Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Week 8: July 1-5, 2017

Crew 2: Massie Gap to Thomas Knob Rehab

working with Mount Rogers Appalachian Trail Club

click here for the full photo album

Week eight, Crew Two spent their second week in a row working in their home territory in the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area. For this week’s project, the Crew moved up to the Mount Rogers high country just south of Thomas Knob to perform some much needed rehab continuing north from where last year’s Crew left off.

Much of the A.T. from Wilburn Ridge to Thomas Knob is in bad need of repair from decades of heavy hiker traffic as well as the meandering Grayson Highlands ponies and longhorn cattle whose grazing is utilized to keep vegetation down on the balds. This traffic combined with the high amount of precipitation that the area receives has wreaked havoc on the Trail. It will undoubtedly require several more seasons of work to get the Trail in ideal condition, but fortunately it is one of the most scenic areas in which one could hope to work.

The particular segment that was rehabbed this week had turned into a gully riddled with social trails and wide spots. The solution was to build rock and earth steps all the way up the section to slow erosion. The Crew divided up into teams of two and installed steps through their sections where needed. Thankfully, they found there to be no shortage of rocks with which to build near at hand.

After installing steps, the tread was then smoothed out and rocks were removed between the steps. It is important to build trail that hikers want to hike or else they will create their own path around the less appealing spots over time, which is exactly what had happened throughout much of the section. To close off those social trails, Crew members drug out the ugliest rocks they could find to “junk up” the unnecessary paths and even transplanted a few blueberry bushes to naturalize the heavily impacted areas.

Being more than three miles from the trailhead at Massie Gap in Grayson Highlands State Park, this project is a little more backcountry than Konnarock usually takes on. Thankfully, they were able to pull it off with some help from the U.S. Forest Service since Stephen and Jan hauled several loads of gear and tools to and from the campsite with a UTV at the beginning and the end of the week. Thanks to them, the Crew was able to backpack into their campsite and stay within a few hundred yards of the worksite to maximize progress. A tremendous thanks goes out to the Forest Service for their support this week.

Hikers passing by were impressed and perhaps even a little jealous of the Crew’s luxurious accommodations so deep in the backcountry. To keep the camp safe, folks from the local Mount Rogers Appalachian Trail Club hiked up each day to watch over the gear. One day, Marie from the Club even brought up some homemade shrimp ceviche to share with the Crew for lunch – a very tasty dish and a welcome change from sandwiches. A special thanks goes out to the Club for their help in guarding the camp.

This week coincided with the Forth of July, and the Crew was actually able to see some fireworks far off in the distance on Thursday evening. The resident lightning bugs also provided a light show of their own as well as occasional heat lightning from distant storms. Thankfully the weather held off until the fireworks had ended.

Speaking of weather, the Crew lucked out every day of the project since the only rain came at night – a rarity in the high country. This made not only for excellent hiking and working conditions, but gorgeous views as well.

Thanks, Crew Two, for a productive and enjoyable week of trail work in the high country! HYAW!

--Brian Allgood, Assistant Crew Leader

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