Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Week 4: May 31-June 4

Crew 1: Big Butt Rehab with Nantahala Hiking Club


(Scroll down to read about Crew 2's week on the Rocky Fork Relocation!)


Week 4, Crew 1 headed down to North Carolina for the season's most hilariously-named project: Big Butt Rehab!

The name might make you chuckle, but Big Butt is no joke. Big Butt is a landform just north of Albert Mountain near the GA/NC border--an area famous among A.T. hikers for beautiful scenery and strenuous hiking.

Among the dedicated trail maintainers of the Nantahala Hiking Club, this section is famous for something else: challenging trail maintenance. The combination of thin soil, extremely steep terrain, and high traffic during wet spring weather brings about serious erosion and drainage problems.

Preparing the site for a turnpike.
Crew 1 built a number of stone and log steps and crib walls to support the tread, but the week's Big Project is pictured at right: a wet area where the bedrock is too close to the surface to dig a stable tread, and a constant seep of water prevents the trail from draining.

Konnarock to the Rescue! This project called for one of the most elaborate structures in the trail-builder's arsenal: a turnpike. Turnpikes elevate the hiker above a muddy area, but they are labor intensive.

So Crew Leaders Jerry Kyle and Davis Wax packed some serious power equipment: chainsaws to cut down timbers, and a rock drill so the crew could pin the logs to the bedrock. The crew also had to pack in a small generator to power the drill.

Drilling through a log to pin it to the bedrock with rebar
They built log frames for 32 feet of turnpike, with breaks for drains--then filled the frames with crushed rock. Where did they get all that gravel? Scavenged rocks, sledgehammers, and lots of sweat and muscle!

The Nantahala Hiking Club showed their appreciation by working alongside the crew and treating them to a special dinner. Konnarock volunteers enjoyed the opportunity to meet some of the heroes who maintain this beloved portion of the  A.T. year-round. 

Work stops to let hikers and their canine companion pass through.
Crew 1 did great work and had a lot of fun despite the muddy conditions. Many thanks to the awesome Konnarock volunteers who made this technical, challenging project a big success, and thanks to NHC and the Nantahala National Forest for their support!

For more photos from Konnarock Week 4, Crew 1, visit the photo album on ATC's flickr page.

Scroll past the group photo to read about Crew 2's awesome week at Rocky Fork!


Stretching out those tired muscles in camp.

No one goes hungry at Konnarock!

P.P.E.--Personal Protective Equipment

Multiweek volunteer Jason Clements packing the 50-lb generator...AND his day pack!

Way to go Crew 1!

Crew 2: Rocky Fork Relocation


Crew 2 also headed south to improve a seriously remote portion of the A.T.: the first of 5 crew weeks this year on the Rocky Fork Relocation!

Roughing in new trail
This roughly 3.1 mile relocation of the A.T. is located between Flint Gap and Shelton Graves near the ridgeline border of TN and NC. By Trail, it's about 40 miles south of Erwin, TN.

The relocation will move the Trail off of a steep old roadbed where the current Trail is extremely wide, eroded down to bedrock in places, and frequently misused by ATVs.

The relocation is made possible by a recent land acquisition that was a monumental triumph for natural resource conservation. The Rocky Fork acquisition preserves 10,000 acres adjacent to the Pisgah and Cherokee National Forests. It creates an unfragmented haven for wildlife, protects water quality in neighboring communities, and protects the viewshed of the A.T. from development. 
Finishing behind the dozer
You can read more about the Rocky Fork land acquisition here:

The Konnarock Crew has been building this relocation for several weeks each summer starting in 2010. The local volunteer club which maintains this section, Carolina Mountain Club, has not been able to organize many work days on this project because of its remote location. However, they have come out to work with the Konnarock Crew each summer and warmly shown their appreciation to the Crew by providing hot meals. 
CMC provided a great picnic for the Crew at the end of the week, and have another picnic planned for every week that the crew works on Rocky Fork in 2014! That's a lot of burgers and hot dogs--thank you CMC!

Loading up for the hike in
The project is taking a huge leap forward this year. ATC was able to hire a contractor with a miniature trail dozer to do the bulk of the earth-moving with heavy machinery.

This means the crew can move a lot faster, finishing the trail behind the dozer by clipping roots, raking the downslope to improve drainage, and installing structures where necessary.

Just because we're completing more trail then ever doesn't mean this project is easy, though! The hike in is the longest by far of any Konnarock project in recent memory.

Valiant, victorious volunteers!
Crew campsites for most Konnarock projects are right near the vehicles--but the old logging road to the crew's field camp at Rocky Fork is too rough. The Cherokee National Forest helped  by hauling in the crew's camp gear and equipment with a UTV. Crew members hiked about 2.5 miles uphill with their personal gear at the beginning of the week, and back out at the end of the week. Thank you CNF!

Veteran Konnarock volunteer Cool Breeze adds ambiance with his penny whistle.
The crew built about 1,000 feet of flat ridgetop trail from scratch, then moved on to finish over 4,000 feet of machine-built trail. In all, Crew 2 completed OVER A MILE of new trail Week 4! That accomplishment is particularly staggering when compared to previous years! Back when the crew had to hike over 2 miles to the worksite each morning and build trail from scratch, a good-weather week might yield 500 feet of new trail.

Congratulations Crew 2! Check out more photos from the week here, and stay tuned to the Konnarock blog to see the progress the crew is sure to make on this project later in the season!
The trail-building champions of Crew 2 (they clean up nice).