Crew 1: Highcock Knob Relocation
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After spending three consecutive weeks working on the Tennessee/North Carolina border, Crew 1 finally set out toward a new destination for Week 7. Heading north from Base Camp in Sugar Grove, the crew drove past Roanoke and on to the Blue Ridge Parkway to reach the James River Face Wilderness.
The project for the week was a relocation on the 3,073-foot high Highcock Knob, which has been under construction for several years and involves rerouting the A.T. off of the steepest portions of this challenging hike. The existing trail has sections so steep and rocky that they present a safety concern as well as a trail sustainability issue.
As if the rocky terrain and a grueling daily hike to the work site weren’t enough, Highcock Knob sits in a designated Wilderness Area. This designation limits the size of any group in the area to 10 and also includes a total ban on the use of motorized power tools, thus putting constraints on the crew and creating new challenges.
Consisting of mostly alumni volunteers and accompanied by the charismatic Doug DeJarnette, Vice President of Natural Bridge Trail Club, Crew 1 was ready for action on day 1 and started off strong by carrying all of the week’s tools up the painfully steep 1.5 mile hike up to the work site.
Sweat dripped down the brows of the crew members and the climb was slow, but after about an hour the tools were safely cached at the relocation site. On the way, the team was joined by two more veteran members of the Natural Bridge Club, John and Trudy Phillips. The combined crew surveyed the work and discussed plans for the week’s work before turning around and heading back down the trail, this time without the added weight of tools.
The first night at Watson’s Pond was the one and only time during the week that rain fell upon Crew 1 - a welcome phenomenon after a wet spring with plenty of thunderstorms. The precipitation and heavy wind had long since ceased by morning and the crew embarked on their first work day.
In fact, this pit made the first pit of despair look downright cheerful by comparison. The ultimate goal here will be to construct a crib wall to hold the trail up, but until mineral soil can be located this remains more of a theoretical concept. In any case, the next volunteers to return to Highcock Knob for Week 8 will have no choice but to face this challenge head-on.
With project work wrapped up for the week, Crew 1 cached tools and headed down the trail one last time and traveled back to Watson’s Pond for the evening. Activities at the Pond included swimming, painting, campfire-tending, and engineering a secret-ingredient substitute for the missing soy sauce in our Spice Thai Noodles recipe. Lulled to sleep by the sound of barred owls and the occasional coyote (not to be confused with the hybrid “coywolf”) crew members were tired but satisfied and ready to head back to Base Camp the next day.