Monday, September 9, 2013

Week 12: August 1-5, 2013

Bluff City Supercrew!!

The crew hard at work on the bluff.
For the last week of the 2013 season, the Konnarock Crew went BIG: Big Project, Big Crew, and Big Fun!

First, the Big Project: the Bluff City Relocation near Pearisburg, VA is one of the most technical projects Konnarock has tackled in recent memory. In order to get the trail off of the road, it has to wrap around a rocky bluff on a steep slope.

It's a long way down to the houses below, so the crew working on the bluff wore climbing harnesses and clipped themselves and their tools onto a safety rope.

Handling the gas-powered rock drill is a two-person job!
Using a rock drill, sledgehammers, and every rock tool in the Konnarock arsenal, they removed enough rock to create a three-foot-wide tread along the bluff. All the pieces of rock that were removed had to be carefully carried away from the bluff using a griphoist highline system, lest they roll down the hill and damage the houses below.

Assistant Crew Leader Zack Finney (in white hardhat) is standing on the future A.T.
The rock protrudes from the bluff in vertical fins, so there are gaps between each place where the crew was able to carve out a trail. To bridge the gap, the crew constructed a mighty stone crib wall.

Crew Leader Bobby Berry, who led operations on the bluff, was really pleased with how well the work went!

Masters of rockwork with an impressive crib wall on the bluff. 
Next, the Big Crew: this week Crew 1 and Crew 2 joined forces to become one incredible SUPERCREW! Because of the technical nature of this work, ATC put a call out for the most experienced and skilled Konnarock alumni to help out on this special project. Those who could answered the call, and formed a big crew with even bigger talent! They were joined by several members of the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club and two Forest Service employees, including Dispersed Recreation Technician Jonathan Wheeler.

High-fives for a solid crib wall!
Back to the Big Project: there isn't enough room on the bluff for the entire Supercrew to work safely, so the rest of the crew focused on building trail from the Angels Rest trailhead back towards the bluff. This part of the project was optimistically called the "Sidehill Crew".

At the beginning of the week there was some sidehill trail to be dug, but the closer the crew got to the bluff the more bedrock began to get in the way. The "Sidehill Crew" wound up doing as much rock work as the Bluff Crew, albeit without the ropes, cables, and super-steep terrain.

A 14-foot-long crib wall built by the "Sidehill Crew".
This crew also found they needed to build several crib walls to support the trail in between hunks of bedrock.

There is an art to building a durable, stable (dare we say beautiful?) rock crib wall. It takes critical thinking, teamwork, and above all patience to figure out how to make a bunch of lumpy, weirdly-shaped rocks fit together like bricks. Fortunately, the Supercrew was up to the task!

Rifting a rock so it will fit into the foundation of a crib wall.

The typical A.T. thru-hiker hustling into Pearisburg might be too busy thinking about what to get at Dairy Queen to notice these crib walls. But those who take the time to look will see the masterful work of Konnarock's best and brightest!

Now on to the Big Fun! When the rock-busting and wall-building was over, the crew had a great time back at camp around the campfire...but the highlight of the week for everyone was the Corn Boil.

Konnarock Crew members digging in at the Corn Boil!
This relocation is on the section of the AT maintained by the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club (RATC), and the club showed their appreciation by inviting the crew to their biggest social event of the year, the Corn Boil. More than just corn, this festive potluck featured a smorgasbord of home-cooked delicacies and a great chance to meet the club members who care for the trail year-round! 

The Big Fun wasn't over when the crew headed back to Base Camp, but you'll have to stay tuned for the next blog post to hear about the End-Of-Season Party and the heroes who stuck around to help clean up Base Camp. Suffice it to say, a Supercrew week at Bluff City was a festive and productive way to wrap up a great season of hard work and good times on the Konnarock Crew. 

A fantastic spread at the Corn Boil.
Thank you to everyone--the volunteers, staff, club members, and agency partners who helped make the 2013 Konnarock Crew season such a success!

Relaxing at camp after a good day's work.

The bluff worksite, ready for next year's crew.

When you need to move a lot of rocks, it's smart to work in a team!

It goes without saying that Crumbsnatcher was a critical member of this talented crew.
The folks who worked on the "Sidehill Crew" the last day, with some of the cribbing they built.

The entire Supercrew, in great spirits after the Corn Boil!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Week 11: July 25-29, 2013

Crew 1: New River Relocation

Crew 1 jumping for joy on Rice Field!
Drilling into the behemoth.
Crew 1 went back to Pearisburg, VA to help build the New River Relocation. This was the last of five weeks the Konnarock Crew devoted to this project in 2013, and the progress they've made is impressive. It's extra-impressive when you see all the big rocks they've been working around!

It's hard not to look cool with a rock drill...
It's like a puzzle! Except the pieces weigh hundreds of pounds and don't necessarily fit together...

This week they even carried in a rock drill and a generator to break a huge rock that was blocking the way of the new trail. Crew members drilled a row of holes into the rock, then used a small hammer to tap wedges into the holes.  Eventually, it broke!

While some crew members had fun with the power tools, others sank their picks and pulaskis into the ground in hopes of digging a smooth tread out of soil. Alas, there was not much soil to be found this week, and they wound up building the trail mostly out of rock.

Building trail across a rocky slope can be slow going, but it's also an interesting puzzle to solve. Crew 1 used all their skill, patience, and creativity to build a smooth and durable trail.

When done right, rock work like this will last a long time--maybe some of the younger crew members can show this impressive work to their grandchildren someday!

A perfect day on Rice Field!
The crew also enjoyed a hike up to Rice Field to take in the spectacular views of West Virginia. What a great way to wrap up this productive season on the New River Relocation!

A trail emerges from the rocks...

Break time!

A trail so nice you want to walk all over it...

The trailbuilding heroes of Crew 1!

Crew 2: Thunder Ridge Relocation

Due to an unplanned detour, the crew got to have lunch by the famous AT bridge over the James River!

Crew 2 took a drive up the Blue Ridge Parkway to help the Natural Bridge ATC with the Thunder Ridge Relocation in Virginia.
The Thunder Ridge project is a favorite among many volunteers. A short hike through a lush green forest brings you to the worksite, where the fluffy soil makes for easy digging...until you hit a rock! The huge boulders in this area are fun to walk by and climb on, but tricky to build a trail across. Not to be daunted, Crew 2 moved some BIG rocks and built steps to help the trail maneuver around even bigger rocks.
Stretching with a view
This project is also fun because it's in such an interesting area. The crew camped by a small spring-fed pond and drove a few miles on the Blue Ridge Parkway each day to get to the worksite, enjoying great views along the way. They visited Fallingwaters Cascade after work one day to clean up and cool off below a waterfall. They even visited Foamhenge, a full-size replica of Stonehenge made of foam!
Fallingwaters Cascade
Members of the Natural Bridge Appalachian Trail Club (NBATC) came out to work with the crew each day, and two Forest Service employees lent a hand as well. Former Konnarock Crew Leader and NBATC member Max hosted a great thank-you dinner for the crew at his home.

Best of all, Konnarock has made so much progress on this relocation that they are over halfway to the endpoint near Thunder Hill Shelter! Next year's crew will have a shorter hike in coming from the shelter...and plenty of cool boulders to work around.

Rock cribbing to support the tread.

Crumbsnatcher breaking rocks.

No one minds having a view like this every morning!

Lovely new trail.
Crew 2 had to get a picture with the dinosaur in Glasgow, VA! It was created by the same artist who built Foamhenge.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Week 10: July 18-22, 2013

Crew 1: New River Relocation

Building a step around a large, embedded boulder.
Crew 1 headed north this week, to work on the ever-interesting New River Relocation. This ambitious 5-mile relocation will eventually move the AT off of private land near Pearisburg, VA, ensuring that it remains in a protected, wooded corridor in perpetuity.

Building a durable trail takes attention to detail!
Volunteers who have worked on this project in the past will be excited to hear how much progress Konnarock is making this year! This was the fourth of 5 weeks set aside to work on the New River Relo in 2013, and it is now less than half a mile from the end of the constructed trail to the beautiful views on Rice Field. Between the Konnarock Crew and Outdoor Club of Virginia Tech (OCVT), a staggering number of dedicated volunteers have helped to get this project so close to the top of the mountain!

An impressive amount of cribbing and crushed rock.
Peters Mountain does not make trail construction easy, though: the higher the crew gets on the mountain, the more rocks we find! Some crew members were surprised to find large rocks embedded in the ground where they tried to dig, while others began to build a trail across a field of medium-sized rocks. Crew Leaders Bobby Berry and Zack Finney helped the crew find creative ways to build a trail around and through these obstacles.
Relaxing on the banks of the New River.
The crew celebrated their hard work by heading down to the New River one night, for a chance to take a dip and eat dinner by the river. Crew 1 is heading back to New River for one more week: tune in here to see what they accomplish!

Dinner by the river--is this a meeting of the Clean Plate Club?

Crew 2: Rocky Fork Relocation

Climbing up to the work site from Flint Gap, on the NC/TN border.

Crew 2 tackled another big AT relocation: the Rocky Fork project. When completed, this relocation will move the trail off of an eroded former logging road that is frequently misused by ATVs. You can read about the conservation triumph that made the Rocky Fork Relocation possible  here!

Digging on the ridge!

The big event of the week was rounding the corner onto Snake Den Ridge. For the previous two weeks, the crew was digging on a steep slope in a tangle of rhododendrons. Completing the trail where it wraps around the corner and will follow the top of the ridge means easier digging and the cool mountain breezes that are only found on a ridgeline. The views will be great up here in the winter!

Volunteers from the Carolina Mountain Club's Friday crew came out one more time to help pull some mighty stumps with the griphoist and clear out the corridor along the ridge. They also treated the crew to a fabulous pizza dinner in Erwin!

This Slimy Salamander was carefully relocated.
The Rocky Fork area is a Temperate Rain Forest, which meant the crew had to get used to summer thunderstorms passing through. But it also meant they got to see mushrooms in every color of the rainbow, and an abundance of salamanders. Thanks for the memories, Rocky Fork! See you next year...
Jumping in the swimming hole at Rocky Fork!
Rounding the corner to the top of the ridge! Anyone who has worked on this project knows what a big milestone this is!

Trailside mushrooms.
A game of PELT back at camp.

Beautiful morning rays on the hike to the work site.

Way to go Crew 2!!