Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Week 11: July 22-26, 2016

(Crew 2 gets top billing on the blog this week, scroll down for the report from Crew 1 at Seng Ridge)

Crew 2: Rockfish Gap Rehab

working with Old Dominion Appalachian Trail Club in Central Virginia

Click here for the complete photo album.

This week Crew 2 came back to a project that we had started earlier in the season at Rockfish Gap in Virginia with the Old Dominion Appalachian Trail Club. Our mission was to finish a staircase at a very crucial place on the trail.

Rockfish Gap has several facets of importance: historical, the location where the Blue Ridge Parkway meets the Skyline Drive, and it's also the southern entrance to Shenandoah National Park. Check out Crew 2's entry from Week 9 for more detail about the significance of Rockfish Gap.

Thankfully, to help us along, we had piles of pre-cut rock and other rip-rap that had been dropped off before we arrived. Crew 2 was a small but mighty crew this week, with only five volunteers alongside the two crew leaders, but I am proud to say that we were able to get the job done and more, even with the weather being around 100 degrees Fahrenheit, with full sun exposure and little to no breeze.

Needless to say, we were a little more liberal with long breaks in the shade this week. To help us out with this weather, we stayed at Lake Sherando campground and had a lake to swim in at the end of each day along with a hot shower to sooth our sore muscles.

When there is work to be done, there is also play to be had, and we certainly did that in a multitude of ways. One of the nights, the club was so gracious as to have a Hawaiian themed cookout for us, fully equipped with Hawaiian shirts and leis. We ate pineapple chicken and ham, and for dessert we had a pineapple upside down cake.

Another night, we all went in to town to eat at the Chinese buffet. This was a must since we had one volunteer from Russia who had never been to a Chinese buffet, and this is an essential part of American culture. Thankfully the speed bumps back at the campground didn’t cause anyone’s dinner to come back up, and we were all quick to bed after that.

Last but surely not least, on the way back to base camp we stopped at the D-Day memorial in Bedford, VA to learn a little bit more about American and World history.

With the busy week we had, we were able complete the project and more with a total of 33 rock steps--and even had time to put in a log step down the trail a ways. Again, Crew 2 really appreciates all of the volunteers for toughing out the extreme weather conditions and getting the job done! 

These steps will be here for years, and countless numbers of visitors will hike on them. Thank you Crew 2! OWWWWWWWWWWW!

Crew 1: Seng Ridge Relocation

working with Carolina Mountain Club near Hot Springs, NC

Click here for the complete photo album.

Week Eleven’s project brought Crew One back down to North Carolina for the final time this season to continue construction on the Seng Ridge relocation. For more details on the project, check out Crew One’s blog for Week Six and Week Nine.

The majority of work on this relo has mostly consisted of sidehill excavation with a little rock work here and there. This week, however, the Crew got into a little more rock work than weeks past. Instead of picking up where they left off week nine, the Crew decided to begin the week by building a structure where the new trail would join an old abandoned jeep road to fix a potential problem posed by a seasonal spring flowing into the roadbed.

Since Cherokee artifacts were found in the vicinity during the planning phases of the project, the Crew was under strict orders for disturbance to be as minimal as possible when building trail through the site. This restriction posed a unique challenge, but the Crew was able to adhere to the guidelines by building a causeway using only materials gathered from the roadbed and unearthed during sidehill excavation.

This low impact alternative to a turnpike will allow for the water to flow through the gravel under the tread way, both stabilizing the the trail and making it safer in icy conditions. In addition, a small series of rock steps were installed to harden the tread descending into the causeway.

Several Crew members rewarded a job well done that evening with a short hike out to Blackstack Cliffs to enjoy the sunset. There, they would also find an expected treat in the form of some wild blueberries growing right on the outcropping. Never has a sunset been so sweet.

The following day, the Crew moved on to some sidehill, working back toward where they had left off week nine. As far as digging conditions go, the Crew had no complaints – dry, crumbly soil with relatively few rocks. That is not to say that a few giants lurking beneath the duff layer didn’t have to be persuaded down to tread level with a sledge.

In the midst of the digging, the Crew was greeted by an unexpected visitor – a curious timber rattler. Just goes to show that one can never be too cautious when working on the trail. The Crew had another interesting wildlife encounter two mornings in a row when the Crew was serenaded by the haunting cries of a pack of coyotes nearby during the stretch circle. Perhaps they were summoned by Crew member Jim’s calling since he is a self-proclaimed coyote whisperer.

As work progressed, the Crew would find a few more rock projects as they worked through an area with a few large scattered boulders. The stone work was not only nice change of pace from sidehill digging, but will also make for a more interesting hike.

Once again, the Crew lucked out with the weather this week. The only precipitation occurred while the Crew was under the safety of the kitchen tarp. To everyone’s delight, the water draining off the tarp provided the opportunity for some hand and face washing.

As always on this project, the Carolina Mountain Club came out in full force to dig some trail on the final day. That evening, the Club treated the Crew to an excellent dinner in the well-known A.T. town of Hot Springs, NC at the Spring Creek Tavern. The meal really hit the spot after one heck of week’s work! We cannot thank the Club enough for their support and hospitality.

This week’s Crew was one of the smallest of the season, but proved to be quite a hearty bunch. They must be because by the end of the week, 600 feet of new trail had been completed including a 33-foot-long causeway and several steps! For seven people in three days, one could not ask for more.

Great week, Crew One. HOO-YAH!

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