Learn the lingo: Trailworker slang

You probably wouldn’t ask a ‘traildog’ to ‘sprinkle your donut.’

 

A trail crew member from the Arizona Conservation Corps maintains a path outside of Sedona, Arizona.
Brooke Warren/High Country News

hitch: A block of work usually lasting eight or nine days. During a hitch, crews will camp, eat and work together.

on hitch: To be on the job. “I won’t be able to hang on Saturday. I’ll be on hitch.”

crew: A group of people who live, work and hang together while on hitch. A crew usually consists of four to six members and one or two leaders.

rig: A motor vehicle.

rig-up: To load a rig with all gear, food, tools, people, etc., necessary for a hitch.

burrito: A pile of tools or gear wrapped in a tarp.

stretch and safety: A morning routine of exercise, stretching and safety discussion. Usually lasts 30 minutes. Abbreviated “S & S.”

PPE: Acronym for Personal Protective Equipment.

dime: A trailworker’s personal space, or a 10-foot radius around a person using a tool, also called a “blood bubble.”

backslope: The upslope side of a trail profile where a trail blends into the slope of the land it is built upon.

tread: The walking surface of a trail.

hinge: The point at which a trail’s backslope meets its tread.

outslope: A trail is outsloped when its tread has a slight downhill angle, encouraging water to flow off the trail.

bench: A complete trail profile consisting of backslope, hinge, tread and outslope.

critical edge: The downhill edge of a trail’s tread.

corridor: An area around a trail, extending 10 vertical feet above the tread and 3 feet on either side of the tread.

crush: Chunks of broken rock ranging in size but usually smaller than a tennis ball. Used as compacting backfill during rock work and structure construction. (2) verb. To turn rocks into smaller pieces of rock using a jackhammer. “I spent all afternoon crushing.” (3) verb. To add and compact said chunks of rock to a structure. “After you’ve set that rock, crush it in.”

babyhead: A rock roughly the size of an infant’s head. Used as fill in a variety of trail structures.

batter: In rock and timber work, the angle at which a structure leans into a hillside.

contact: In rock work, a point of connection between two set rocks. When set rocks are touching, they are said to “have contact.” The more surface area two rocks share, the better the contact. Contact is crucial to quality rock work, as it strengthens the structure against erosion and use. (2) A common word game among trailworkers.

cairn: A pile of rocks used to aid off-trail overland travel.

water bar: A trail drainage structure built from rock or timber, used to chute running water from a trail.

fell: To cut a tree down.

blowdown: Trees that have fallen or blown over into a trail corridor, obstructing passage.

duff: Dead organic matter such as needles and twigs that have fallen to the forest floor.

trail call: A call used when passing other trailworkers on the trail. “Trail!” (2) A call used to announce the presence of a trail user. “Hiker!” “Biker!”

percy: Short for personal. “Let’s store group food separate from percy snacks.”

latrine: A communal trench into which a crew poops over the course of a hitch. Usually about 8 inches wide, 12 inches deep and up to 6 feet long.

sprinkle the donut: To sprinkle a thin layer of soil onto a freshly produced pile of feces in a latrine. This minimizes the odor of the latrine and spares the next user from having to look at someone else’s poop. “There’s no need to fill in the entire latrine after one poop. Just sprinkle the donut.”

cathole: A small hole dug for a single bowel movement; usually about 8 inches deep.

danger day: The last day of work and a common day for injuries due to complacency and inattention. Also known as “asshole day.”

smell the barn: To begin to think about offhitch while still on hitch.

de-rig: To unload, clean, and reorganize all vehicles, gear, tools, etc., taken on a hitch.

offhitch: A block of time, usually four to six days, when a crew is off work; off days. “Do you have any plans for your offhitch?”

tool up: To gather and count all tools used throughout the work day. Usually performed at the end of the day before halting work and returning to camp.

traildog: A skilled, experienced trailworker.

Jacob Sax was born and raised in southern Nevada’s Mojave Desert. He has maintained and constructed trails on public lands throughout the Western United States since 2013.

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