Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Week 4: May 27-31, 2017

Crew 2: Sinking Creek Mountain Relocation

working with Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club

click here for the full photo album

Week Four for Crew Two was spent working on a multiyear relocation project on Sinking Creek Mountain, in Virginia's Craig County. The goal of this project is to eliminate a steep section of fall line trail near the top of the mountain by installing a long switchback almost to the boundary of the National Forest. This will bring the Trail to a more sustainable grade by better utilizing the space allowed.
Once complete, the switchback will be just over a half mile long. Though that may not sound like much, the project requires a great deal of heavy rock work, some of which is very technical.

Luckily, Konnarock had just the team for the job – students from the Veterans Program at The University of Central Missouri. The UCM Mules have been coming out to volunteer for Konnarock for three years now as part of their service learning program and have earned an honorable reputation among the Trail Crew. Simply put, when they come work gets done!

This week was certainly no exception. The Crew worked in two steep areas installing rock steps and cribbing where the already-excavated trail needed to be armored. Generally speaking on the AT, steps should be installed where the grade is above 15%  to prevent erosion. The Crew was blessed with ample material for this project since there are boulder fields very close by that serve as quarries. Crew members would find the perfect rock and carefully maneuver it down to the Trail using rock bar techniques.

Once the rock was moved onto the trail, several more volunteers were called upon to help “mule” to the rock down the trail in a rock net to be used as step or cribbing material. The Mules especially lived up to their name during this process since many of the rocks weighed upwards of 400 lbs. One rock, dubbed Dorito rock for it’s triangular shape, required the assistance of nearly the entire crew.

Volunteers alternated the tasks of digging, crushing rock, and quarrying fairly regularly and each volunteer was able to install at least one rock step. Much of the work was done to the tune of Brandon’s cadences -- some improvised, some not -- which set an upbeat tempo to the work and kept everyone in good spirits. “I break rocks, you haul rocks, I break rocks all day!”

The Crew was grateful to have help at the work site from the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club as well as staff from the Virginia Regional ATC Office in Roanoke. They even brought some “trail magic” fresh fruit and refreshments one day which really hit the spot after a week’s worth of hard labor.

Though the work and the hike were tough, the Crew had it pretty easy as far as camping arrangements go thanks to the folks at a local Christmas tree farm, Joe’s Trees, who have been allowing crews to camp on their property for this project. With real bathrooms, running water, and an awning to cook and commune under who could ask for more? Not to mention the delicious lamb sausage that the owner gave to the Crew straight from the farm. Burritos have never tasted so great. A special thanks goes out to Joe’s Trees for their hospitality!

Each night, the group had a reflection in which each member was able to express their thoughts, appreciations, and memories from the day. This is something unique that this particular group does and it really boosts the camaraderie.  This would usually be followed by a game or two of Werewolves – a Konnarock classic. Other entertainment at camp came early one morning in the form of a passing road bike race. Crew members had way too much fun cheering on the hundreds of race participants.

By the end of the week, some great memories were made as well as a few inside jokes. The Crew was able to walk away with a deeper appreciation for trail work knowing that some rock solid work was accomplished and a great deal of progress was made. Great team work, Mules! HYAW!

--Brian Allgood, Assistant Crew Leader

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