Thursday, June 13, 2019

Week 3: May 17-21, 2019

Crew 1: Wilburn Ridge Rehab

working with Mount Rogers Appalachian Trail Club and Hard Core volunteers

click here for the complete photo album

Week 3 of the Konnarock season has wrapped up with our group of super hardcore alumni volunteers accomplishing a crazy amount of work.

It was the week of Damascus Hard Core, when a group of hand-selected alumni volunteers had the opportunity to lead groups of current or previous thru-hikers in a number of rehab projects on Wilburn Ridge for two days. Hikers signed up for this opportunity during the Trail Days festival, and were provided with meals and transportation back to wherever they got off the Trail after their two days wrapped up. 

Over the first two days, before the thru-hikers came out, the crew got to work on one long, super degraded section where we had to build around and replace some existing structures. Within a day and a half, we managed to put in an impressive 40 rock steps.

Aside from amazing trail building, this crew was also equally skilled in the kitchen. Since we were returning to Base Camp every night, we were able to make big breakfasts every morning. I probably gained 10 lbs over the course of that week but it was well worth it.

On the third and fourth days of the week, the thru-hikers volunteered with us. We split up into groups of about two or three thru-hikers per Konnarock volunteer. It was awesome to meet so many different people from all walks of life and come together to form a giant crew. 

On the third night everybody got together and had a huge dinner together. Janet made about 6 tons of pulled pork which we all devoured at a beautiful campground in Grayson Highlands and just got to hang out and get to know each other. 

It was altogether a great week in a beautiful place with awesome people.

--Sarah Ellsworth, Assistant Crew Leader

Week 2: May 9-13, 2019

Crew 2: South of Sams Gap Rehab

working with Carolina Mountain Club

click here for the full photo album


Shouts ring out across the hall in unison as Josh Reynolds musters the crew chant, bringing an end to an incredible week on the Appalachian Trail.
This week we teamed up with Carolina Mountain Club and The University of Central Missouri to tackle a heavily worn section at Sams Gap along the Tennessee/North Carolina border. After travelling 20+ hours to arrive at base camp and several hours to the project, site our crew of university students and active duty military personnel was eager to get to work and completed log step installation on the very first day.

Resources for this site were abundant, with dead black locust looming above just waiting to be repurposed into tread for the A.T. Draw knives carved long swaths of bark, splitting wedges manicured large logs into perfect steps, and hammers pinged constantly making crush to stabilize our work. 

Even after 2 grueling days of rain with no chance of sunshine, morale stayed high, filling the woods with laughter and cheers of victory as trail transformed before our eyes. Saturday May 11th we stopped work early due to heavy rains and risk of hypothermia and decided to travel to Asheville NC to celebrate my birthday with fried chicken and ice-cream! Truly one of the best birthdays I have experienced so far, which is easy to say when the A.T. and fried chicken are combined after a long work week. 

The next day the crew hiked out to Hogback Ridge Shelter, digging drainage ditches along the way and getting the full A.T. experience (plus an actual toilet seat, in the privy!). Regardless of rain, fatigue, and sore muscles, laughter was constantly present. We were able to stay positive and productive and have a blast at the campsite, playing games like Werewolf and sharing stories.

Gourmet meals provided by our camp coordinator Janet were prepared in field by the crew, including chicken burritos, made-to-order omelets, and marsh mellows toasted over a camp stove. Carolina Mountain Club members spent two action-packed days working along side us to install logs steps, log cribbing, water bars and tread definition before treating us to an incredible lunch at Little Creek CafĂ© to cap off the week! 

Does the Appalachian trail beckon to you? Will you be the next to answer the call? Come join the Konnarock Trail Crew, preserving the AT one step at a time.

--Paul Sealy, Assistant Crew Leader

Week 2: May 9-13, 2019

Crew 1: Poor Mountain Relocation

working with Georgia Appalachian Trail Club

click here for the complete photo album

The second week of the season is done, and it was an amazing experience. Students from the University of Central Missouri (UCM) made the long trek to Virginia to help improve the Appalachian Trail.

The crew was half veterans, and half civilian students who came together to bond and work. Crew 1 headed down to Georgia to begin work on relocation of the trail at Poor Mountain near Hog Pen Gap. The purpose of the relocation is to move the trail to a more sustainable location.

On the first day we made the six hour drive to Georgia and hiked in tools to the worksite. On the way down we were able to stop at a rest area and pick up a copy of a newspaper with a horoscope section so we could learn what the week had in store for us. 

The next day we were expecting bad weather, but were pleasantly surprised by the nice sunny day we got to enjoy. An impressive amount of quality sidehill was dug in one afternoon, but unfortunately the weather was less kind to us for the rest of the week. The next day was rainy with scattered thunderstorms, so we thought it would be unsafe to head up to the worksite. Instead of heading up there, we went on a short, lovely hike down to a huge waterfall. 
Later that afternoon, the weather cleared up some and we were able to get some work done at a different site that was closer than the relocation. This section was steep and degraded, so we all had the opportunity to do some non-sidehill projects. Rock steps, rock waterbars, drainage dips, and log steps were all put in in the following two afternoons. Both of the next two mornings we were rained out, but we still managed accomplish so much.

On the final evening we were generously hosted by a member of the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club at his beautiful house along the Etowah River. The UCM students had the opportunity to float the section of river in inner tubes and canoes (the canoes somewhat less successfully by the end). 

After the float trip, a big dinner was served to all of us around a bonfire and the next morning an equally impressive breakfast was served before we hit the road. All in all, it was an amazing, fun, and super productive trip. We already can’t wait for next season's UCM group.

---Sarah Ellsworth, Assistant Crew Leader

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Week 1: May 1-5, 2019

South of Bee Cove Lead Rehab

working with Smoky Mountains Hiking Club

click here for the full photo album

Driven by sore muscles, pride, and love for the AT, sledgehammers mixed stone with sweat as the Konnarock Crew set its teeth into this year’s first week of rehab, relocation and maintenance.

For this project Konnarock crew leaders teamed up with six awesome volunteers to repair a section of trail in the Bee Cove area near Fontana Lake, North Carolina. Upon arrival, the crew hiked up the mountain laden with tools and gear, stashed it all, then headed to Cable Cove Campground to settle in.

The 1.7 mile hike in was steep and muddy with slick rock and uneven terrain, but the weather held out until Saturday nd allowed for good working conditions. Rock bars, pick mattocks, belay lines, rock nets, rock drills and rifting hammers were all used to make stone cribbing, stone stairs, and endless piles of crush to eliminate water erosion and preserve the trail for decades to come. 

After a long day's work and a quick dip in Fontana Lake, the crew headed back to camp for dinner, campfires, s’mores, jokes and relaxation. We want to send a special shout out to Smoky Mountains Hiking Club for all their continuous aid and an incredible dinner at Lynn’s place in Robbinsville, to the awesome Week 1 volunteers for their hard work and support, and to ATC management who have worked tirelessly to make sure this year goes as smoothly as possible! If you are interested in becoming part of our volunteer team check us out at!

--Paul Sealy, Assistant Crew Leader