The week of June 7 - 12, the Smokies Wilderness Elite Trail Crew set into the forest of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for the first time this year. They set their aim on one of the most remote sections of the entire A.T. in the park, aiming to work from Laurel Top to Mount Chapman.
In addition to our intrepid crew leader Mic, vibrant assistant crew leader Allegra, we had Katie from Lynchburg who studies muscles and loves them, John from Alabama who had his first experience eating "monkey meat" on crew (let's just say Chloe learned that potted meat isn't a fan favorite), and Pete who wears his passion for the Appalachian Trail on his shoulder.
Into the woods they carried 3 handsaws, 2 loppers, 2 pulaskis, 1 pruning saw, 1 pick-mattock, 1 fire rack, 1 swing blade, and 1 shovel.
S.W.E.A.T crew began their season on National Trails Day, June 7. We parked our van at Newfound Gap and hiked north eleven miles to our cabin campsite just passed Pecks Corner Shelter, passing other volunteers and hikers along the way. The weather held strong for us all and we had a beautiful day to hike. We arrived at our cabin just as the sun was setting, made some dinner, then got some much needed sleep.
Sunday, our first day of work, was a productive one. We were able to use some tools stashed at the tool box at Pecks Shelter, very helpful. We cleared 1.5 miles of corridor with swing blades and loppers and cleaned out 33 waters bars and 7 drainage dips walking south on the AT from Pecks Corner. Highlight of our day was the lunchtime view of the Smokies!
On Monday, June 9 The crew hiked north on the AT, Allegra and Katie made it all the way to Mount Chapman and cleared one mile of corridor with swing blades and loppers. Mic, Pete, and John used pulaskis and a pick-mattock to clean out 83 waterbars 3 drainage dips.
Tuesday, the crew hiked south from Pecks Corner again, this time making it all the way to Laurel Top. We cleared another 1.5 miles of corridor with swing blades, dug 25 feet of side hill on a heavily eroded stretch of the Trail, and added 10 stepping stones where needed on the trail.
Wednesday, June 11 we saw our worst weather yet on the trail as we faced high winds and rain all throughout the work day. The crew started by hiking south from Pecks Corner, then headed north to finish the final 2 miles of corridor clearing for the week. Wet grass is certainly more difficult to cut than dry, but with all crew members on the swing blade, we were able to get the work done.
Thursday, June 12 the crew woke up early in anticipation of our long hike out. We had breakfast, cleaned the cabin, and made it back to the van in about 9 hours.
Week Summary: SWEAT Crew Session One was certainly a success. We were able to complete the work at the top of our priority list, all while forming new friendships and having some great laughs. This section of the AT was pretty well maintained but there were opportunities to add some structures to help prevent water erosion that we could not get to due to time. All in all, Session One set a great tone for the rest of our season.
By the numbers:
Waterbars cleaned: 116
Drainages cleaned: 10
Corridor cleared: 6 miles
Stepping stones added: 10