Crew Life in the Smokies: A Comparison of S.W.E.A.T and Rocky Top

This blog post is cross-posed here as well as on the Rocky Top Trail Crew blog. Written by Ron Hudnell, a first-time volunteer on S.W.E.A.T and Rocky Top, who breaks down the differences in the two crews.

Reflections from an ATC Crew “Newbie”


During October 20 – 26, 2013, I was very fortunate to be on the end-of-season session #5 of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Rocky Top volunteer crew which did trail building projects in the Smoky Mountain National Park between Cosby Knob Shelter and Tri-Corner Knob Shelter.  The official count on new steps was 31 with a few rock bar drains and berm clearance projects, but who is counting?  We did!  Crew leaders, Bobby and Greever, said that we set a new record this year with the most steps in the shortest time with the smallest work crew – lots of superlatives in that claim!

I use the word “fortunate” above because I was the only crew member who had not done Rocky Top work before, so I felt blessed to be on a team with very experienced leaders as well as co-workers willing to come back for a second session.  Some had been back for multiple visits so I knew I was on to something!

During the shortened Rocky Top work session caused by the government shutdown, the question that I got most often asked was not about background, miles hiked on the A.T., gear, rock work knowledge, etc., but rather how I would compare work with Rocky Top to my previous work with the S.W.E.A.T. crew earlier in the season.
Rocky Top: Hammers High

So my comparison for the record and for the benefit of other volunteers who are trying to decide which group to join…

Similarities between S.W.E.A.T. & Rocky Top

  •   Both teams were absolutely and totally satisfying for me as I got to work for excellent crew leaders and with groups of very dedicated AT enthusiasts.
  • Crew leaders were well trained and very knowledgeable on trail construction/trail maintenance, had thru-hiker experience, and were strong advocates of “Leave No Trace”.  They had great practical experience! 
  • There were no disgruntled, hard-to-work-with individuals in either group.
  • Both groups did work that is very necessary for the preservation and sustainability of the Appalachian Trail
  • I was tired at the end of the day with both groups - and thus slept very well!
  • Camp Coordinator, Kayah Gaydish, did a fabulous job of working with crew leaders for both groups to ensure that each volunteer member had enough and the right foods to eat during their sessions.  She even went AAN (“above and beyond”) by hiking part way out with us on the Rocky Top week and meeting us at the equipment pickup point at the end of the week.  Very much appreciated!
 
S.W.E.A.T. Crew

Differences between S.W.E.A.T. & Rocky Top 

  •  The Rocky Top week involved more creativity or “engineering” as you had to determine where the steps were needed for effective erosion control as well as hiker/horse traffic, what materials the steps would be constructed of, where you were going to find and move the materials, how to cut the stone, how deep to dig the holes, and more.  (By the end of the week, my mentor said he had taught me all he could so I was on my own.  But I did catch him looking over his shoulder just to ensure “our trail” projects would be approved by the crew leader.)  I really enjoyed the interaction among crew members in these “design” activities. 
  • The S.W.E.A.T. crew activity was more maintenance-oriented on existing sites, so the physical count accomplishment list was much higher.
  • Rocky Top was more physically demanding once on site as you seemed to always have a rock sledge or hammer in your hand if you were not moving a large rock!  But pack horses carried up and brought down food, equipment, and tools thus aking a big load off the volunteers.
  • S.W.E.A.T. was more physically demanding getting to and from the work site as the hike in was longer and crew members hiked all tools and food in and back.  In a somewhat strange way, I liked that physical challenge/accomplishment of carrying a 65 lb pack!
 
S.W.E.A.T. Team

The Bottom Line

It will be difficult for me to pick between these two groups – S.W.E.A.T. or Rocky Top – so I am sure that I will attempt to do both groups again next year if ATC will allow me to do so.  I might even expand my horizon by looking at some other ATC crews (the Konnarock Crew was often mentioned) as well as at some local weekend A.T. trail maintenance organizations!

Rocky Top Team


Thank you ATC for allowing me to be a part of both groups this year!  I encourage all hikers and AT supporters – financial or otherwise – to get involved with a trail crew as ATC staff cannot alone maintain the trail that we so love.  And the personal returns are lifelong…

Ron Hudnell

AKA “Tarheel”

Guest Post on the Volunteer Experience

Brandon Denney joined three sessions of S.W.E.A.T in 2013. Here’s his account of his experience, as a new trail volunteer and new backpacker. His experience varied with each session, so it’s nice cross-section of what trail crew life is like in all of its sundry iterations. 

Thanks to his good humor and his commitment to write about his experiences, we have a three-part blog (combined into one here) on what he did with his summer on S.W.E.A.T. Crew. Pictures by Sarah Green.
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Appalachian Trail Week One: Freshness is Not An Option
Before I begin, I wanted to state again the purpose of thee journals: to document the weeks of trail work I’ll be doing this summer in order to fulfill scholarship requirements (but mostly to seek out the most adventure as possible!)
There were a few things I didn’t anticipate when coming to volunteer with the S.W.E.A.T Crew (Smokies Wilderness Elite Appalachian Trail). Mainly, that we’d have internet access, that we’d be returning to the Crew House on a daily basis, and that there were showers at the shelter. As it turns out, not showering on the A.T. isn’t the exception, but the rule. The adventure begins.
I was dropped off on Friday night at the Crew House with all the volunteers there, helping prepare a fantastic dinner. Amy and Ben are the trail leaders for the trip; twentysomethings with a love for hiking and bluegrass music. 
Four other volunteers were there besides me, as follows:
Jane: 19, your everyday southern farm girl who’s not afraid to work hard.
Larry, 52, an almost retired cop who looks like he’s seen a lot in his career. Just by looking at him you can say that without a doubt, “Dang, here’s a guy who has a lot of stories.” Hilarious. Loves Jefferson Starship.
Jeff: 50, a strange cross between Bill from King of the Hill and a professor in solar technology, is a really intelligent guy.
Cam, 25, a short bald dude with an encyclopedic knowledge of all music and music known to man. It’s as if he has a section of his brain solely dedicated to IMDB. Fantastic person.

Larry, Cam and Jeff
After a fantastic dinner at the Crew House, we were off. I had never backpacked before, so I had little to no idea what I was to be immersed in.  Our backpacks; tools, water, food for the week, and camping supplies, came to about fifty pounds more or less. To access the AT, we had to hike Cosby Trail, a 5.3 mile, kick-your -rear-uphill circus. Though I’ve had much experience running cross country, I have no problem admitting every step forward was agonizing. Beautiful, scenic agony. We crossed beautiful waterfalls, pine forests, and stretches of beautiful Rhododendron. Despite this, with every step came the brutal realization that no matter how close you thought you were to the camp, chances are, that was a stupid thought and you’re still five miles away, “gah. how could you be so stupid?”
Certain things made the trail go by much quicker. The mere mention of any topic would prompt Cam into an inquiry about a movie or a song. From Bio Dome to Casablanca, he’s seen pretty much everything. By the end of the week, I had a laundry list of movies I needed to see because Cam was so damn good at storytelling and selling a plot. 
Larry was hilarious. He says that on the police force, everyone gives everybody a hard time, and his sense of humor is exactly what you’d imagine an old cop with a Brooklyn accent would be like.
Walking through the AT is akin to walking through the mind of a person who is drifting in and out of consciousness. One moment you’ll be in an overgrown, sunny area reminiscent of Vietnam, and five minutes later you’ll be in a breathtaking pine forest with fog consuming almost all sight, like something out of a Tolkien novel. It was easy to lose sight of time, look up, and be taken aback by the sheer beauty of the surroundings. One particular area had trees that appeared to be covered in frost, but was simply a gorgeous white moss that had covered the pines.
In total, the walk to the camp was nine miles. The week would involve at least fifty miles of hiking and working. The work itself, which included slashing at blackberry patches along the trail, was not challenging. However, getting from one work site to another, or just from point A to point B, was a nightmare.
One particular night the weather called for a torrential downpour to last for 24 hours. The longest parts of the day were easily the walk back to camp in the rain, where the inside of your boots are soaked, and you’re always farther than you think you are from the camp. That night I felt extremely homesick for not only friends and family, but a normal mattress as well. I asked myself that night what sort of masochist enjoyed getting eaten by bugs all day and not taking showers.
This brings me to another point. When the Crew mentioned a shelter near our campsite, I thought, “oh neat a shower” but I was mistaken. So very mistaken. Judging from the appearance and conversation from the “thru-hikers” of the AT (who hike the full trail; 2,179 miles), showers were alien. 
Though there were many hardships, I had a great time. The food was fantastic, and dinner time saw everyone at their finest.  However, I am seriously missing my family and friends. It’s a great learning experience, and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to do script writing to develop characters. There’s more this coming week, and I’m excited to see a new batch of volunteers! Next week, I’ll also bring the camera along in my dry bag to accurately capture the trail.

Rainpocalypse 2013: It’s as bad as you think.

Before I begin this, a big “thank you” is in order for both Amy and Ben, who have been driving me to the store and to the library to get wifi to make these posts possible. You guys rule!
I have a genius plan. Really. Maybe it’s more appropriate that I put that in the past tense, but one way or another, a genius plan was hatched. You see, when doing trail work, preparation is key. My plan was to have a quick-drying undershirt on, underneath a windbreaker; all underneath a water-resistant work outfit that sort of looks like a Ghostbusters uniform. Not only am I warm and toasty, but completely dry as well.
Truth be told, none of us were quite prepared for Rainpocalypse 2013. We waited in the car for about an hour, completely suited up, just waiting for the thunderstorms to stop. This is before even getting on the trail. When a break in the rain came, we grabbed our tools and hobbled along the trail. Little did I know, something dark and sinister was about to happen. About thirty minutes in, the rain began pouring with a fervor equaling that of before. Unfortunately, around this time, my backpack began to de-pants my water resistant Frogtoggs, leaving a perfect chance for rain to soak into my windbreaker.  “Darn,” I think to my self, “this was foolproof.” I would not experience dryness for the next 48 hours. The rain was icy cold, the trail was a river, and each ten-mile hike was the definition of miserable. I kept a stone face for most of the time and focused on the finer things in life I was now doing without: toilets, showers, being dry, and smelling nice.


Appalachian Trail Conclusions!

Where to begin? The time between writing this entry and when I began my third week on the Trail feels like an eternity.  Rainpocalypse had just ended, but the feeling of not wanting to ever look at a can of Spam or hear “Wagon Wheel” again had reached full capacity. While slipping into some well-deserved fresh clothing at the Base Camp, I stumbled upon a pamphlet entitled, “Preparing Yourself for The Appalachian Trail.” After having my morale kicked in the sack repeatedly the previous week, I thought that this might be my key to success.  The chapter entitled “Mental Preparation” was located appropriately at the beginning.  It asked the following questions:
Does the idea of hiking fifteen miles in the rain with seemingly no reward at the end seem like an exciting venture?
Would the idea of trail food (Spam, dehydrated vegetables, rice) on a daily basis seem daunting?
Do you have at least $2000-$3000 to pilfer away?
At the time, none of those sounded like good ideas. As the volunteers poured in for this week, however, I could tell this week would be different. Much different. By far, this was THE GOLDEN WEEK OF SUMMER! The characters for this week are:
Mary:  Probably the nicest person on the planet, she’s a very devout Christian who planned on staying the rest of the summer. She’s my age, goes to college in Florida, and came from Pennsylvania to volunteer!

Elizabeth: An eighth grade language arts teacher with the personality of a happy kid on caffeine, she’s hiked the AT once before and knows how to have fun on the trail. YEAH! Her ability to throw caution to the wind and jump into a river made it clear it was going to be a fun week.
Sarah: A fellow Ohioan! She looks like she hit age twenty, took a time machine to age thirty, and then proceeded to not age a day. For some reason at the orientation, everyone thought that she said she was 42 years old. The flood gates opened and it was age jokes the entire week.
Keith: A fifty-something who hiked the whole AT a couple of years ago. Can speak fluent Spanish, has a wife from Columbia, and is using this volunteer experience to cap off working at a single company for 26 years.
Keith was probably the oddest member of the bunch: he’d often times just vanish without reason, walking ahead of the group for miles or just going to sleep at very early times. I honestly don’t know if he got photographed the entire trip. He was, in many ways, an essential part of my survival on the trail. It’s like he could sense whenever I was hungry, and would offer a granola bar out of nowhere. Whenever I was stressed from walking all day, without me saying anything, he’d sing this peaceful, traditional Columbian song. One particular instance I was missing home, he appeared out of thin air and offered his cell phone so I could call my mom briefly. I questioned whether or not I had manifested him from my thoughts of wanting the simple creature comforts of home.

Turns out, we do have one picture of him:

The whole crew! From left to right: Mary, Ben, Me, Ben’s dad with some donuts he brought us, Jeff, Amy, Elizabeth, Sarah, and Keith!

Jeff: Our returning character from the first week! I’ll forever know him as the two sheets of toilet paper man!
And of course, our fantastic trail leaders, Ben and Amy made a return for their third week. Finally, we had a 50/50 gender balance.
To sum it up, from beginning to end, the trip was amazing. Our hike up to the campsite was unbelievable: we started at Tremont, which I had hiked earlier that year in Mountain Challenge! It’s a gorgeous walk that is great for hiking, mainly due to how flat it is. Holy crap, not having to hike uphill for 9 miles was a blessing. It also has a river that lines throughout the entirety of the trail. Elizabeth, being a ray of sunshine, took it upon herself to take a dip in. Like releasing a flood of fun times that lasted the whole week, half of the crew followed suit. Beauty was underway.
Elizabeth seeking out water for swimming.

This was also the first week where the crew truly felt like family: I’m not sure if it was the beautiful, sunny days, or just an unknown influx of good vibes, but I felt like I could spend the whole summer with this group. Everyone was an effective worker, and I couldn’t have been happier.


   Crew Leader Ben and I, enjoying some well deserved trail food.

Mary and I kicked butt for several days as a dynamic duo that lopped branches, cut some serious blackberry and fern growth, and dug ditches. She was so much fun to talk with and hear stories about her family life. Her new stepdad was at one point the leader of the Jewish mafia in Cleveland, Ohio.  This is about as ridiculous as you can imagine: threatening college professors with “a very not-kosher tuckus whooping” is just scratching the surface.  She is an incredible story teller and a great worker.


The final workday was easily the best.  Not only did we saw a tree that blocked the trail (photographic evidence below), but the day was cool, sunny and dry.  Unfortunately, my foot had swollen (I wonder which one of the fifteen bug bites could have caused it. We may never know.) and I was relegated to sitting on a comfy synthetic mat while the rest of the crew prepared dinner.  Everyone was smiling, cracking jokes, and being at their best. We had wonderful conversations and the sunset was the perfect cap to a 10/10 week. Limited rain, perfect people, no blisters, and good vibes all around. It was a week that I miss to this day.




2013 SWEAT Summary

Collectively, the eight sessions of S.W.E.A.T. Crew hosted 49 volunteers who worked a total of 2,284 hours to brush about 30 miles and clean roughly 500 water bars of the A.T. in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A handful of volunteers enjoyed crew life so much that they stayed to work for more than a single session. The crew’s work also included adding or improving 29 steps, adding four rock and 26 log water bars, and cutting two blowdowns. The crew was led by Amy Alamong and Ben Royer who received positive feedback from participant evaluations.

Thanks to their contributions the A.T. in the Smokies in excellent condition. We look forward to having many of these volunteers return next year, along with other seriously elite backpackers! 


Ben's Video Log

Assistant Crew Leader Ben Royer captured some lightness, some beauty, and some good hard work with his GoPro Camera while the S.W.E.A.T. Crew was in session. These are now edited and posted. Check 'em out!




Session 8: A Volunteer's Perspective

Volunteer Ron Hudnell shared his thoughts about S.W.E.A.T. Crew in a recent e-mail. Here's some of what he said:

The S.W.E.A.T. Session 8 was truly an outstanding experience for me and I would recommend it to any AT – or otherwise –hiker up to the physical requirements.  My recommendation to others would be even more enthusiastic if the S.W.E.A.T. session could be led by the same two individuals who managed our crew – Amy Allamong as Crew Leader and Ben Royer as Assistant Crew Leader.  They were the perfect crew managers while Becky Smucker did an excellent job with the back office pre-S.W.E.A.T. registration and coordination. Her information package and communications were all-inclusive!

Even though I had section/solo hiked 867.6 miles - not counting my “NSWIA” (Not-Sure-Where-I-Am miles) on the AT, I was still a little apprehensive about joining a group of strangers for a week of labor/trail maintenance.  I had visions of a much younger group of very physically fit hikers leaving me on the trail in the wake of their speed hiking.

Yes, most of the other crew members were younger, but then I am 66, and yes they were probably more fit!  However, Amy and Ben did a lot to welcome all of us into the group as equals, and calm my fears in our first meeting on the night before departure.  Their skills fit very well together – Amy, the manager and trail task master, and Ben, the hiker and forest master.  Amy, having participated in many trail maintenance training sessions and experienced in other trail maintenance locations, definitely had the knowledge of proper trail maintenance.  Ben, an AT thru hiker and enrolled in Masters forestry classes at UT, knew the Smokies and definitely had the hands-on practical experience for the week in the woods.  I personally learned a great deal from both during the session – about proper caring for the trail and some new hiking knowledge – and I am taking this newly learned knowledge for some trail maintenance on The Long Trail in Vermont in mid-September.


They checked/inspected our personal equipment on the evening before to ensure we had what we needed but not more, and then divided up the communal items so that each person equally shared in the “fun” of the extra weight.  (Please understand that my typical pack weight is around 23-25 lbs and I was carrying about 60 lbs on the session - but it was fun!)  They divided up the tools so that we all carried approximately equal weight.  Amy was especially careful to make that we all had a safe amount of water before hiking the 3000’ foot elevation climb. Ben briefed us all on safe hiking techniques before we started the trail – such as “DO NOT lose sight of the person behind you” – and had to criticize us once for not following his instructions. Ben stopped us frequently to allow all hikers to stay together.  Ben usually led the group and Amy with radio stayed in the rear to motivate/walk with the slower hikers.  The 10-mile hike up to the tenting area was done mostly in a rainstorm…  I am sure I was a pain to Ben on this first day hike up as I wanted to look at the map to see where we were and know how much farther we had to hike…  He was convincingly patient.

Once at the Pecks Corner shelter tenting area, Ben quickly scouted for good sites while Amy prepared the meal logistics.  They had a coordinated system which worked very well.  The next morning we began with stretching exercises – more than necessary for my aged body – and followed this with their training on proper use of the trail tools and their required safety practices. We then hiked approximately two miles to the work site and Amy immediately assigned tasks to all crew members.  I was particularly impressed how she and/or Ben, when not handling a tool, regularly walked the length of the work area to not only check/critique/educate on the trail maintenance work that was being done but also to discreetly monitor how the crew members were individually doing.  Amy was continuous about doing her morale checks.

The second day began as the first – stretching and review of safety practices – and then off to the work site.  

Sign me up for S.W.E.A.T. next year – and especially if either or both are leading the crews again!

Here's the report from Amy on their work:

Session Overview:  We were able to get two full days of work at Pecks Corner Shelter, but a bear came through camp during the second work day so we decided to pack up and leave on day 3. We then worked on the AT between Davenport shelter and the trail head at the road.


Specifications:  The section north of pecks does not need much brushing. There was almost no swingblading except for a few short sections. This was mostly drain clearing with a little bit of lopping.

 Results and Measurable Accomplishments: 

·         Total Trail Mileage: 1.9
·         Logs Cleared: 1
·         Steps Backfilled: 18
·         New Drains Installed: 6
·         Drains Cleared: 248

Day 1: We hiked up to Pecks Corner shelter and set up camp. It was very rainy but everyone made it to the shelter and we immediately got everyone dry and warm.


Day 2: We did some trail training in the morning then let groups of 2 dig drains; there were lots of them! We dug about 45 drains and lopped a little. We covered about 0.6 miles working south from where we stopped the last week between Tricorner and Pecks.


Day 3: We covered another 0.7 miles and removed one large sinking leaner. I did not get a before and after, but there is a before picture from Billy in one of his reports. We also cleared about 38 drains.



Day 4: We hiked out because of bear activity. The bear ripped two tents then came back in the evening and drug one pack away from camp while it was unattended. Then it came back in the morning and got very close to two tents while a person was in one of them.  It was best to leave and not try and relocate.


Day 5: We went to the Davenport Gap trailhead and worked on cleaning drains and back filling some mucky steps.

Day 6: More step filling and drain cleaning!



Week Summary: This was an exciting end to a great summer. Thankfully no one was hurt and everyone very much enjoyed the week even with all the rain we had.

GO S.W.E.A.T!!!


Session Seven: What it's all about in 5 short minutes

Assistant Trail Crew Leader Ben Royer shot this using his Go Pro. It captures the spirit and hard work of S.W.E.A.T. Crew, session 7!


Session Overview:  There was not a lot of brushing this week. We could have used more digging tools because we mostly cleaned drains and put in steps. This section is in the Spruce/Fir forest so it does not have a bunch of undergrowth; plan for lots of drain digging in the future. Having a 12 person crew was great at times but hard to keep organized and busy. We had crews of 2 working together on drains. I will say this crew dug the best drains and I think it was because of the teams. 


The large crew made for an interesting camp life. Everyone got along, and a bunch of new friendships were made.

Specifications:  Parts of this section are extremely eroded; some places are 3-4 ft deep. The drains were cleaned very well. Not a lot of brushing was needed. 

 Results and Measurable Accomplishments: 

·         Total Trail Mileage: 2.94
·         Water Bars Installed: 2 rock and 1 log
·         Check Steps Installed: 8
·         New Drains Installed: 16
·         Drains Cleared: 104


Day 1: He hiked up Snake Den Ridge trail to the AT the on to Tricorner Knob Shelter arriving safely. We set up camp then had a camp orientation.



Photo: Lunch on the trail, thank goodness no one had to pass!

Day 2: We worked 0.9 miles south of Tricorner and leading down to the shelter. We spent time focusing on drain clearing with some brushing. We cleaned 28 drains and dug 5 new ones. We installed 1 rock water bar.


Photo: Mary clearing a drain. 

Day 3: We covered 1.14 miles of trail clearing 36 drains and building 6 new ones. We also installed 1 new check step and one new log water bar and 1 rock water bar.


Photo: (right) JR, David, Julia and Mary proud of how dirty they were! 

Day 4: We only covered 0.3 miles today because we began the day with 4 check steps and building a turnpike in the afternoon. We spent the day collecting rocks for crush and laying the log cribbing. We also cleared 15 drains.



Photos: Before (left) and during turnpike instillation (right)

Day 5: We finished our turnpike and covered .6 miles clearing 25 drains and building 3 more check steps. We also dug 5 new drains. We saw Billy the ridgerunner!


Day 6: Hike out to Soak Ash and break down.



Week Summary: A great week! We could have used more digging tools and a sledge but we made due. For next year bring more digging tools and less brushing tools. Loppers work great for cutting roots. 

Session Six: Big Progress

Session Overview:  Session 6 went very well; we had our oldest member yet! At 76, he was one of the hardest workers and would not give up. He had a great attitude and tenacious spirit. Addy’s 10 years of trail work experience was a tremendous help and Joanne’s hard working military background brought a lot to the group. This is Mary’s 4th session; she is a regular assistant to our crew. JR and David will be here again next week.

We got about 4.0 miles of work accomplished this week. We also saw a Mama bear and two cubs that we steered clear of!

We did not finish the mile between Spence and Russell because we figured our time would be better spent working south of Mollies. Franklin seems to be very active in his section so we wanted to get to the other part.


Results and Measurable Accomplishments: 

·         Total Trail Mileage: about 4.03 miles
·         Logs Cleared: 1
·         Water Bars Installed: 1
·         Check Steps Installed: 3
·         New Drains Installed: 15
·         Drains Cleared: 76


Day 1: We hiked in from Cades Cove via Anthony Creek Trail and Russell Field Trail. The crew did great and we made it to Mollies Ridge Shelter Safely.

Day 2: We covered 1.22 miles of trail we installed 6 new drains and cleaned 20 existing along with brushing. We put in 1 log water bar.

Day 3: We worked on 0.8 miles of trail today and had a visit from Dick Ketelle with some brownies! We installed 8 new drains and cleaned 18 existing drains.




There is a section of trail just south of the Ekaneetlee spring that is in need of some steps. It is badly eroded and the trail is 4-5 feet wide. There are plenty of rocks available. This is something I would like to schedule for next year’s S.W.E.A.T crew to work on. 


Day 4: We brushed and cleaned 23 drains on 1.21 miles of trail down to Doe Knob. We also added three steps to an existing series. The crew really enjoyed building these!




















Photo: Step installation before and after

Day 5: We installed 1 new drain and cleaned 15 existing drains covering 0.8 miles. We had a Boy Scout and his father joins us for a couple hours. We taught him how to clean a couple drains and allowed him to brush a little. His father said he could use that time for a badge!


Day 6: Hike out to Soak Ash and break down.


Week Summary: This was a successful week. We were glad we got down to Doe Knob. I wish we could have installed some rock steps in the badly eroded area, but hopefully they can next year. 

Session Five: Rattlesnake and Sunset from Rocky Top

Rocky Top to Russell Field Shelter

Crew Leader:  Amy Allamong
Assistant Crew Leader: Ben Royer

Session Overview:  Session 5 we completed the section from Rocky Top down to about a mile north of Russell. Most of this section is in very good condition. From Rocky Top to Spence the trail and all structures are holding up well. Everything from Spence to Russell looks pretty good although there are a few hazards. There are two turnpikes holding up very well but there are some steps that have multiple spikes protruding up from the logs. There is a boggy section forming about ¼ mile south from Spence that may need a turnpike in the future. But, all in all, this section looks great with no major erosion.

Specifications:  Again, this week we cut back the blackberry bushes and other perennial growth. We continued to focus on sapling removal from the corridor. This week we stuck closer to the 4ft defined corridor rather than trying to cut extra for sustainability in the coming years. We did however trim as high as we could for the horses. As we hiked through, we worked on the drains and tunrpikes that could be cleaned easily and efficiently. We did install one new log water bar. The crew practiced solid safety principles while working and hiking to the worksite.

Results and Measurable Accomplishments: 

·         Total Trail Mileage: about 3.6 miles
·         Water Bars Installed: 1 log

Day 1: We hiked in from Cades Cove via Anthony Creek Trail and Bote. The crew did great and we made it to Spence in great time.


Day 2: We hiked up to Rocky Top and began working our way down to Spence. We finished about 0.6 miles.

Above Left: Rattle snake on Rock Top. Above Right: Steps holding up well just south of Little Rocky Top

Day 3: We kept working south and made it another 0.7 miles. We found an old tool cash with two shovels and a fire rake that were now rotten. We hiked those out.



Day 4: We worked another 0.9 miles south of Spence Field.


Day 5: We continued on towards Russell. We ran in to Franklin LaFond and he updated us with what he has completed in his section. We should be able to move through his quickly to hit the unfinished parts next week. We finished about 0.6 miles today



Day 6: Hike out and breakdown at Soak Ash.

Week Summary: We had a great week of weather! It kept everyone in high spirits and we were able to work hard. Looking forward to next week! We will continue working south from where we left off.
GO S.W.E.A.T!!!