S.W.E.A.T. Highlights Poem

Our recent Assistant S.W.E.A.T. Crew Leader Allegra sent me this little acrostic poem that she says encompasses the mindset of what it means to be elite.

E- Eat like a bear
L- Live in the moment
I- Indulge in the mud and muck
T- The trail always calls for work
E- Every moment spent in nature is a privilege

Hope you enjoyed this mid-winter celebration of trail memories! See you next year~! 

The Latrine Queens
Lop, Chop, and Clean Drains to Keep the A.T. Pristine

The last Session of SWEAT Crew 2014 started on Thursday, August 21.

We set out from Newfound Gap for our maintenance work between Dry Sluice Gap and Laurel top.

Brooke, Lauren, Lindsay, Jenn, Mary, Haley, and Mic had a wonderful stop at Charlies Bunion on the way out. Having the perfect weather for the stop means we took tons of pictures to show you how amazing it is out there! 

We arrived, established camp, and were later joined by Elliot and Chloe for dinner. Over the next four work days we were able to accomplish some much needed work for the A.T. The ridgeline Trail between False Gap and Laurel Top had become seriously overgrown and branches were impeding on hikers ability to pass through. The volunteers put their muscles in motion by swinging and chopping out jungles of black berry bushes from the trail corridor, creating enough space for hikers to pleasurably maneuver through the beautiful section of Trail.

After a summer of rainstorms, the waterbars on this section of trail needed particular attention, too, so with ample skill and positive attitudes the volunteers cleaned 81 water bars. After addressing the critical essential maintenance the crew focused their attention on some mucky spots they had identified in their days of work on this section.

These muddy spots were responsible for widening the Trail, since hikers loath to walk through them, often go around, causing a widened trail. As we way in the trail maintenance world, “only you can prevent trail creep.” 

This time, the crew took on the challenge to de-muck multiple areas of the trail while adding drainage to prevent future erosion.
Doing some draining...and, it sure needed it!

De-mucking, continued. 

Time to test out the Trail, post draining. Is it good enough to dance on? The Queens find out. 
Meets our approval!

Oh, Yeah!!

Back at camp, Session 9 passed the time with the help of Elliot's travel size Scrabble board game. We also made it our primary goal to make sure to finish each and every last bite of dinner so that we would have less weight to carry out. This decision indirectly led to our eventual crew name: the Latrine Queens. And these Queens got some great work done! A big thanks to all for coming out!

This crew was also witness to salamander on salamander violence, and captured the carnage of one eating the other with these pictures. Who knew they did that? 




Smart Start to a Relocation Project

Sessions 7 and 8 tackle a relocation project of the trail that has been planned for 10 years. The relocation moves the trail from a steep fall-line trail to a more sustainable grade that should make the hiking more enjoyable. The crew worked on one of two relocations between Buckeye Gap and Silers Bald.

The crews quickly got dubbed by their common and relatable qualities, the Foodie Crew for Session 7 and The Guys Crew for Session 8.

It all started on Sunday, August 3rd when Session 7 of SWEAT hiked seven miles to their spike camp.
From there, our crew comprised of Amanda, Shane, Tracy, Anthony, and Austin would clear the flag line and dig trail. It’s a big undertaking, but they were up for the challenge.

With enthusiasm and dedication, Session 7 aka “The Foodie Crew” answered the call of building the reroute (perhaps comforted by their seemingly endless nightly discussions on all kinds of favorite recipes and plates). We began our work as a crew by first walking the length of the flag line. After a talk by the leaders on proper tool usage and safety, the crew began step one of the sidehill process: Clearing. We cleared the flag line with the use of pulaskis, swing blades, and hand saws removing blowdowns, organic material, and black berry patches from the future trail.

On day three we continued the process by removing large stumps from the ground and potential tripping hazards in large roots. By day four we were preparing to dig. The leaders again gave a demonstration on how to properly dig sidehill and explained the proper angles and lengths involved in digging new tread. Before the completion of our final work day one day later, the Foodie crew had dug over 500 feet of beautiful and slightly outsloped new tread.

By the time Tuesday, August 12 rolled around it was time for Session 8 to pick up where the Foodies had left off. Kirk, Anthony, Sam, Dave, and Danny came to be known simply as the Guys Crew. And these guys accomplished a heck of a lot of work. 

The days were simple yet exhausting. For four days, we swung picks at the ground, removed rocks and roots from the trail, and sculpted a new back slope and bench for future use by endless amounts of hikers visiting the Smokies and the A.T. for years to come. In three days, we accomplished digging just over 1,000 feet of new tread. For anyone who’s spent swinging a pulaski, that’s an impressive feat indeed. Before our time was up, the Guys spent a considerable amount of time fine-tuning the trail we dug and rehashing by spreading leaves over the new trail for erosion prevention.

Digging new tread is never an easy task but the volunteers for Session 7 & 8 were a force to be reckoned with. Their hard work and sweat was responsible for over 1,500 feet of new tread, which will be finished this September by another ATC Trail Crew and hopefully opened later this year. The Foodie and Guys crew certainly deserve much of the credit for breaking the ground on making this happen. Great work ya'll.


When to Make the Call

The S.W.E.A.T. crew is difficult. Crew life for this team is very demanding, and this year there was more than one volunteer to leave because of health or safety concerns. In fact, there were five volunteers over the course of the first six sessions, who ultimately weren't ready for trail crew. They made the decision independently or through discussion with trail crew leaders to head home early. Here’s one such story from Robert Collins, about how it takes all of us, making good decisions, to stay safe in the backcountry. It highlights how volunteers, as much as crew leaders have to “make the call” to keep themselves and their team safe.

Hello Leanna, 

I just wanted to take a minute to recognize the pros on SWEAT crew. Unfortunately on the first day I developed a sharp pain from my hip down to my right knee. I have never had knee problems and this was both baffling and very disappointing.

After conferring with Mic Collins (crew leader) I decided to pull myself off the trip so as not to cause any more damage or worse become a burden to the crew later on with a back country injury. I was taught in Wilderness First Responder that the right call is usually the hardest call but it is to the advantage of yourself and group. 

Mic was very supportive and appreciative of my decision. He split my gear up between other members, who were all really cool and supportive and then Allegra hiked out with me. She was also very supportive and encouraging and kept my spirits up.

We met Chloe at the trailhead and she drove me back to base camp and also gave me a smiles, encouragement and support. The professionalism, courtesy and the super positive attitude they displayed helped me get through a very disappointing, painful and discouraging time.

Even though I didn't get to spend the whole week with them I feel I have made friends for life. I was able to drive home and the next morning my knee was very swollen and stiff so I made the right choice. I have an appointment with a knee specialist on Tuesday to try and find out what's going on. I will let you know in the next week or so if I can still make the Rocky Top work trip in September.  

Please let everyone at ATC know what a wonderful group of people they have chosen to lead the SWEAT crew and I hope to come back next year better than ever and have the opportunity to earn a SWEAT crew t-shirt. 

Big thanks to Robert for letting us share his story. It's super important for all volunteers to recognize that they have as much responsibility as crew leaders to make the call on safety, but our crew leaders are there in case there's ever a lapse in judgement to help folks make the right decision. 

ATC is looking at how we can better screen and prepare volunteers for the rigors of this crew, in particular, if you have suggestions, please send them to ljoyner@appalachiantrail.org. 

Update: Sept. 15. Roberts PT was successful, and he has joined us for session two of Rocky Top, climbing the ever-so-steep Snake Den Ridge Trail to work on the A.T. near Inadu Knob. 

Session 6 Covers Some Distance!

Session Six covers distance~! Mt Chapman to Cosby Knob Shelter
(This week the crew leaders really got into taking pictures, so we've got a little more material to work with on the blog!) 
Showing team spirit! Check out SWEAT! 
Crew Leader: Mic Collins
Assistant Crew Leader: Allegra Torres
Crew members: Austin, Kane, Robert, Elizabeth, Elliot, and Katie

July 25th: The crew set off on Friday with high hopes for covering over ten miles of the A.T. from Mount Chapman to Cosby Knob Shelter with their six-day session.  We parked the van at Cosby campground and hiked 3.5 miles up the Low Gap Trail to Cosby Knob Shelter where we set up camp and prepared for a day of work between the shelter and Camel Gap. On the hike in Robert noticed some knee pain and made the difficult decision to turn back instead of continuing on with the crew. Read more about his story here

July 26th: On day two we were joined early by our Camp Coordinator, Chloe De Camera, who was anxious to join SWEAT for the first time this season and show off her trail digging skills.  Mic and Allegra gave an early morning tool talk where they discussed proper tool usage and necessary safety concerns.  The crew then spent the day working towards Camel Gap. Along the way they cleaned out 38 waterbars, built 2 rock waterbars, and cleared 1.5 miles of corridor.  

July 27th: On day three the crew woke up early to pack up camp and move to a new site of Tricorner Knob Shelter.  We hiked an additional 7.7 miles with weight on our backs, stopping occasionally at overlooks and views to relish in the beauty of the Smokies. 

July 28th:  Day four saw the first use of the cross-cut saw for the SWEAT crew this season.  Mic and Allegra discussed proper use and safety precautions when using the cross-cut saw, then led the crew through a proper assessment of the tree we would be cutting and the cut we would be making.  Every crew member had a chance to use the saw and after four separate cuts, three hours of work, and some display of brute strength rolling the excess logs out of the way, we had cleared the trail of the dangerous blow down!  We spent the rest of the day cleaning water bars towards Mount Chapman.

Head to these hills!

July 29th: On our last day of work the crew was able to work together on a major mucking/turnpike project. The crew de-mucked several areas of the trail south of Tricorner (which earned us our crew name: Desperate For Muckraking ;) then split into groups in order to dig in logs, gather rocks, create crush, and raise the tread through turnpikes in order to avoid muck in the future.  We ended our day of hard work by adding three steeping stones as an approach to one of the turnpikes.  A great day of work indeed!


July 30th: The crew woke up early in anticipation of our 8.5 mile hike out. We had breakfast, broke down camp, and enjoyed a fast paced hike down the Snake Den Ridge Trail and made it back to the van in just under 4 hours. 
Two of the toughest women I know arm wrestling.  
Week Summary: Session Six of SWEAT covered over ten miles of trail.  We cleaned waterbars, built new water bars, cleared three miles of corridor, cleared a massive blowdown with the use of a cross-cut, and built three turnpikes all while having a ton of fun and some great laughs.  Thanks to the volunteers of Desperate for Muckraking, it was truly a great week! #DFM

Peace out, Appalachian Trail!

By the numbers:
Waterbars cleaned: 84
Waterbars built: 2
Corridor cleared: 3 miles
Turnpikes built: 3 
Blowdown cleared: 1

The Wet Ones: laughter through four straight days of rain

Session 5 tackles Starkey Gap to Welch Ridge Trail
Crew Leader: Mic Collins
Assistant Crew Leader: Allegra Torres
Volunteers: Lea, Randy, Joel, Robin, Matt


July 16th: Wednesday began what would be a wildly wet and wonderful session for the SWEAT crew.  Barrels of fun, some might say, due to the work that was done and the elements we endured, but also due to the fact that Mic, Allegra, and our ATC Ridgerunner David actually carried three 35 gallon barrels on their backs. 

The view on the hike in was pretty nice. 
Barrels of fun! 
The barrels were to be dropped off halfway through the hike as a tool for rain water collection for the SWEAT relocation project on sessions 7 and 8 later this summer. Our hike started on a clear day at Clingmans Dome where the crew indulged in a spectacular view of white clouds and mountain goodness.  After a stretch and safety circle in the parking lot, we took off for what would be a 10 mile hike to Derrick Knob Shelter.  

Unfortunately, only a couple miles into our hike, one crew member began to feel some serious knee pain. After discussing the issue, we all agreed that he would be best served hiking out and tending to his knee issue back at basecamp.  We hope he feels better soon!  

The rest of the crew continued on their way and stopped short of their intended destination.  At Silers Bald Shelter, Allegra, Randy and Joel took on dinner duties while Robin, Lea and Mic hiked another 4 mile round trip to drop the barrels off at the relocation campsite.  

On day two of the session SWEAT crew continued on another 5.3 miles to the Derrick Knob Shelter.  Halfway through the hike, they stopped to rig up tarps in order to collect rain water in the barrels at the relocation campsite.  It took a bit of problem solving, but they figured out an efficient way to do it and continued on their way to Derrick Knob.  Upon arrival at the shelter, the crew set up camp and began our evening chores.  Before dinner, we came together for a tool demonstration talk.  Mic and Allegra discussed tool names, tool usage, proper ergonomics, and tool safety.
Mic demonstrates how to wear the hard hat. :) 

On day three, we got some productive and quality work from our session five crew.  Combined, we built a new waterbar, cleaned out 20 waterbars and 5 drainage ditches, removed a dangerous blowdown from the trail, and re-established 25 feet of sidehill trail.  We walked back to camp in what would be the start of three days of rain.

July 19th:  The rain we faced at the end of day three continued into the morning of day four.  We woke to a downpour.  After discussing our options together and with some volunteers from the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club A.T. Maintenance Committee, who had braved the rain to join us, we decided that our safest measure would be to wait out the rain and begin work when it let up, which it did, around noon, and the day was not lost.  With the help of the SMHC volunteers Jack Bray, Alec Holtsclaw, and Dan Schmiesing, we covered the three mile stretch from Derrick Knob Shelter to Miry Ridge, cleaning out 55 waterbars, building 2 new waters bars, and clearing a mile of corridor.  
It's all fun and games between the rains to keep spirits high. 
July 20th: The rain continued into our final day of work.  After a minor morning delay Mic, Lea, Joel and Randy were out to address the clearing of 2 miles of corridor towards Starkey gap.  Allegra and Robin worked around the shelter to address numerous social trails which had developed and become a danger to the hikers. 

July 21st: The crew woke up early in anticipation of our 8.5 mile hike out. We had breakfast, broke down camp, and enjoyed a glorious hike down the Greenbriar Rideg and Middle Prong trails and made it back to the van in just under 5 hours. 

Week Summary: This session was an incredibly difficult and enduring test for all involved.  Mic and Allegra would like to thank all the volunteers this week for the positive attitudes and hard work.  Facing four days of rain in the back country is never an easy task, but even in the face of constant cold and dampness, the session five crew AKA The Wet Ones completed important work and shared in many warms laughs together. 

Thanks again Ya'll!

By the numbers:
Waterbars cleaned: 75
Waterbars built: 3
Corridor cleared: 3 miles
Sidehill re-dug: 25 feet