Monday, July 1, 2019

Week 5: June 5-9, 2019

Crew 1: Battery Cliff Rehab


working with Old Dominion Appalachian Trail Club

click here for the full photo album



For week five, Crew 1 returned to Battery Cliffs to continue our rehab work on a heavily eroded section of trail. This week the highline made a reappearance, and all 70 of the rocks we flew downhill to a staging area last week, got flown uphill, to the work site this week.

Fighting gravity turned out to be quite a challenge, but we managed to do it all in a relatively short amount of time. We also got to do some building this week and put in some cribbing and a staircase despite the less than ideal weather. It ended up raining on us a good bit, so we had some leisurely mornings under the kitchen tarp, and then would head to work between 11:30 and noon most days when the rain eased up.

Even though most mornings were pretty rainy, some of the evenings after work were nice enough that we could enjoy a nice campfire and Jerry got the chance to grill hamburgers over the fire for the first time on project. On the last night, the club had an amazing chef come cook for us at our campsite which was a big hit. It was by far the best food I’ve ever had in the field and definitely put most of us into a food coma by the end of the meal.

It was yet another awesome week!

--Sarah Ellsworth, Assistant Crew Leader


Week 4: May 25-29, 2019

Crew 1: Battery Cliff Rehab


working with Old Dominion Appalachian Trail Club


click here
for the full photo album



On week four, Crew 1 set off for Battery Cliffs doing a rehab project in a section that has been really degraded by water. A lot of rockwork and drainage will be necessary to solve this problem.

This week we set up a highline which was incredible to see in action. We were like a machine moving rock and managed to fly over 70 huge rocks in just a day and a half. The teamwork with this crew was awesome which was definitely what allowed us to fly so much rock so fast.





We had an expert tree climber with us who helped us rig up the whole system on day 2 and once it was set up everybody was assigned a job to do. We all ended up liking what we were doing so much that we never really switched up positions so everybody ended up being a pro by the next day.



On day 4 to wrap up the week, the crew put in two rock water bars and a few steps to help control the water issue before we come back for week 5. The last day of the week was our drive day so we got to sleep in a bit before we hit the road.



In our off time this week we got to adventure some. On day 3 we went into Waynesboro for our mandatory weekly ice cream stop. Then on day 4 after work we went off to Sherando lake and swam around to clean off, some people even brought out some soap. It’s a beautiful lake that we will most definitely be returning to next week ( they even have hot showers there ). 


On the last day of the week on the drive back to basecamp we stopped at Dinosaur Kingdom 2 which was an incredibly enlightening experience. We learned the secret history of the civil war, saw plenty of prehistoric creatures, and entered a room that defied the laws of physics. We even got to chat with the creator of this surreal world for a bit. It was probably the strangest place any of us had ever been in our lives. You can’t leave Dinosaur Kingdom 2 the same person as when you go in.

Ultimately we couldn’t have asked for a better crew and it ended up being a great week full of
weird adventures and really good work.

--Sarah Ellsworth, Assistant Crew Leader


Week 4: May 25-29, 2019

Crew 2: Yellow Mountain Rehab

working with Nantahala Hiking Club

click here for the complete photo album

As the weeks press on and the trail begins its transformation I am constantly reminded of all the work leading up to the construction of the Appalachian Trail and how many wonderful people have impacted its winding path. 

On October 7th, 1923, the first section of trail from Bear Mountain to Arden, New York was opened and ever since a very special family has been building. Each week we get a new group of volunteers and the family grows larger, others return to visit and some you just can’t seem to get rid of! Our Camp Coordinator Janet always makes camp feel like home with her questionable humor and delicious food, here at Konnarock everyone is family. 

Our second week on the Yellow Mountain Rehab project was an absolute dream. Perfect weather all week, followed by an incredible Thai dinner with friends, set the bar high for the rest of the season. Regardless of a small our crew this week we were able to make great progress, it’s incredible how much can be accomplished with unity, tenacity and sweat. 

We first focused on finalizing a project from the previous week before moving down the hill to address a section of trail suffering from direct water flow and steep sections which could soon become too difficult to traverse. At the end of the week we walked away having completed several stone staircases, a large water bar, a crib wall, and a log staircase. 

Shout out to The Nantahala Hiking Club who accompanied us for a second consecutive week, none of this would be possible without the support from our hiking clubs! Next week will be our last week on the Yellow mountain rehab before moving on to Fontana Dam, come on out and join the family!



--Paul Sealy, Assistant Crew Leader


Week 3: May 17-21, 2019

Crew 2: Yellow Mountain Rehab


working with Nantahala Hiking Club

click here for the complete photo album

I’ve heard it said that time flies when you’re having fun, well it goes even faster on the Appalachian Trail. It seems just yesterday we set out from Sugar Grove Base camp and headed south to Deep Gap in the Nantahala National Forest with our lively group of volunteers hailing all the way from South Dakota.


After a delicious welcome dinner, orientation and a nights rest we set out for Deep Gap campground, assembled our shelters and hiked to the summit of Standing Indian Mountain to stretch our legs and take in the landscape. Bright and early the next morning, with muscles stretched and tools cached we dug into our first project of the week: a steep, slick hill riddled with gnarly birch roots.



 Using the Griphoist and rock nets we moved 400 pound rocks uphill to set in place as stairs and cribbing, gently nudging them into pre-dug holes with rock bars and pick mattocks. The Nantahala Hiking Club joined us in force as we manicured difficult sections of trail in the beautiful sunny spring weather.


Time slipped by around the campfire as we laughed and joked, telling each other riddles and making up silly nicknames trying not to let our marsh mellows burn. As the long week wound down we were treated to an awesome dinner by the Nantahala Hiking Club at a local Mexican restaurant before packing up to head back to base camp.



It was such an honor being able to spend a week working with these tough ladies, most of whom had never camped overnight before. Seeing the trail transform alongside them was an incredible and uplifting experience. Come on out and have some fun in the woods with Konnarock Trail Crew!

--Paul Sealy, Assistant Crew Leader

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Week 3: May 17-21, 2019

Crew 1: Wilburn Ridge Rehab


working with Mount Rogers Appalachian Trail Club and Hard Core volunteers

click here for the complete photo album


Week 3 of the Konnarock season has wrapped up with our group of super hardcore alumni volunteers accomplishing a crazy amount of work.

It was the week of Damascus Hard Core, when a group of hand-selected alumni volunteers had the opportunity to lead groups of current or previous thru-hikers in a number of rehab projects on Wilburn Ridge for two days. Hikers signed up for this opportunity during the Trail Days festival, and were provided with meals and transportation back to wherever they got off the Trail after their two days wrapped up. 




Over the first two days, before the thru-hikers came out, the crew got to work on one long, super degraded section where we had to build around and replace some existing structures. Within a day and a half, we managed to put in an impressive 40 rock steps.



Aside from amazing trail building, this crew was also equally skilled in the kitchen. Since we were returning to Base Camp every night, we were able to make big breakfasts every morning. I probably gained 10 lbs over the course of that week but it was well worth it.







On the third and fourth days of the week, the thru-hikers volunteered with us. We split up into groups of about two or three thru-hikers per Konnarock volunteer. It was awesome to meet so many different people from all walks of life and come together to form a giant crew. 








On the third night everybody got together and had a huge dinner together. Janet made about 6 tons of pulled pork which we all devoured at a beautiful campground in Grayson Highlands and just got to hang out and get to know each other. 

It was altogether a great week in a beautiful place with awesome people.

--Sarah Ellsworth, Assistant Crew Leader


Week 2: May 9-13, 2019

Crew 2: South of Sams Gap Rehab

working with Carolina Mountain Club

click here for the full photo album


“CREW 2!!”, “HELL YEA BROTHER!!”


Shouts ring out across the hall in unison as Josh Reynolds musters the crew chant, bringing an end to an incredible week on the Appalachian Trail.
This week we teamed up with Carolina Mountain Club and The University of Central Missouri to tackle a heavily worn section at Sams Gap along the Tennessee/North Carolina border. After travelling 20+ hours to arrive at base camp and several hours to the project, site our crew of university students and active duty military personnel was eager to get to work and completed log step installation on the very first day.




Resources for this site were abundant, with dead black locust looming above just waiting to be repurposed into tread for the A.T. Draw knives carved long swaths of bark, splitting wedges manicured large logs into perfect steps, and hammers pinged constantly making crush to stabilize our work. 

Even after 2 grueling days of rain with no chance of sunshine, morale stayed high, filling the woods with laughter and cheers of victory as trail transformed before our eyes. Saturday May 11th we stopped work early due to heavy rains and risk of hypothermia and decided to travel to Asheville NC to celebrate my birthday with fried chicken and ice-cream! Truly one of the best birthdays I have experienced so far, which is easy to say when the A.T. and fried chicken are combined after a long work week. 

The next day the crew hiked out to Hogback Ridge Shelter, digging drainage ditches along the way and getting the full A.T. experience (plus an actual toilet seat, in the privy!). Regardless of rain, fatigue, and sore muscles, laughter was constantly present. We were able to stay positive and productive and have a blast at the campsite, playing games like Werewolf and sharing stories.

Gourmet meals provided by our camp coordinator Janet were prepared in field by the crew, including chicken burritos, made-to-order omelets, and marsh mellows toasted over a camp stove. Carolina Mountain Club members spent two action-packed days working along side us to install logs steps, log cribbing, water bars and tread definition before treating us to an incredible lunch at Little Creek CafĂ© to cap off the week! 

Does the Appalachian trail beckon to you? Will you be the next to answer the call? Come join the Konnarock Trail Crew, preserving the AT one step at a time.

--Paul Sealy, Assistant Crew Leader



Week 2: May 9-13, 2019

Crew 1: Poor Mountain Relocation

working with Georgia Appalachian Trail Club


click here for the complete photo album

The second week of the season is done, and it was an amazing experience. Students from the University of Central Missouri (UCM) made the long trek to Virginia to help improve the Appalachian Trail.



The crew was half veterans, and half civilian students who came together to bond and work. Crew 1 headed down to Georgia to begin work on relocation of the trail at Poor Mountain near Hog Pen Gap. The purpose of the relocation is to move the trail to a more sustainable location.







On the first day we made the six hour drive to Georgia and hiked in tools to the worksite. On the way down we were able to stop at a rest area and pick up a copy of a newspaper with a horoscope section so we could learn what the week had in store for us. 







The next day we were expecting bad weather, but were pleasantly surprised by the nice sunny day we got to enjoy. An impressive amount of quality sidehill was dug in one afternoon, but unfortunately the weather was less kind to us for the rest of the week. The next day was rainy with scattered thunderstorms, so we thought it would be unsafe to head up to the worksite. Instead of heading up there, we went on a short, lovely hike down to a huge waterfall. 
Later that afternoon, the weather cleared up some and we were able to get some work done at a different site that was closer than the relocation. This section was steep and degraded, so we all had the opportunity to do some non-sidehill projects. Rock steps, rock waterbars, drainage dips, and log steps were all put in in the following two afternoons. Both of the next two mornings we were rained out, but we still managed accomplish so much.



On the final evening we were generously hosted by a member of the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club at his beautiful house along the Etowah River. The UCM students had the opportunity to float the section of river in inner tubes and canoes (the canoes somewhat less successfully by the end). 







After the float trip, a big dinner was served to all of us around a bonfire and the next morning an equally impressive breakfast was served before we hit the road. All in all, it was an amazing, fun, and super productive trip. We already can’t wait for next season's UCM group.


---Sarah Ellsworth, Assistant Crew Leader