Crew 1: Jerry Cabin to Big Butt RehabCarolina Mountain Club
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For Konnarock’s sixth project week, Crew 1 engaged in a final showdown at Big Butt Mountain, on the Tennessee/North Carolina border. For our third and final week at this location, the project goals involved finishing the massive rock work rehab of the muddy section just trail-north of the Ballground camp site.
To complete this undertaking, Crew Leaders Jerry Kyle and Josh Reynolds spent some off-time felling and bucking a 9-inch diameter black locust tree back in Sugar Grove to supplement the dearth of suitable step building materials at Big Butt. The ponderous load of logs added a new level of weight to the truck during the perilous drive up the Rocky Fork Forest Service road.
With daily storms predicted in the forecast, Crew 1 approached this project week prepared to bear any burden in the completion of the project.
One of the many life lessons of rock work is to pick your battles and know when to call it quits and move on to greener pastures. And then, even the greenest pastures will require a lot of teamwork to prevail. Many hours of digging, crushing, and fine-tuning later (plus finding another fantastic step rock), two beautiful stone steps completed the transition to the top of the hill.
A second team worked on installing a series of log steps built from the Sugar Grove locust logs, a process aided by the addition of special guest Davis Wax - a former Assistant Crew Leader at Konnarock. These log steps served to harden the tread of the steeply sloping trail which was mainly held together by tree roots. By slowing the flow of water and sediments, the steps will reduce erosion and prevent this section of trail from devolving into a gulley over time. These log steps are secured in place by hammering black locust stakes into the earth and backfilling with crush, creating a final product that is stable and blends with the natural scenery.
After finally finishing up the rehab of this section, Crew 1 had to improvise a plan since a proposed relocation on the Trail South side of the Ballground had not yet been approved by the Forest Service. With a day and a half of work time remaining, the crew chose to continue rehabilitating the north side of the trail, which consisted of digging a number of drainage dips, installing several more check steps, and redefining over 600 feet of sidehill trail that had experienced considerable backslope sloughage.
After the sidehill was finished, a smaller sub-team split off and headed down the south end of the A.T. to fix a set of stone check steps that had blown out. All in all, the crew accomplished an impressive amount and variety of work in spite of a small crew and an uncertain weather forecast.
While the gnats were irritating, they didn’t strike fear into the hearts of the crew members as did a serpentine visitor to the camp kitchen on the second work day. Sneaking past the eyes of the entire crew, a 3.5 foot timber rattlesnake was only spotted as it lifted its head while underneath the kitchen table - a mere arm’s length away from Jerry’s leg. Luckily, the snake was spotted in time, and Jerry guided it out of the camp kitchen with the assistance of a shovel.
Due to the deteriorating conditions of the access road, Tim’s ATV had to employ the use of a winch several times to pull past some of the muddy sinkholes along the way. After Tim and both Konnarock vehicles finally make it down the Rocky Fork road, Crew 1 took the opportunity to thank Tim (as well as his co-rangers Jesse and Gary) for their ATV support by presenting him with official Konnarock 2017 t-shirts.
Special thanks again to the Rocky Fork State Park team for providing Konnarock with the ATV support that made this project possible. Tim, Jesse, and Gary (and their very bruised vehicle) all deserve a big round of applause.
Thanks as well to Ben Barry from the ATC SORO office for hiking out to the work site this week to meet the crew and offer suggestions on the work. Thanks to Davis Wax, who is now working for ATC’s S.W.E.A.T. Crew in the Smokies and chose to spend his precious off-time hiking in and volunteering with Crew 1. Finally, thanks again to Carolina Mountain Club for providing lunch on the way out, and for all they do to maintain their trail section.
--Josh Reynolds, Assistant Crew Leader