A volunteer crew of the Mount Shasta Trail Association, they give up part of their weekends to clear brush, chainsaw fallen trees, and build water diversions to curb trail erosion

The next time you’re out hiking in our region, maybe around Lake Siskiyou or up on the slopes of Mount Shasta, you might want to say a quiet thank you to John Harch and his crew of “crazy old men.” They’re the ones who give up part of their weekends to clear brush, chainsaw fallen trees, and build water diversions to curb trail erosion. They’re the volunteer crew of the Mount Shasta Trail Association, led by Harch, 62, a retired general surgeon.

He’s a man whose intense energy is leavened by a generous dollop of humor. “He’s got a magnetic personality,” adds trail volunteer Glenn Harvey, who’s 64. “He’s really good at getting people to come out and do all that hard work.”

Harch is also good at getting other organizations to come out and help with the trail work. At the Mount Shasta City Park in the spring of 2017 Harch and his “crazy old men” were joined by 20 volunteers from Wholesale Solar to spread chips on a trail. Harch and his Trail Association volunteers work with a local organization called Clean And Safe Mount Shasta to remove trash from abandoned transient camps and other litter dump sites in the region.

Last spring in Dunsmuir Harch led an effort to fix a portion of the river trail leading to the city park. Erosion had narrowed two portions of a trail carved out of a steep slope above the river, making it potentially dangerous for hikers. Harch’s crew, joined by several Dunsmuir residents, widened the trail at both locations and built rock steps at the steepest part, where it wound past the roots of a large tree.

Longtime trail crew member Mark Telegin, 70, takes pride in the work done that day, in what he calls “a beautiful blending of rock, roots and dirt.”

Volunteers like Telegin take their trail work seriously, spending a lot of time and thought in the placement of rocks for water diversions and steps so they’ll be there for years to come. Telegin himself has taken classes on trail maintenance by the Pacific Crest Trail Association in Ashland. He’s read manuals on the subject and gotten tips from park rangers at Castle Crags State Park, where he recently helped build a bridge over a small creek.

Telegin admits to being something of a trail fix fanatic, someone who can’t take a leisurely hike without at least picking up some litter or clearing some brush. He’s been a volunteer with the Trail Association since he retired as a railroad engineer eight years ago.

For big jobs, like the building of a new, 45-mile addition to the Gateway Trail on the lower slopes of Mount Shasta, the Trail Association uses contractors who come in with heavy equipment to carve out and clear hiking paths. But after that the volunteer crews are there year after year to make sure the trail stays clear, safe, and enjoyable to hike.

Looking to the future, Harch says, “I just want to remind folks that these ‘crazy old guys’ aren’t going to last forever, so if anyone is interested in joining our crew I encourage them to get in touch with me.” His email address is john@harchms.com.