Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Week 10: July 14-18, 2016

(Scroll down for Crew 2's Week 10 report)

Crew 1: New River Relocation

working with Outdoor Club at Virginia Tech near Pearisburg, VA

Click here for the complete photo album.

Week Ten was a special week for Crew One as they had the distinct pleasure of completing the Peters Mountain portion of the New River Relocation project, above the town Pearisburg, VA, after nine seasons of hard work from countless volunteers along the way.

The Crew was welcomed to the their mountaintop campsite by the ever encroaching rumble of thunder. They (mostly) finished rigging the kitchen tarp in the nick of time.

After the rain let up, the Crew was able to get right down to business resuming construction on a few projects left over from week seven. These projects included finishing a rock crib wall, making more crush-and-fill for a short stretch through a boulder field, and tread definition in a few areas.

Quick work was made of these projects, and by lunch time the next day the Crew was able to begin digging the final 200 feet to tie into the current trail. However, this final stretch did not let the Crew off easy. First of all, a giant sourwood stump in the middle of the trail needed to be pulled with the Griphoist.

Sourwoods have a very deep, bulbous taproot making them one of the more difficult stumps to remove, and this one was no exception. After a whole morning of digging, rigging, and pulling it final broke free. Of course, the massive crater then needed to be filled with crush and topped with mineral soil. No hiker passing through will ever know of the struggle that occurred there.

This was not the only area in need of special attention. The new trail had to be routed over a small, but unavoidable ledge requiring a cribbed rock staircase. Thankfully, the surrounding area had plenty of excellent building materials with which to build the structure so not much time was spent hunting and moving rocks.

This quality structure was built in a surprisingly short amount of time under the direction of long-term Konnarock volunteer/alumnus, Clark Britt. Since Clark is basically a third Crew leader and has quite a knack for rock work, this faction of the Crew has recently been dubbed “Clark Britt’s School of Stone Work”.

Another structure needed to be built was just up from this site where a gullied section of the old A.T., which was being replaced, drained its runoff. This would have washed the new trail away in no time so the Crew decided to build a stone culvert to drain the runoff under the trail. The culvert was actually put to the test soon after it was built as a substantial thunderstorm rolled in that evening carrying torrential rains. This fortuitous event showed the Crew another place where the water needed to be channeled into the culvert from above while they were still in the field to fix it.

In addition, check dams were installed throughout the old trail to prevent further erosion and to slow the runoff.

Once the major construction was complete on the new section, the Crew was able to spend the last day finishing up. One team worked on closing down the old trail by dragging as much brush and rock into the old trail as possible to discourage traffic and avoid any confusion. Dead trees were felled into the path. Blazes were painted over with camouflage paint. By the time the work was done, one could barely tell the old trail ever existed.

Meanwhile, the other team painted the A.T.’s signature white blazes on the new trail. It is actually very rare for Crew members to get the opportunity to paint blazes and is considered by many to be a high honor. Also, it can be a lot of fun. Everyone was able to paint a blaze that had the desire to do so.

Just as the final blazes were being painted, the Crew’s work passed the true test when the first hiker came strolling up to the bald of Rice Field. She of course had no idea why she was being welcomed to the bald with a round of applause. The Crew agreed that there is no feeling like that of opening up a relocation.

The Crew celebrated their victory the following day in Pearisburg with Mexican followed by ice cream. To top it all off, the Crew made a stop by the Falls of Dismal on the way home for a refreshing dip in the pool below the falls – a satisfying end to an epic week.

Of course, the Crew would not have been able to complete this tough project if not for a cohesive team of volunteers, many of whom happened to be Konnarock alumni, multi-weekers, or both! There were also a few first-time volunteers who also did an exceptional job and had no problem picking up on the wide array of tasks involved in this week’s work. We certainly hope to see them again.

In some ways, the week felt like the end of an era. There is still work to do down below, closer to town, but the Peters Mountain portion of the project is complete. Crews will certainly look back on this project fondly with its secluded mountaintop campsite next to Rice Field, the rumble of the train down in the valleys below, and the sunsets and fireworks over West “By God” Virginia.

--Crew 1 Assistant Crew Leader Brian Allgood

Crew 2: Massie Gap to Thomas Knob Rehab

working with Mount Rogers Appalachian Trail Club in Southwest Virginia

Click here for the complete photo album.

This week for Crew 2 was a very special project, being that it was located in the beautiful Mount Rogers High Country in Southwest Virginia. This area is a must-see for all folks, and also a frequent hiking destination due to the diversity of the landscape and wildlife. 

This project was also different because we hiked all of our camping equipment about two miles in from where we parked the vehicles, which made our campsite feel even more remote. 

The work we were doing was rehabilitation of a braided section of trail. We closed off social paths, and also did some rehab work on the original A.T. to make it the "path of least resistance" so hikers will stay on trail. This involved putting in rock steps and cutting trees and branches to keep the corridor wide open. 

Once again, Crew 2 was blessed with knowledgeable and hard-working members from the Ozark Trail Association in Missouri, and also a couple other volunteers that were willing to join this crazy bunch of people. 

If I haven’t already said that working/hiking in the Mount Rogers/Grayson Highlands area is an awe-inspiring event, then I will say it again. On our hike up, we were met by several curious ponies and various cattle, some of who had calves with them. Unfortunately, we couldn’t stop and stare too long because the mamas didn’t much appreciate us being around their babies. 

From our campsite, we had a wonderful view of the mountains, one of which was Mt. Rogers, which the sun set over each night to entrance us with a sky full of colors. As well as admiring Mt. Rogers from afar, several volunteers, if they weren’t too tired from a hard day’s work, hiked to the peak. 

The summit of Mt. Rogers is different than many of the mountains around Virginia because it is considered a rain forest. The scenery up there has a sense of a mystical aura surrounding it when you step into the wall of spruce and fir, and almost an enticing eeriness to it that makes one feel that there is no civilization near, nor would one want to leave such an area for anything else. 

With all of the perks to be had at a worksite like this, we also still got a lot of good work done. We put in approximately 20 new steps, and equally important, we closed off 270 feet of social trail which was taking away from the “One with Nature” experience that we all look for when we wander out into the woods. 

I would like to specifically thank the U.S. Forest Service for transporting our tools, water, and food coolers up the mountain for us. This project would have not been possible without their assistance. And of course I thank and appreciate the wonderful volunteers we had this week that helped preserve a metaphorical gemstone of nature. Thank you Crew 2! OWWWWWWWWWW!

--Crew 2 Assistant Crew Leader Justin Farrell




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