Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Week 9: July 7-10, 2016

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

Crew 2: Rockfish Gap Rehab

working with Old Dominion Appalachian Trail Club near the southern end of Shenandoah National Park in VA.

Click here for the full photo album.

For week 9, Crew 2 had an especially important project to take on. Rockfish Gap is a significant landmark in many ways: it's where a northbound A.T. hiker enters the Shenandoah National Park, or a southbound hiker leaves the Park to spend almost 400 miles primarily in Virginia's George Washington and Jefferson National Forest. It's where the Blue Ridge Parkway enters Shenandoah National Park and becomes Skyline Drive. Even for those passing through on Interstate 64, Rockfish Gap is a memorable spot where the highway crests the Blue Ridge and begins a long and scenic descent to the piedmont between Waynesboro and Charlottesville.

From the long-distance hiker who has been anticipating this landmark for months, to the bucket-list tourist who pulls over to take a few steps on the famous A.T., visitors to the A.T. at Rockfish Gap deserve a world-class National Scenic Trail experience. But the Trail as it climbs to its northernmost Blue Ridge Parkway crossing was looking less than magnificent.

The steep dirt path takes on a great deal of runoff from the road during every major storm, leading to erosion. Konnarock was tasked with building a staircase to armor the Trail--and to match the magnificence of Shenandoah National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway.

We had a special group of volunteers with us all the way out from the Ozark Trail Association in Missouri! This was the fifth year in a row that Kathie Brennan has recruited trail volunteers from OTA to come out to Konnarock for some new trail-building experiences and to give back to the grandmother of America's long distance trail system. It was great to have an OTA crew back at Konnarock and learn about the amazing trail they are building in Missouri!

Alongside the Ozark Trail folks, we also had a few other volunteers--including one crew member who came out from Seattle, Washington. So the whole country was well represented this week.

Our campground was unusual this week, as we were staying at a civilized campground near Sherando Lake. There were several commodities that crew 2 isn’t used to, such as a lake to swim in after work, hot showers, a pavilion area with picnic tables--even a toilet that you don’t have squat over! 

Another high point in all of our days was the drive to work, which was a 30 minute excursion down the Blue Ridge Parkway with viewpoints galore.

At the end of the work week, we were joined by Old Dominion Appalachian Trail Club and also by a group of boy scout leaders that were kind enough to cook us an extravagant meal. There was plenty of food to go around, and plenty of conversation and smiles over dinner.

A few volunteers were also feeling a little competitive, so several games of pelt were played during the week, and fortunately there were still smiles at the end of each of those games.

On the drive back, we stopped at the notorious Foamhenge, which is a replica of Stonehenge made out of foam, and afterwards we all grabbed lunch at Billy’s Barn in Salem.

Crew 2 was very productive this week, putting in almost 30 rock steps, along with all the crushed gravel and cribbing that goes along with that. The steps put in by these volunteers will be here for many years to come, and will be used by the full spectrum of A.T. visitors: thru-hikers, section hikers, day hikers, and folks passing through who just want to say they have set foot on the A.T. Thank you crew 2 for bearing the heat and building some beautiful rock steps. OWWWWWWWWW!

--Crew 2 Assistant Crew Leader Justin Farrell

Crew 1: Seng Ridge Relocation

working with Carolina Mountain Club near Hot Springs, NC

Click here for the full photo album.

Returning from their mid-season break, Crew One headed back down to North Carolina to continue construction on the Seng Ridge relocation. When complete, this relocation will form a wide turn which will take the Trail deeper into the National Forest off of the private property boundary along which it currently runs.

Though the majority of the work involved on the project consists of traditional sidehill excavation, conditions differed greatly from when the Crew was last at the site during week six. Last time, the Crew experienced ideal digging with few rocks, but this soon changed as they neared the turn. Crew members unearthed quite a few rocks in the process of digging, often ending up with a large pile of rocks next to the trail.

These rocks were put to good use in the structures that needed be installed on the final day. The steep descent into the turn required a series of check steps and a rock water bar to inhibit the formation of a gully that would have been inevitable. Also, some minor cribbing needed to be constructed to create tread where a slanted piece of bedrock would have made for unsafe travel. Volunteers enjoyed switching up tasks to give everyone the chance to do and learn something different through the course of the week.

On Friday, The Carolina Mountain Club came out to work with the Crew. The Club worked diligently on clearing the corridor ahead with chainsaw, pulling stumps with the Griphoist, and digging sidehill alongside the Crew. At the end of the day, the Club treated the Crew dinner at Pizza Inn in Greeneville. Is there’s a better way to celebrate a tough day of work than with a pizza buffet? A special thanks goes out to the Club for their generosity. 

The weather forecast at the beginning of the week did not look promising to say the least. However, the Crew somehow dodged the rain all week during work hours. Though it never actually rained during work, the mountain remained socked in for the majority of the week, but made for prime working conditions. It certainly didn’t feel like July! 

On the final work day, the fog finally lifted. This allowed for a perfect opportunity to take a short hike out to Blackstack Cliffs to catch the sunset, and what a spectacular sunset it was! The Crew sat in silence for a good while watching the colors slowly change and grow deeper until the first stars could be seen. Moments like these are what the Trail is all about.

On the way back, the Crew celebrated the week with an excellent meal at the Bonefire Smokehouse in Abingdon. Afterwards, the Crew stopped by the Museum of the Middle Appalachians in Saltville for a very interesting and informative self-guided tour. Saltville is quite an historically rich place, “from the Ice Age to the Space Age”, as the museum’s slogan states. 

Aside from its role in the Civil War as the salt capital of the Confederacy, the town has been and continues to be the site of many archaeological digs which have uncovered remains of prehistoric animals which were attracted to the salt deposits. The museum has quite a display of these remains as well as fossils and Native American artifacts that have also been uncovered in the digs. In addition, there is an exhibit on the Olin Chemical Corporation, which was the main employer in the town for over 70 years. Olin actually developed the fuel that took the first man to the moon on the Apollo 11 – hence the Space Age claim of the slogan.

The Crew this week was smaller than usual, but had no problem in making a large amount of progress and installing some bombproof structures -- another great week for Crew One. HOOYAH!

--Crew 1 Assistant Crew Leader Brian Allgood

No comments: