hotel to ask for a room.  Inquiring about a room in French is completely different than carrying on a conversation about anything!

I decided to tag along with Tom, Bill, and three young volunteers from Australia, England, and the US.  Off we went back up that VERY steep main trail to the view of the waterfall.  The difficulty seemed so much more than a few days ago, maybe because I knew what it was like.  Fortunately, despite the three young ones cruising on ahead, wehad to wait part of the way up for Tom who had to do something before joining us.  By the time he did I had regained my breath.  He stayed to give us details on the primitive growth tree behind us being strangled by a fig.  Then we continued on, me plodding well back of the pack.  At the top where there’s another bench with a view of the waterfall we took another lung break.  Bill asked if the was the worst of the trail Tom had described as being rather strenuous.  During the pregnant pause I knew the answer was no.  Tom kindly said that was one of the steep ascents, smiling all the while.

After a bit of more gentle ups and downs with a stream crossing, Tom whispered there were some young pizotes up ahead.  Too bad they were shy.  All I got to see were their tails…  Then it was time to take a right onto another trail.  Oh, my….switchback after switchback to make the horrible climb easier.  My lungs hurt and my butt hurt even more.  During that one kilometer killer mountainside I kept thinking of my colleague who had recently summitted Mt. Kilimanjaro and became more and more in awe of her ability to do that.  In comparison my hike was child’s play.

When we finally arrived at the work location Tom modeled how to plant a tree since our job Saturday is to supervise the adolescents in smaller groups.  Then we were to stake out where the trees are to be planted.  Oh, my.  If only I were a mountain goat.  The steepness was killing my lower severely arthritic back.  Hiking was okay but working on she mountainside was not.  Of course, it didn’t help that Tom warned us to watch for poisonous snakes.  As I was trying to keep my balance on the slope covered with long cut weeds, I was thinking that if I saw a snake I wouldn’t be able to keep my balance while doing my snake dance to high tail it out of there.  So, with my back killing me I opted out of the task and sat down on a rock in a clear area to enjoy the view, both far and near.  Wimp.

Here are the real volunteers.