Digging Retallack: The Longest Day

Words by Kona Ambassador Shae James, who is the first female ever invited to dig at Retallack Lodge during their annual building week with the Treelines Crew.

It’s always the last stretch of something that can feel like an eternity.

That last hour of work or the last bit of a long drive home. The more you look at the clock, the more it seems to have just stopped working altogether. Technically, the longest day of the year was weeks ago, but for me, it was the fourth, and final day of digging in Retallack BC. 

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Our crew had been crushing trail all week long. The days consisted of an exciting commute in a M1078 up a steep, and skinny logging road. Followed by a hike in, and 8 solid hours of digging. The combination of the Treelines Crew and the Retallack Dig Crew is made up of hard workers who keep each other moving. To be here, you have already passed the difficult test of proving you are worthy. So, the bar is kept as high as it was set. By the fourth day, everyone is feeling it. The fatigue is as heavy as the rain that rolls in. Swing. Pull. Swing. Pull. At this point, your pickaxe just feels like an extension of your arm. Dig. Pack. Dig. Pack. Your shovel becomes a welcomed relief from the repetition of the axe. Drag. Flick. Drag. Flick. You can finally switch to your less dominant side, and enjoy the instant satisfaction of creating order in the chaos with a rake. 

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We’ve covered so much ground. I can see the road just up in the distance. We’ve got to be getting close. I check my watch. It’s 11 am. Well, on the bright side, it’s only an hour until lunch. Keep digging.

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Keep digging.

Stop and wipe the tears of laughter. 

Keep digging.

Keep digging.

The sun comes out, and it’s lunchtime. We made it! The camaraderie really shines over sandwiches and canned beverages. My body is screaming, but I can’t stop laughing. The jokes, the dancing, the bad singing. The irony that this place is absolutely stunning, and we’ve all been staring at the ground for days. 

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With a second wind, we all go back to our posts and pick up our weapons. It’s 12:30 pm and the race is on. If 5 o’clock hits first, we’ll have failed our mission. If we get to the road first, glory is ours. We all seem to be on the same page of determination because no one says a word and grinds. Hours pass, but it’s only 1 pm.

The sky darkens. Experience has taught us to reach for our rain jackets again. As the last zipper goes up, the clouds open. But it’s thunder in the distance that catches our attention. The second clap tells us it’s headed our way. Lightning strikes the valley next to us. We drop our tools and hunker down. The sound of rain beating on our hoods intensifies the situation. I hold my breath and look nervously at the sky. The tops of the trees are like fingers reaching up, begging to be struck. Finally, time tells us that danger has skipped over us. My shovel looks different now. Like an old friend who betrayed my trust. I forgive it and move on.

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As we keep moving ahead, a river of brown trail is flowing behind us. The trees part and a corridor of greenery is all that is left. Just beyond that, is the gravel finish line we’ve been dreaming of. As the crew catches up to each other, one last push is the final nail in the week’s coffin. The stoke is immeasurable. The sense of accomplishment. But mostly, the pride. Not in ourselves, but in each other. Look what you did! That berm is amazing! That jump is rad! You crushed that benchwork! It wasn’t easy! You did it! High-five! Dance Party! Cheers! 

Celebration. Dinner. Speech! Speech! Laughter. Stories. It’s endless. The day is over, and I wouldn’t change a damn minute of it. It felt like the longest day of the year, but I wish it were longer.