Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Week 4: May 21-25, 2016

Crew 1: South of Stecoah Gap Rehab

working with Smoky Mountains Hiking Club at the southern end of the Smokies in North Carolina

Click here for the full photo album.

For Week Four’s project, Crew One headed back down to Stecoah Gap, NC for further rehabilitation efforts in the section south of there. The drive to and from the gap is long and scenic only allowing for three days of work, but what a productive three days they were!

After the long drive down on the first day, the crew had just enough time to establish camp, hike in the tools, and assess the project so the crew could get right to work the next morning. Work resumed where Week Two’s crew had left off on a series of log steps in a switchback. Not many materials were left over from Week Two so more logs and stakes needed to be cut and crush needed to be made. Once that process was underway, three teams of two went to work placing and setting the log steps. Once working quarters became too close, a team dropped down to another area in need of a series of log steps. Volunteers were able to swap tasks every so often to give everyone a chance to install a step.

 After the log work was finished, a team led by Konnarock veteran and rock work expert, Clark, jumped down the trail for some rock work in two different sections. In one spot, a small staircase was constructed to make the climb over a large chunk of bedrock safer. In the larger of these two projects, a rugged section of trail traversing a rock field was cleaned up and made smoother, and several steps were built.

Meanwhile, another team worked on a short relocation just below the previously mentioned switchbacked log staircase to bring the trail up to a safer, more sustainable grade. This required some sidehill excavation as well as a small rock crib and a few more log steps at the bottom to stabilize the area where the new trail traversed a sloped piece of bedrock.

During the evenings this week, the crew was able to enjoy the pleasant temperatures by relaxing around camp while long time K-Rocker, Cool Breeze, played his pennywhistle. Breeze has an impressive and eclectic repertoire of songs gathered other the course of more than 30 years of practice. One night, the crew had fun playing “name that tune”.

Other entertainment was provided by Jim and Tony’s dishwashing routine. Let’s just say Tony is a real stickler for clean dishes and is very passionate and vocal about it. Jim just likes to get things done in a quick and efficient manner. He liked to give Tony a hard time about taking forever to wash each dish, and Tony liked to explain in great detail what he was doing and why it was important. To make a long story short, when they finally finished no one could deny that Konnarock’s plastic dishware sparkled like never before.

Another large priority this week was to install a new switchback to eliminate a steep, root-covered, heavily eroded climb or descent (depending on the direction of travel). This unsafe, difficult-to-navigate spot had been a problem for many years. The digging was tough due to the thick layer of roots and the many rocks of varied shapes and sizes that one often encounters in sidehill excavation.

Other than the overall slow nature of the digging, no major issues were encountered until the time came to connect the upper leg to the lower. Since the mountainside was so steep and the duff layer so thick, a proper trail could not be dug where the switchback landing was to be. This issue was not encountered until the eleventh hour on the last day. It was imperative for the switchback to be completed since this was the crew’s last week in the the area, and the upper leg had already been tied into the preexisting trail. Crew Leader Jerry’s solution was to build a “western style” landing out of the plentiful rock slabs that had been unearthed during the sidehill excavation. Thankfully, all other teams had finished their projects so everyone was able to pitch in and make everything come together in an epic power hour beyond compare!

The crew celebrated this tremendous feat with a well-earned and much appreciated dinner at the Wildwood Café in Fontana Village courtesy of our friends in the Smokey Mountains Hiking Club. After dinner, the crew enjoyed checking out the famous Fontana “Hilton” Shelter and an evening stroll out on the dam - a pleasant way to end the week.

As productive and fun as this week was, it would not have happened without a great crew and great teamwork. Thanks everyone for the good times and hard work!

Crew 2: Standing Indian Mountain Rehab

working with Nantahala Hiking Club in North Carolina.

Click here for the full photo album.

From Assistant Crew Leader Justin Farrell:

The fourth week for crew 2 was the start of a three-week project on Standing Indian Mountain in North Carolina, just 10-15 miles North of the Georgia-North Carolina border. 

Our crew was blessed with an amazing cast of veterans from the University of Central Missouri Military and Veterans Success Center, with trail names such as Butters, Beer Run, PawPaw, Iron Mike a.k.a. Magic Mike a.k.a. Sawyer, Canada, Spot, Lt. Dan, and Stockdale.

The first day consisted of a 2 ½ mile hike, with an 1100 ft. elevation gain, all with tools in hand, which everybody took with a positive attitude that one would expect from military veterans. After the strenuous hike to the top of the mountain, we started work with various tasks.

Our main purpose was to slow the erosion due to water in gullied-out sections along the ridge top by placing check steps to slow that water down. The trail was also being crowded out by beautiful yet pesky rhododendron and mountain laurel, so a few brave souls were tasked with cutting many of those down. I believe those folks now understand why it is called “Rhododendron Hell”.

The UCM folks had an added agenda since they were doing this as part of a Service Learning project, which was a fantastic experience for Crew Leaders Dave and Justin to be a part of. They had separate objectives they wanted to achieve outside of Konnarock’s goals, and in the process, everyone was able to learn something about each other that they didn’t previously know. Every night there was a group reflection, which was an exceptional way to process the happenings of the day, some good, some bad, and ruminate on more profound thoughts about life, personal and broad. Although some of it was emotionally taxing, we all felt surprisingly refreshed at the end of the week.

Along with being a wonderful memory for everyone involved, this crew also did an impressive amount of work, despite the hike being more of a trudge. Several check steps were installed, and the trail received a much needed facelift due to the hundreds of feet of overcrowding trees that were cut back. Thank you again Crew 2! We hope to work with you all again in the future! OWWW!

No comments: