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Dirt Work: An Education in the Woods

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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 first encountered the national parks the way most of us do: on vacation. But after she graduated from college, broke and ready for a new challenge, she joined a Glacier National Park trail 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 first encountered the national parks the way most of us do: on vacation. But after she graduated from college, broke and ready for a new challenge, she joined a Glacier National Park trail crew as a seasonal “traildog” maintaining mountain trails for the millions of visitors Glacier draws every year. Byl first thought of the job as a paycheck, a summer diversion, a welcome break from “the real world” before going on to graduate school. She came to find out that work in the woods on a trail crew was more demanding, more rewarding—more real—than she ever imagined.   During her first season, Byl embraces the backbreaking difficulty of the work, learning how to clear trees, move boulders, and build stairs in the backcountry. Her first mentors are the colorful characters with whom she works—the packers, sawyers, and traildogs from all walks of life—along with the tools in her hands: axe, shovel, chainsaw, rock bar. As she invests herself deeply in new work, the mountains, rivers, animals, and weather become teachers as well. While Byl expected that her tenure at the parks would be temporary, she ends up turning this summer gig into a decades-long job, moving from Montana to Alaska, breaking expectations—including her own—that she would follow a “professional” career path.   Returning season after season, she eventually leads her own crews, mentoring other trail dogs along the way. In Dirt Work, Byl probes common assumptions about the division between mental and physical labor, “women’s work” and “men’s work,” white collars and blue collars. The supposedly simple work of digging holes, dropping trees, and blasting snowdrifts in fact offers her an education of the hands and the head, as well as membership in an utterly unique subculture. 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.    


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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 first encountered the national parks the way most of us do: on vacation. But after she graduated from college, broke and ready for a new challenge, she joined a Glacier National Park trail 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 first encountered the national parks the way most of us do: on vacation. But after she graduated from college, broke and ready for a new challenge, she joined a Glacier National Park trail crew as a seasonal “traildog” maintaining mountain trails for the millions of visitors Glacier draws every year. Byl first thought of the job as a paycheck, a summer diversion, a welcome break from “the real world” before going on to graduate school. She came to find out that work in the woods on a trail crew was more demanding, more rewarding—more real—than she ever imagined.   During her first season, Byl embraces the backbreaking difficulty of the work, learning how to clear trees, move boulders, and build stairs in the backcountry. Her first mentors are the colorful characters with whom she works—the packers, sawyers, and traildogs from all walks of life—along with the tools in her hands: axe, shovel, chainsaw, rock bar. As she invests herself deeply in new work, the mountains, rivers, animals, and weather become teachers as well. While Byl expected that her tenure at the parks would be temporary, she ends up turning this summer gig into a decades-long job, moving from Montana to Alaska, breaking expectations—including her own—that she would follow a “professional” career path.   Returning season after season, she eventually leads her own crews, mentoring other trail dogs along the way. In Dirt Work, Byl probes common assumptions about the division between mental and physical labor, “women’s work” and “men’s work,” white collars and blue collars. The supposedly simple work of digging holes, dropping trees, and blasting snowdrifts in fact offers her an education of the hands and the head, as well as membership in an utterly unique subculture. 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.    

30 review for Dirt Work: An Education in the Woods

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ridge Runner

    Contemplative and funny, bawdy and smart, lyrical and lovely, this book is one of a kind! As a traildog myself, I can honestly say I never imagined I would read a book about my particular subculture, especially not one that gets it so exactly right! From backcountry anecdotes from the collective canon to riffs on food, boots, weather, wildlife, and, of course, tools, it is all here. Byl captures perfectly the camaraderie, drudgery, and delight of life working in the wild mountains, on a crew, Contemplative and funny, bawdy and smart, lyrical and lovely, this book is one of a kind! As a traildog myself, I can honestly say I never imagined I would read a book about my particular subculture, especially not one that gets it so exactly right! From backcountry anecdotes from the collective canon to riffs on food, boots, weather, wildlife, and, of course, tools, it is all here. Byl captures perfectly the camaraderie, drudgery, and delight of life working in the wild mountains, on a crew, doing trailwork. The unusual and original structure of this fantastic book might feel foreign to some expecting a continuous linear narrative, but I find it perfectly captures the experience of learning to know and love a place, as well as balancing two (or more) worlds as part of a seasonal workforce. As entertaining as Byl’s storytelling is, this is no casual traipse through the lilies of the field. Dirt Work gets at the heart of what it takes to live an authentic life. Byl’s narrative is ripe with hard questions, real seeking, and refreshingly honest, clear-eyed thinking-- instead of tired platitudes-- about gender, labor, apprenticeship, self-sufficiency, wilderness, spiritual practice, and community. I loved it!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sabine

    Being in the woods with Christine and learning how those trails that I love so much, are made and maintained was very interesting. I loved to read how she got along with her mostly male coworkers and how life as a seasonal worker in general is. What I did not like was the writing style. It made it very hard for me to read for an extended period of time and not trying to skip a few paragraphs here and there (a thing that I normally not even consider).

  3. 4 out of 5

    Angela Risner

    I've often wondered how people end up choosing a life that embraces the outdoors. I grew up loving the outdoors then slowly became more of an indoor person as my education and career kept me locked up inside. It never would have entered my mind to look for a job in a state park. Now, twenty years later as I face trying to finally figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life, I wish I had. Christine Byl and her eventual husband, Gabe, took jobs with the National Park Service in Glacier I've often wondered how people end up choosing a life that embraces the outdoors. I grew up loving the outdoors then slowly became more of an indoor person as my education and career kept me locked up inside. It never would have entered my mind to look for a job in a state park. Now, twenty years later as I face trying to finally figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life, I wish I had. Christine Byl and her eventual husband, Gabe, took jobs with the National Park Service in Glacier National Park. The job is a tough one - and one I didn't even know existed - as it involves clearing and maintaining the trails that millions of visitors use every year. Building steps into the terrain? They do that. Fixing natural bridges? They do that. Many will think that this is a woman in a man's world. Men still dominate the profession, but more and more women are choosing to take on these seasonal jobs. The schedule is 8 days on, 6 days off. I would LOVE that! I wouldn't mind having my hiney handed to me for 8 days, knowing that I would soon have 6 off to recuperate and enjoy my surroundings. In time, Christine matriculates to the University of Alaska-Anchorage and takes an outdoors job up there as well. I loved how the book was organized and how she described each tool used in her job. It made it so accessible to those of us who don't know the difference between a bulldozer and a Bobcat. The machine kind of Bobcat. I know what the animal one is. Completely enjoyable. Highly recommend.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Barb

    Ah, I really thought I would like this book -- sounded great. And then I read the intro -- the writing was terrific. I liked how Byl turned a phrase, told a story, talked about her work. So, who wrote the intro versus who wrote the remainder of the book? Will the real Christine Byl please stand up? The story itself is a disjointed mishmash of events, phrases, and quotes. You're reading about some event and then there is a quote that has nothing to do with anything. You get back into her week in Ah, I really thought I would like this book -- sounded great. And then I read the intro -- the writing was terrific. I liked how Byl turned a phrase, told a story, talked about her work. So, who wrote the intro versus who wrote the remainder of the book? Will the real Christine Byl please stand up? The story itself is a disjointed mishmash of events, phrases, and quotes. You're reading about some event and then there is a quote that has nothing to do with anything. You get back into her week in the woods on a job and suddenly she's talking about something completely unrelated. In short, a disappointment. Glad I borrowed it from the e-library and didn't pay kindle fees.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Melody

    Such a lovely book. Byl is the real deal, make no mistake about it. She worked trail for 16 seasons, some of it interspersed with getting her Masters. She's a helluva writer, by turns lyrical and profane. At the beginning, I thought how much I'd love to do this sort of work. By the end, I'd acknowledged that I'm too old to start, but I can admire from a distance. Wildlife, clueless tourists, clueless government, hard damn work and interesting people- it's all here, plus the aurora. Highly Such a lovely book. Byl is the real deal, make no mistake about it. She worked trail for 16 seasons, some of it interspersed with getting her Masters. She's a helluva writer, by turns lyrical and profane. At the beginning, I thought how much I'd love to do this sort of work. By the end, I'd acknowledged that I'm too old to start, but I can admire from a distance. Wildlife, clueless tourists, clueless government, hard damn work and interesting people- it's all here, plus the aurora. Highly recommended.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Hannah Notess

    She thought she was going to become a philosophy professor. Instead, she made a life out of really, really hard physical labor and wrote about it I got to live vicariously through it because let's be honest I am just not that tough. I liked her meditations on the act of physical labor, the tools she uses, and what it's like to be a woman doing a so-called "man's" job. It did not make Alaska sound appealing (sorry!) but I did want to check out Glacier, for sure. Someday...

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mary Beth

    Byl captured the in-between of blunt, honest vernacular and sentimental prose where trail work lives. Her words mirror her seemingly dichotomous life, only to show that they overlap far more than expected, that contradictions coexist, and that maybe (echoing Byl's words) they can be the same thing. A great read for anyone who smiles at the dirt under their fingernails. For any woman who aspires to be what she creates, especially through uncertainty.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I received an ARC courtesy of Edelweiss and the publisher. Dirt Work is Christine Byl's frenetic homage to the experience of labor and nature. While the narrative of her years as a trail dog in Glacier National Park and Alaska often changes subjects rapidly, it also perfectly captures the swagger and pride of a young woman hard at work. I remember my own short-lived days on the construction site, bristling at the ongoing hammering lessons despite far outpacing my older male volunteers. Byl is a I received an ARC courtesy of Edelweiss and the publisher. Dirt Work is Christine Byl's frenetic homage to the experience of labor and nature. While the narrative of her years as a trail dog in Glacier National Park and Alaska often changes subjects rapidly, it also perfectly captures the swagger and pride of a young woman hard at work. I remember my own short-lived days on the construction site, bristling at the ongoing hammering lessons despite far outpacing my older male volunteers. Byl is a kindred soul, expounding on the empowering feeling of building muscles, hauling one's weight in materials, and desperately trying to prove oneself all while falling in love with the force and impact of seeing physical work come to fruition. Her contemplative reflections on the satisfaction of work give this book depth, looking beyond just the work itself to examine how such labor connects us to the world. She implores the reader to revel in the beauty of the physical world - be it the callouses on your hands or the changing seasons. It's a chaotic, somewhat unfocused memoir, but one that resonates with its earnest authenticity.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Madeline Mullen

    I was eager to read this book since I worked as a seasonal fire lookout, field ecologist and forest fire fighter during college and grad school. I wanted to see if it was presented the way I remember seasonal work, and it seemed true to life. I like the way the author started chapters by describing various tools. The differences between the Park Service and Forest Service were very interesting. I wondered how the author would portray the reality that is often left out of such romantic I was eager to read this book since I worked as a seasonal fire lookout, field ecologist and forest fire fighter during college and grad school. I wanted to see if it was presented the way I remember seasonal work, and it seemed true to life. I like the way the author started chapters by describing various tools. The differences between the Park Service and Forest Service were very interesting. I wondered how the author would portray the reality that is often left out of such romantic recollections. For the folks who embrace life as seasonal workers, the stark reality includes four months of hard work and a life of poverty. There is no health insurance, eight or nine months a year of unemployment benefits and food stamps, high rates of alcoholism, and other difficulties. She mentioned the appeal of a job with health insurance and the cost of two hernia surgeries. Perhaps the surgeries were covered by workman's comp. I never saw seasonal work as a way of life because of the grim reality of poverty. I felt especially sorry for those seasonal workers who had kids. Some of the appeal of this book was it provided insight into a different point of view. I enjoyed it.

  10. 4 out of 5

    PJ

    I am tempted to run through a thread of adjectives describing how much I enjoyed this book, but I'll settle for "wonderful". Reading it was a wonderful experience. As a fan and frequent visitor to many National Parks ( including Glacier, which is featured here ) it was a real joy to read about the "behind the scenes" life of a TrailDog. A true slice of life. Obviously written by a woman who has lived and experienced the true outdoor life, a woman who has found love and appreciation among the I am tempted to run through a thread of adjectives describing how much I enjoyed this book, but I'll settle for "wonderful". Reading it was a wonderful experience. As a fan and frequent visitor to many National Parks ( including Glacier, which is featured here ) it was a real joy to read about the "behind the scenes" life of a TrailDog. A true slice of life. Obviously written by a woman who has lived and experienced the true outdoor life, a woman who has found love and appreciation among the trees and logging roads - this book grabbed me from the introduction and never let go. Any book that can describe the beauty of our National Parks back-country and the poetry in swinging an axe is an instant classic for me - and this book does just that. I strongly recommend this book - my only complaint was that I wish it were longer, I wish I could keep reading and enjoying the cadence and words of this author. If you have any kind of affinity for the outdoors, for our National Parks, then you won't regret a single second spent reading this title.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Hiskes

    Fresh out of college, Byl signs up for a summer on a Glacier National Park trail crew, imagining an outdoorsy jaunt before grad school. She falls in love with trail construction and spends the next 16 years on seasonal parks work in Glacier and Denali. The book is a riveting balance of stories and meditations on a life of physical work, which she finds no less rewarding, educating, or elevating than the academic life she had planned. It's unsettling, because it makes me want to follow her out Fresh out of college, Byl signs up for a summer on a Glacier National Park trail crew, imagining an outdoorsy jaunt before grad school. She falls in love with trail construction and spends the next 16 years on seasonal parks work in Glacier and Denali. The book is a riveting balance of stories and meditations on a life of physical work, which she finds no less rewarding, educating, or elevating than the academic life she had planned. It's unsettling, because it makes me want to follow her out for a job in the wilderness. It's also affirming, a testament that an attentive life can be lived anywhere. Funny, profound, piercing.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Katherine

    An intriguing, raw, and lyrically poetic book of Christine's life as a seasonal trail laborer in our National parks honoring our human journey of discovery and "dirt work" of the laborer. Publisher's Weekly says it better,"(It) blends beauty and crudeness, grit and grace… With language that is lyrical despite the earthiness of its subject, Byl turns the words of work into found poetry (“brake on, choke on, pull, pull, fire”), offering a bridge for readers to those “who would not speak like this An intriguing, raw, and lyrically poetic book of Christine's life as a seasonal trail laborer in our National parks honoring our human journey of discovery and "dirt work" of the laborer. Publisher's Weekly says it better,"(It) blends beauty and crudeness, grit and grace… With language that is lyrical despite the earthiness of its subject, Byl turns the words of work into found poetry (“brake on, choke on, pull, pull, fire”), offering a bridge for readers to those “who would not speak like this themselves”—a beautiful memoir of muscle and metal.” One of my best reads in recent years!

  13. 5 out of 5

    John Kaufmann

    Good book. As the parent of someone who has become a traildog over the last several years, I had to read this book when I saw it. We hear a lot of stories from my daughter about life on the trail, but I'm sure we don't hear it all - I know she spares us some of the more dangerous or wilder stories so we don't worry. This book gave a glimpse of the "other side" that we don't hear about, as well as the daily grind. In addition, the author, Christine Byl, was a philosophy major, and you can see her Good book. As the parent of someone who has become a traildog over the last several years, I had to read this book when I saw it. We hear a lot of stories from my daughter about life on the trail, but I'm sure we don't hear it all - I know she spares us some of the more dangerous or wilder stories so we don't worry. This book gave a glimpse of the "other side" that we don't hear about, as well as the daily grind. In addition, the author, Christine Byl, was a philosophy major, and you can see her reflective bent somewhat in these pages. An enjoyable read.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Debbie

    I had a hard time thinking at all while I was reading. It was like my brain went numb.The Intro was well writen and interesting enough but then, the rest. I couldnt take it. I had to just stop trying to finish it after 1/3 of the way through. It explains mostly details of the job but does not tell a good story. It jumps all around. Some parts interesting then others sooo boring. Actually started to dread picking it up to read, like it was work. I have only not finished one other book in my I had a hard time thinking at all while I was reading. It was like my brain went numb.The Intro was well writen and interesting enough but then, the rest. I couldnt take it. I had to just stop trying to finish it after 1/3 of the way through. It explains mostly details of the job but does not tell a good story. It jumps all around. Some parts interesting then others sooo boring. Actually started to dread picking it up to read, like it was work. I have only not finished one other book in my time.I guess I was expecting more after reading the jacket and intro.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Djamila

    I was so disappointed in this book. I thought it was going to be similar to Wild (a great book everyone should read) but it really felt like a job description and some key terms for a test and not like a story or memoir.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kevin R

    I picked this book up a couple of years ago after an author traveling through town mentioned it to me. Several years ago I did a summer stent as a Teacher/Ranger/Teacher with the National Park Service and wrote about the experience each week for a local paper. In one of my articles I talked about all the people that most visitors don't see, the behind the scenes laborers; weed abatement crews, trash collectors, archeologist and paleontologist doing studies, and the trail builders. Told with I picked this book up a couple of years ago after an author traveling through town mentioned it to me. Several years ago I did a summer stent as a Teacher/Ranger/Teacher with the National Park Service and wrote about the experience each week for a local paper. In one of my articles I talked about all the people that most visitors don't see, the behind the scenes laborers; weed abatement crews, trash collectors, archeologist and paleontologist doing studies, and the trail builders. Told with humor and insight, this book gives a great inside view of what these unsung heroes do. Christine Byl recounts her 16 seasons of work building trails, her appreciation of the people she worked with, the work she did, and the tools she did it with. For now on, every time I go to dig in my garden I will have a new appreciation for that simple yet sublime tool, the shovel. I loved meeting and following the antics of her fellow "traildogs." Throughout the book, she discusses views on nature and its importance. As an aging hiker that had dreams of hiking in far away lands and more miles underfoot than I have had, the following passage hit home with me: "Bounty can be paralyzing, the awful clench of how to choose and I'll never get it all. The Tao Te Ching says, "There is no calamity like not knowing what is enough," and so I'm slowly learning to note what I need, to be satisfied with what there is time for, not cowed by what I miss." I read an article about traildogs in a National Park magazine once and I dreamed of joining their secret society. After reading Dirt Work: An Education in the Woods, even though there was humor, camaraderie and satisfaction of not only learned skills but of job completion, I don't know if I ever could have joined this club-It was just too much HARD work! But I'm thankful to Christine Byl for doing it and sharing her experience with me.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

    A unique memoir of a woman who fell into the role of "traildog" as a summer job to do before finding what others would coin as a real job, Byl relays nearly two decades working with her hands in the great outdoors. It is at times an empowering testament for other women but it does not sugar coat the sweat, the pain, and the arduousness of the actual labor involved for such a career. Byl writes of years of indoctrination within Glacier National Park and then relays a move to Alaska, initially for A unique memoir of a woman who fell into the role of "traildog" as a summer job to do before finding what others would coin as a real job, Byl relays nearly two decades working with her hands in the great outdoors. It is at times an empowering testament for other women but it does not sugar coat the sweat, the pain, and the arduousness of the actual labor involved for such a career. Byl writes of years of indoctrination within Glacier National Park and then relays a move to Alaska, initially for graduate level studies during the scholastic year and more dirt work in the summer. Alaska has subsequently been her home with her husband ever since. As one who enjoys the outdoors as well, I thought her lyrical prose regarding nature and its wildness to be both beautiful yet respectful. There is an appreciation for using one's hands but also for admiring the surrounding view. However I have never performed any of the work she describes other than ordinary yard chores growing up so I appreciated the depictions of tools used and what some of an actual traildog career would entail. Byl's background in philosophy shines through in this work but it never feels forced and I enjoyed how she occasionally interwove smatterings of poetry and other authors' work. All in all, quite an enjoyable vicarious romp through nature. PS I absolutely loved the quote she attributed to a co-worker: "Duct tape can get you through times without money a lot better than money can get you through times without duct tape". True that.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Tina

    This book is very poetic, sometimes beautifully written. There are lots of little breaks within the chapters which made it flow nicely and feel quick. I can tell she has a philosophy degree. Descriptions of the tools start each chapter but sometimes feel a little clunky. I do like how she weaves the tool into the following chapter. She also does a lot of listing, mainly of places. Since she doesn't really follow a storyline - there is a very loose plot - the places she lists are meaningless to me. This book is very poetic, sometimes beautifully written. There are lots of little breaks within the chapters which made it flow nicely and feel quick. I can tell she has a philosophy degree. Descriptions of the tools start each chapter but sometimes feel a little clunky. I do like how she weaves the tool into the following chapter. She also does a lot of listing, mainly of places. Since she doesn't really follow a storyline - there is a very loose plot - the places she lists are meaningless to me. I skipped over those because they aren't relevant or meaningful to the story unless a reader is already familiar with the region. I wish there was more of a storyline where I could get to know her and the other people she meets. It feels like I'm watching from a distance - I lacked connection. Also - the whole point of their work is to build trails for visitors - tourists- without tourism she wouldn't have a job. So to sit there and mock tourists who are just there to love and appreciate nature (albeit maybe some are a little dim) is completely against the work she loves doing. Stop trying to be so damn tough and rugged (men and women) trust me, no one gives a sh*t. Overall, decent book. I would recommend it to someone who enjoys poetry or our philosophical ties to nature.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    Byl reveals her world to the reader without completely exposing it - there is a spoken barrier between layperson (you) and dirt worker (her). The invitation to cross that threshold is unspoken but present: she seems to write, if this calls to you, come find out the rest for yourself. At some point, Byl speaks of the interplay between MFA-taught verbiage and rougher backcountry slang. To me, this was evident in her writing choices, shifting from direct and rudimentary jabs to broadly stroked, Byl reveals her world to the reader without completely exposing it - there is a spoken barrier between layperson (you) and dirt worker (her). The invitation to cross that threshold is unspoken but present: she seems to write, if this calls to you, come find out the rest for yourself. At some point, Byl speaks of the interplay between MFA-taught verbiage and rougher backcountry slang. To me, this was evident in her writing choices, shifting from direct and rudimentary jabs to broadly stroked, artistic passages. Where other readers found fault with these intermittent non-sequitur blocks, I found them enriching to Byl's story and wouldn't have had the book without them.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jacquie

    As a seasonal field worker myself for various state and federal agencies I found there was much I could relate to. As a woman, you are in the minority and it can feel that you are walking an uphill battle constantly asserting yourself to prove your value. Over time though, your comfort and skill grows, as Byl found, and while you still must work hard your confidence in yourself establishes you as a leader. I related more to her story than her writing and found the second half of the book much As a seasonal field worker myself for various state and federal agencies I found there was much I could relate to. As a woman, you are in the minority and it can feel that you are walking an uphill battle constantly asserting yourself to prove your value. Over time though, your comfort and skill grows, as Byl found, and while you still must work hard your confidence in yourself establishes you as a leader. I related more to her story than her writing and found the second half of the book much better written than the first. Worth a peruse.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    An absolute treasure of a book. Delightfully written, precise, mesmerizing, poetic, bawdy. I hated to see the book end. Ms. Byl is a fabulous writer, who focuses on life on the trails, with all of its accompanying terminology, antics, animals, anxieties, and wonder. She clearly has a lot to say on other subjects -- the politics of the park service, marriage, feminism -- but she keeps focus on her topic and brings the reader into a fascinating, dangerous, lovely world. I've already recommended An absolute treasure of a book. Delightfully written, precise, mesmerizing, poetic, bawdy. I hated to see the book end. Ms. Byl is a fabulous writer, who focuses on life on the trails, with all of its accompanying terminology, antics, animals, anxieties, and wonder. She clearly has a lot to say on other subjects -- the politics of the park service, marriage, feminism -- but she keeps focus on her topic and brings the reader into a fascinating, dangerous, lovely world. I've already recommended this book to so many friends -- just adored it.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    OK, I get it. All tourists are redneck assholes or ignorant Asian people getting in the way of the trail workers oneness with the backcountry. The author is clearly better and above the people that wear the wrong shoes, tote the wrong gear and are unable to give up their lives for a real and meaningful job with the park service. Imagine us regular folk visiting the park and trying to reconnect with nature! We are fakes! Such a condescending narrative..I didn't even finish it.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Fellows

    I can’t stand that this was such a difficult read. I didn’t want to give up on it because there were moments of enjoyment. Unfortunately there was so very much dry and useless writing which seemed as if the author was attempting to justify her education. Yes she isn’t too good for dirt work but in her novel about her time on the job she will not hesitate to spend a paragraph listing synonyms for random words. I found her time in Alaska to more interesting than she covered.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Owen

    Interesting but not great. Details about some of her work but not great stories. A look at the skills of dirt-labor. Dealing with the notions that some might think this type of work is for male, whereas woman can certainly do this work. The stereotypes National Park visitors have of these workers. So, interesting, but I never felt the need to rush back to the book to read more.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Leah

    A slow, lyrical read. Beautiful meditations on the woods, work and life. Reads like long form poetry. "An authentic life will be built, at least in part, of ordinary verbs: wake, plant, dig, mend, walk, lift, listen, season, note, bake, chop, store, stack, harvest, give, stretch, measure, wash, help, haul, sleep."

  26. 4 out of 5

    Danielle

    I enjoy the stories, but a lot of unneeded vocab. Feels like an 8th grader going through a thesaurus. Also are the chapters tools supposed to be linked metaphorically? I do understand what it's like as a female in a male dominated work field but she tries so hard to show it through the pages. In all reality I think it was okay though.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    2018 has started off pretty strong in terms of above-average reads. I'll admit a personal affinity for the subject matter, but this book was still a particular highlight. There's some wonderful writing interwoven in her narratives of life at Glacier National Park and in Alaska.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Maisie

    3.5 Honest. While parts of the book are pretty choppy, overall it made me laugh. It's also refreshing to hear from someone in a physical labor job who is honest about her situation, her trials and achievements and pretty self-aware.

  29. 5 out of 5

    George Hossfeld

    Christine- You are a fine architect of words, as well as dirt! “The Zen of outdoor, manual labor, in the wilds of Montana and Alaska”. A mix of philosophy, love of nature and the joy of a job well done. A fine writer who turns a phrase as well as she can handle a chain saw!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Niniane Wang

    Half essay and 1/2 autobiography, it started off promising but then degenerated into a mishmash of instructions on how to use tools, musings about how people become Rangers, and autobiographical details

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