Blazing the trails
Park City’s Stacey Keahon, 26, always knew she wanted to be outdoors. From early in life, her favorite times were spent out in the sunshine, so when it came time to go to school, outdoor education was the obvious choice.
“I knew I wanted to be outside doing something,” she said. “I mean, whatever, like every kid thinks that, right? And then you get into the real world and you realize you have to actually try and make money. So it started as a general interest in doing something outdoors and then became the specific area of trail work.”
Keahon said as an avid mountain biker and backpacker, trail systems have always held an allure for her.
“It was being out on the trail and realizing, oh, wait, people actually work on these,” she said. “They don’t just appear. People have to actually maintain these, too, it’s not just a ‘set it and forget it’ thing. It seemed neat, like something I’d want to check out. And then I just stuck with it.”
Keahon said the season typically runs from May to early October. The crew — which includes five regular members and an intern who pitches in occasionally — heads out around 7 a.m. to whichever area they are focusing on that day. The work might entail cutting a new trail, or making repairs to an existing one. It might include trimming hanging branches, “whippers” that might catch a mountain biker or runner in the face as they go by. Lately, the crew has spent a lot of time cutting up and removing downed trees on the trails.
“Two or three of us have been hiking around with chainsaws just clearing trails,” Keahon said. “There were big storms, and I think we’re now up over 500 trees we’ve had to cut out of the trail. We’ve had our work cut out for us.”
Far from a chore, Keahon said hiking around with a saw cutting up trees is basically her perfect day.
“Crazy amounts of saw work, which is fine, because it’s my favorite thing to do,” she said. “When I was interning in Flagstaff (Arizona), we would do these thinning projects where they would mark trees and we would be out all day cutting them.”
Keahon said working all day with a small crew, it’s important they get along, and the Mountain Trails crew definitely does.
“It’s a great group of people, and we all take care of each other,” she said. “We’re close.”
Rick Fournier, who has served as the field manager overseeing the trails crew for the past 10 years, said Keahon is a big part of why the crew is so strong.
“I love having Stacey on the crew,” he said. “She’s got a great personality. She’s super enthusiastic. Our organization is really only as good as the individuals who comprise it, so I think that speaks for itself.
“Right now, the crew I’ve got is one of the best if not the best crew I’ve ever had.”
Working out on the trails doing hard, physical work takes a lot more than enthusiasm, though, and Fournier said Keahon more than holds her own.
“She does a great job with the saw work. She doesn’t get any special treatment, either,” he said. “I think she’s only the third woman I’ve ever had on the trails crew, too, which is great for us.”
Fournier said it’s good for Mountain Trails Foundation to have women on its trails crew, to have that diversity in the organization. He also said he appreciates that Keahon can serve as a role model for other young women who want to pursue careers in typically male-dominated fields.
“Stacey being here speaks volumes to other women out there who are interested in doing similar work,” he said.
Keahon said she isn’t sure what her future entails, whether it be staying in Park City or exploring somewhere new. But wherever she ends up, you’ll know to find her out on the trails.
“It’s hard work, and you feel like you really did something at the end of the day,” she said. “I love being a part of something that’s important to me. Plus, getting paid to go out and hike every day, that’s pretty awesome.”
For more information on the Mountain Trails Foundation visit http://www.MountainTrails.org.
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