Mt. Chapman to Laurel Top: Scenic, Remote, Wild!

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

Welcome; Meet the Team!

Allegra Torres, Mic Collins, and Chloe De Camara are on the job! This crew season is in good hands with this great group, hailing largely (and most recently) from the greater Asheville, N.C. area. 

Name: Allegra Torres
Position: Assistant Crew Leader
Hometown: I'm from Springville, Maine.
Experience on the A.T.: I thru-hiked in 2012. I started March 26 and ended Oct. 9 on a very chilly day.
Trail Crew Experience: I was a trail crew member for the Maine Conservation Corps in 2010. I was an ast. crew leader for the same crew.
Other Talents: I have the magical gift of making people smile.
Favorite memory of an outdoor adventure: Probably when I was 9 years old and summitted Katahdin. That started my love of the outdoors.
Why you're looking forward to S.W.E.A.T. Crew: I'm looking forward to getting dirty! Making the A.T. beautiful.
What's your favorite backpacking hack? Hot sauce. It makes every meal amazing! (This is also her trail name!) 

Name: Mic Collins
Position: SWEAT Crew Leader
Hometown: Originally Ramsey, New Jersey. Currently Brevard, North Carolina
Experience on the A.T.: Mainly with the small section that cuts through the NJ/NY area where I am from. I have hiked along the trail in Bear Mountain State Park where it crosses the beautiful Hudson Valley.
Trail Crew Experience: In 2012, I was a Crew Leader for the Montana Conservation Corps. With MCC, I dug three miles of new tread in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho, maintained trail in the Beartooth mountains of of South Central Montana, and sprayed weeds in the Badlands of South Dakota.
Other Talents: In the summer of 2013 I rode my bike from Jacksonville, Florida to Monterey, California. It was the experience of a life time. I continue to be an avid cyclist and look forward to rides in the Blue Ridge this Spring and Summer.
Favorite memory of an outdoor adventure: A four day backpacking trip with my brothers in Glacier National Park. It was absolutely gorgeous, and experience I will never forget. We went swimming in the bluest water I have ever seen, experienced epic views at multiple mountain passes, and had exciting encouters with mountain goats, moose, and grizzlies.
Why you're looking forward to S.W.E.A.T. Crew: Embracing the unique qualities of the Smokies while meeting, working alongside, and living with a diversified group of engaged volunteers. Also, simply enjoying living life outdoors and under the stars.
What's your favorite backpacking hack? Hmm, I'm not sure I have one. But over the years I have collected some good luck charms from various people I have met in my travels. They decorate my daypack and I never hike without them.

Name: Chloe De Camara
Position: Base Camp Coordinator
Hometown: Boone N.C.
Experience on the A.T.: I wrote my senior thesis on thru-hiking the A.T. as a new form of religion. Then I volunteered with the ATC for two months. I'm relatively new to the A.T. I hope to thru-hike starting in March or April 2015.
Trail Crew Experience: Not too much. I've had two weeks of trail maintenance training at Wilderness Skills Institute, so I'm new to trail maintenance. I'm thrilled to be exposed to it and learn lots, have it be part of my life and my thru-hike.
Other Talents: I'm extremely enthusiastic and energetic. I'm eager for new challenges. I'm a pretty rigorous yoga practice and I speak french. I love to hike as much as I can.
Favorite memory of an outdoor adventure: My favorite memory is hiking 82 miles of the A.T. this past March with a group of strangers that became close friends by the end of the week.
Why you're looking forward to S.W.E.A.T. Crew: I'm looking forward to meeting an incredible group of people who are here for no other reason than to help maintain and protect the A.T. The work they do is rigorous and hard. It's not recognized work, so it's nice to see people working to do something greater than themselves.
What's your favorite backpacking hack? I love my insoles because I have achilles problems. Having good insoles has completely changed my walking pattern and made it easier for me to go long distances. 

Behind the scenes during your registration process you've probably talked to Leanna and/or Kayah. They're part of the program, too, though you might not see them as much.  

Name: Leanna Joyner
Position: Trail Resources Manager, ATC
Hometown: Irmo, SC
Experience on the A.T.: Thru-hiked the A.T. in 2003, and have hiked about about a quarter to half of it again since then. I've worked for ATC since 2006 in one capacity or another.
Trail Crew Experience:I cut my teeth with TEHCC's Hard Core during my thru-hike. We were the mules who carried the lumber in for the privy installation at Knot Maul Shelter. Since then I've spent dedicated time on A.T. and MST trail maintenance projects, and lots of one-day work trips alongside ATC's trail crews. Always looking forward to more. 
Other talents: I teach dance, and because the "p" button is broken on my home laptop, I'm a genius when it comes to the cut-and-paste shortcut.
Favorite memory of an outdoor adventure: Bike packing through Okanagan Mountain Park through sand and over the carcasses of downed pines. Beauty, misery, accomplishment - oh, and it ended at some wineries, so that was good.
Why she's looking forward to S.W.E.A.T. Crew Season: Because I've already met so many volunteers who have registered for crew, and they seem awesome. Plus, we're going to get to tackle a relocation project that's been on the books for a while. That's going to feel so good to get done.
What's your favorite backpacking hack? I have two favorites. The piece of z-rest that serves as a sit-pad; it comes on day hikes as well as backpacking trips and always keeps my bum off the cold, hard, ground. The second is a recently-acquired silicone squirt "bottle" intended for office-folk to take salad dressing to work; I use it for carrying olive oil on trail because it's lightweight, easily refillable, and collapsible when empty.

Name: Kayah Gaydish
Position: Office Administrator, ATC
Hometown: Front Royal, Va
Experience on the A.T.: I've hiked half the Trail and taken lots of other trips for fun and maintenance.
Trail Crew Experience: Lots of fun. I worked regularly with Carolina Mountain Club and lead my own crew for them. I was also the camp coordinator for SWEAT and Rocky Top last year. 
Other Talents: Rock climbing, bird watching and listening. I also like identifying herbs and using them for herbal medicine. 
Favorite memory of an outdoor adventure: Hiking in the snow along the A.T.; the quiet stillness and the moon along the snow. 
Why she's looking forward to SWEAT Crew season: Meeting all the great new crew members and getting work done on the Trail. 
What is favorite backpacking hack? Dehydrated ginger crystals. It's not even candy. You add it to hot water so you can add it to your hot cocoa or tea.