Monday, August 15, 2016

Week 8: June 25-29, 2016

Crew 1: Sinking Creek Mountain Relocation

working with Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club in Central Virginia

Click here for the full photo album.

Week Eight for Crew One kicked off the beginning of a multi-year relocation project on Sinking Creek Mountain in Virginia. Long distance hikers may remember Sinking Creek Mountain as being near the village of Newport, north of Pearisburg and south of Catawba. This relocation, a long switchback, will eliminate a steep and unsustainable section of trail shortly before a northbound hiker achieves the ridge line.

The proposed route of the new trail traverses several boulder fields. The Crew focused their efforts in these boulder fields which require a great deal of highly technical and physically demanding rock work. When the Crew first arrived, many wondered how a trail could even be built through the jumbled mess of rocks of all shapes and sizes. They would learn: one rock at a time.

Building trail through a boulder field is much like piecing together a puzzle, only the pieces often weigh several hundred pounds. Good decision-making, communication, and teamwork are key while working in these kinds of areas. The Crew did a remarkable job in working together to solve the many problems encountered during this week’s work.

The Crew was joined each day by members from the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club (RATC). Club members got the ball rolling on clearing the corridor with a chainsaw, digging sidehill, and installing a few steps where needed. The Club was able to make a considerable amount of progress.

The hike in to the worksite passed by a significant A.T. landmark, the Keffer Oak. The tree’s claim to fame is being the second largest oak on the Trail and is estimated to be well over 300 years old. Crew members paused each day to admire the massive tree.

Though both the hike and the work were tough this week, the campsite did make things a little easier on the Crew. Located on a nearby Christmas tree farm, Crew members had plenty of space to scatter their tents and enjoy the area. The porch of the gift shop was available for the kitchen and common area, eliminating the need for a kitchen tarp. Perhaps more notable was the access to a real bathroom and running water - rare luxuries among Crew campsites. In addition, the campsite provided pleasant views of the surrounding farmland and mountains. Thanks to the folks at Joe’s Trees for letting the Crew camp at this wonderful spot.

The Crew was blown away by the hospitality of the local community this week. On the second night, the Crew was invited to a pool party at the Holiday Lodge in Pearisburg, VA. For the past four years, the Lodge has hosted a party for the Konnarock Crew and hikers on their way through. Volunteers enjoyed plenty of great food, mingling with local folks and A.T. hikers, and a refreshing dip in the pool.

We cannot thank Sonu and Micky Chalwa  and the staff at the Holiday Lodge, and the A.T. Community of Pearisburg enough for their hospitality and generosity.

On the final night, the Crew was surprised with another dinner, provided by RATC this time, brought directly to the campsite! A special thanks certainly goes out to the club as well for this awesome unexpected dinner.

 For the most part, the Crew experienced fairly nice weather with the exception of one rainy afternoon. For first time this season, work had to be called off prematurely when a ferocious afternoon thunderstorm rolled in. Thankfully, the sun came out for a few hours before the next one hit so everyone was able to dry their gear out. The porch was a great place to hang out during the rain.

Since the route home passed by The Cascades, a 70-foot waterfall near the town of Pembroke, the Crew decided to end the week right with a short hike to the falls. With their newfound appreciation for good rock work, the Crew was able to admire some quality trail work along the way.

Though the nature of the work on this phase of the project was slow, tedious, and labor intensive, the work that was completed this week is rock solid and downright impressive. Thanks to all who toughed it out on one of the most mentally and physically challenging projects of the season. Great job, Crew One!

--Crew 1 Assistant Crew Leader Brian Allgood


Crew 2: Backbone Rock Relocation

working with Tennessee Eastman Hiking and Canoeing Club near the TN-VA state line.

Click here for the full photo album.

For week 8, Crew 2 traveled to Backbone Rock in Tennessee, just outside of Damascus, VA. Konnarock has worked on this project in the past, and although this trail is not part of the Appalachian Trail, it is an important connector trail for access to the A.T., in need of a facelift.

Much of the trail is steep, which causes erosion, so our mission was to relocate some of that steep trail to a smoother, more sustainable grade. With a crew nearly full of brand new volunteers, we started each morning with about 160 stair steps, followed by a long, hot, and humid hike up the mountain. By the time everyone got to the top, we were all nearly drenched, but that didn’t stop the crew from getting even sweatier during work!

 The work was more or less the same for the whole week, digging sidehill, which can get very tiring after several hours. Thankfully there was a creek at the bottom of the mountain each day to cure our swollen feet and replenish our spirits.

After work, we headed back to camp at a beautiful nature conservancy site that was once a tobacco farm, and some curious volunteers engaged in interesting extracurricular activities like searching for the sunset, picking blackberries, or whiffing the robust cigar smell in the old tobacco barn. Needless to say, this crew loved this campsite.

 Not only did we work this week, we also had ourselves some fun! One night, the crew went into the town of Damascus to get pizza, and at the end of the week, the Tennessee Eastman Club provided us with a barbecue dinner and gave the volunteers their very own TEHCC patches.

Afterwards, there was another dip in the creek where a few adventurous crew members found an ice cold waterfall that they deemed a “Fountain of Youth”. The fun didn’t end there, but continued even after we were done for the work week and were all resting at basecamp. We watched silly movies, told stories, and talked about the highs and lows of the week until everyone went home the next morning.

 Crew 2 was able to finish approximately 400 feet of new trail, along with a couple steps along the way and an approximately 30 cubic foot crib wall. Hopefully these folks will come back again next year, but if not, their mark will be forever appreciated in the Appalachian Mountains. We appreciate all your hard work crew 2, and especially for enduring those 160 steps and humid weather! OWWWWWWWW!

--Crew 2 Assistant Crew Leader Justin Farrell

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