A lively and lyrical account of one woman's unlikely apprenticeship on a national-park trail crew and what she discovers about nature, gender, and the value of hard work

Christine Byl took a seasonal job with the National Park Service as a "trail dog" in Montana's Glacier National Park, maintaining trails for the millions of visitors it draws every year. This college graduate arrived with little experience or muscle, but she quickly learned how to clear trees, move boulders, and build stairs in the back country. In addition to the colorful characters with whom she worked, her primary tutors were the tools in her hands: the axes, shovels, and chainsaws. Byl expected that her tenure at the parks would be temporary, but she found the work more fulfilling than any job she'd ever had and worked her way up to lead her own trail crews and run a small business, mentoring other young trail dogs along the way. Dirt Work is a contemplative but unsentimental look at the pleasures of labor, the challenges of apprenticeship, and the way a place becomes a home.
Published: Beacon Press on
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