Monday, August 1, 2016

Week 7: June 17-21, 2016

(Crew 2 gets top billing this week, scroll down for the report from Crew 1)

Crew 2: Highcock Knob Relocation

working with Natural Bridge Appalachian Trail Club.

Click here for the full photo album.

For week seven, Crew 2 went to Highcock Knob in the Natural Bridge area of Virginia. Crew 2 worked on this project week 1, and Crew 1 worked on this project week 5. So Crew 2 was happy to return and continue working in the James River Face Wilderness on this lengthy relocation of the trail. 

Konnarock also saw a lot of familiar faces this week with a crew made up mostly of returning alumni (only one was new to Konnarock). There were also many well-known club members from NBATC that joined us for the pleasure (or displeasure; I’ll let them decide for themselves) of working on Highcock Knob, the highest peak in the James River Face Wilderness. The Tye River Ridgerunner, J.R., also joined us for a day of work! 

Our days started off with a strenuous hike in, but thankfully we were graced with beautiful weather for almost the whole week, which eased our physical and mental fatigue. The work we did was split into two projects,. which were surprisingly different from each other in spite of their close proximity. Half of the volunteers were working on a very tricky rock field, putting in a long staircase where the grade makes a sudden change, and the other half was digging sidehill on the upper portion of the switchback-- where they encountered their own set of challenges.

The Natural Bridge Appalachian Trail Club is notorious for providing the Konnarock crew with good food and an all-around good time at the end of the week. They certainly did not disappoint this week. On our last day of work, they brought out a potluck style dinner, along with several different kinds of beverages. Everybody was mingling with one another, and we even went around and all talked about the first car we owned. The crew much appreciated this feast and liveliness, and they further reiterated the expression “will work for food”.

Crew 2 had a very successful week, and was able to accomplish the goals sought out by the club for the year. We put in 20+ rock steps, a considerable amount of rock cribbing, and dug a hundred or so feet of sidehill. Crew 2 is looking forward to coming back next year to continue on the wonderful job done this week. Thank you all for your hard work! OWWWWWWW!

--Crew 2 Assistant Crew Leader Justin Farrell

Crew 1: New River Relocation

working with Outdoor Club at Virginia Tech near Pearisburg, VA.

Click here for the full photo album.

For Week Seven’s project, Crew One headed up to Peters Mountain, above the town of Pearisburg, VA, to continue construction on the final segment of the long standing New River Relocation project. When completed, this final segment will tie together the new trail all the way from Pearisburg to Rice Field Shelter, a project which has been in the works for nine seasons. 

Most of the 6.5-mile New River relocation was opened to hikers in 2014, but for the final 0.3 miles of the climb to the shelter the A.T. was routed along the old water source trail. That portion of the trail is steep and unsustainable, comes up from behind the shelter and cuts out part of the scenic traverse of Rice Field--so this final stretch of the relocation follows a gentle grade and ties back into the A.T's former location at the south end of Rice Field.

Before digging the last of the new trail, some finishing touches needed to be put on the work that had already begun in the seasons prior. Several series of check steps needed to be installed for erosion control in a steeper section where a gully was already beginning to form and several areas were in need of tread definition to make the trail wider and smoother.

After the structures and finishing touches were completed, the team moved on to digging brand new sidehill and removing stumps with pulaskis and the Griphoist. Volunteers were able to swap tasks regularly to give each volunteer an opportunity to run the Griphoist. There were even a couple of Konnarock alumni with many years of trail building experience who got to use the device for the first time. That just goes to show that one can always learn new skills! 

The team then moved on to begin working on a rock crib wall to bring the tread level up where the new trail had hit a deep layer of duff. The Crew had split into two teams at the beginning of the week with one team led by Crew Leader Jerry working on the above mentioned for the duration of the week. 

Meanwhile, the other team, led by Assistant Crew Leader Brian, worked on a problem spot that had developed where the trail had been built over a deep patch of duff in a wash. Just in the past two seasons, this area had eroded significantly causing a significant dip in the trail. The solution in this case was to build a substantial rock crib wall and fill with crush to bring the tread level up and retain the trail. Check steps were also implemented to control erosion on the steeply graded descent into this area.

Although this area required a great deal of time and effort, the work will pay off for many decades to come. Not only that, but several people who were new to trail work at the beginning of the week now understand how to install check steps and build a crib wall from beginning to end – two very important skills in trail construction. When finished, the wall retained 12 feet of trail, stood about 4 feet high, and brought the tread level up about two feet.

The project’s campsite, located on the top of the ridge, was especially nice this week and was a prime spot for numerous reasons. Once at camp, the hike to the beginning of the worksite was only a quarter-mile and only a short distance further to Rice Field, one of the best views on the A.T. The Crew members who could still move at the end of the day were able to enjoy sunsets from there most nights of the week. 

On the night of the solstice, the Crew witnessed a rare phenomenon – a solstice moon. A full moon has not occurred on the June solstice since 1967 and will not happen again until 2064. Just after the sun had set in the west, the deep orange moon could be seen rising through the clouds on the other side of the ridge in the east. 

The Crew consisted of a blend of older and younger volunteers with varying levels of experience, and included several Konnarock alumni. Since the campsite required such a long hike in, a trip to town was not feasible. However, Crew members had no trouble keeping themselves entertained with good conversation ranging from current events, politics, and sports to Civil War history, local geology, and of course – food.

 A few special guests joined the Crew for a few days including our brand new camp coordinator, Rachael Esrig; John Applequist, a highly skilled trail veteran who has worked with Konnarock many times; and Simon McKay, a dedicated member of the Virginia Tech Outdoor Club.

Once again, the Crew lucked out with the weather since the only precipitation happened on day one and actually cooled things down for the next few days allowing for prime working conditions. This combined with a cohesive team of volunteers made for a very successful week! Thanks, Crew One and all who came out to help. Crew One will return Week Ten to complete the project.

--Crew 1 Assistant Crew leader Brian Allgood

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