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

Katie's Take on Crew Life

Katie spent four sessions on the Smokies Wilderness Elite A.T. Crew when she sent in this summary of her time on crew.
I would also just like to say that working on S.W.E.A.T Crew has been one of the most amazing experiences I have ever been apart of and a lot of that has to do with Allegra, Chloe, and Mic. They all work extremely well together and they value each others opinions as well as the volunteers opinions and I felt very valued as a volunteer and I loved working, hiking, and just hanging out with all of them. I couldn't have asked for better leaders and a better summer!

For our part, we can't say enough good things about Katie either. She's a hard worker, enthusiastic, super helpful, and always smiling.

(P.S. She liked it so much that she's even coming back for one more session before the end of the season!)  

A New Bear

Session Four 
Workin' it from Doe Knob to Rocky Top
Volunteers: Lea, Randy, Bryce, Patrick, JRh, Katie
Crew Name " S.W.E.A.T. Episode 1: A new Bear"

Day 1 Sunday July 6: We started the day with a wonderful sausage, potato and egg casserole for breakfast at Soak Ash, made by our camp coordinator Chloe. Eager to get on the trail, we headed to Cades Cove and ascended 4,000 ft in elevation on the Russell Field Trail and hiked a total of 7.5 miles to Russell Field shelter. We dropped our packs and ate a hot meal together followed by stories and jokes.

Day 2 we awoke up to the sun peaking through the trees, ate a filling breakfast of oatmeal, grits as well as mocha (hot chocolate packets and instant coffee, a necessity on the trail). After a great stretch circle as well as a "tool time" explanation of each tool and the correct way to use them the crew was off to Rocky Top (the farthest point of our section) and worked our way back to Spence Field Shelter. After taking in the views on Rocky Top we proceeded to address burs and overgrowth by swingblading two feet back on each side of the trail. Water bars were also in need of some TLC and we cleaned them out with pulaskis, fire rakes, and pick mattocks.


Tuesday, July 8, JR showed us evidence of a bear that had chewed on his trekking poles. We jumped up to intensely inspect our campsite and found other evidence of bear activity. After discussing the issue with the Park wildlife biologists, we decided to spend the day relocating south to Mollies Ridge Shelter. On our way, we cleared 1 mile of trail with slingblades. Once we arrived at our new home we saw two bears (we named them Yogi and Booboo) climbing up trees next to the shelter to eat berries. We respected the wildlife by watching them at a distance and had ourselves some good ol' "Bear TV."

Day 4 Wed, July 9:  The trail calls for work. We hiked north of mollies ridge shelter back to Russell field shelter and cleaned out waterbars, built new rock water bars (with MASSIVE rocks!), installed check steps as well as swingblading. Today, we saw a family of hogs, a red wolf (we think) lots of red cheeked salamanders (a rare breed of amphibian that is only found in the Smokies!), and Allegra pointed out a flower called Indians Pipe which has no chlorophyll, thus making it completely white. While hiking back home, we heard the jolly rambling of a man we call "the immortal" Randy Pucket. Back at the shelter, the crew took part in their very own "Star Wars" rendition and called it "S.W.E.A.T Wars Episode 1: A New Bear" The story was written in a shelter log for all to enjoy and explained our daily life in an epic manor.

Day five we addressed "THE MUCK." Eager to work with our special guest, we headed north past Russell Shelter to address some major erosion and mucky areas. We talked about how certain parts of the A.T. in the park are shared with horseback riders in the Smoky Mountains, which makes it difficult in preventing erosion for an extended period of time. We addressed a very mucky and eroded area and shoveled as well as raked out the 'organic matter' layer and mud until we found the desired mineral soil underneath. After a much needed mud fight, we raised the problem areas with buckets upon buckets of mineral soil and dug drainage ditches where needed. 

Overall, JR rates it a success with his two thumbs up! 

Water bars cleaned: 65
New Rock Waterbars: 6
Miles of Swing blading and lopping: 5 1/2 mi.
Log check steps: 3

Not Quite Over that Next Hill

Section #7: Mount Chapman to Camel Gap
Crew Leader: Mic Collins
Assistant Crew Leader: Allegra Torres
Volunteers: Ron, JR, Katie, Jeff, Robert, Lee, Quinn

June 26: The group parked our van at Cosby Campground where we congregated and  had our first stretch and safety circle of the week. We hiked 4.4 miles north on the Snake Den Ridge Trail with a vertical gain of 4,000 feet to the A.T. then completed another 3.7 miles on the A.T. to the Tricorner Knob Shelter.

June 27: Our first day of work was a productive one. We hiked north on the Trail to Camel Gap. After a demonstration in tool usage and how to clean water bars, the crew worked in groups of two to address clogged waterbars and clear corridor. The real work came later in the day when the group addressed three areas of the trail in danger of washing out on the downhill side. We spent the rest of the day re-establishing sidehill.  By the time we set off back to camp, the crew had completed sidehilling projects of 25, 40, and 85 feet.  A great day of hard work!


June 28: Day three saw more productive and quality work from our session three crew: The Almost Over the Hill Crew.  We hiked north again to where we had stopped work the previous day. The crew worked together to address some major damage on the trail just passed Mount Guyot.  Due to lack of waterbars on this section of Trail, water had eroded and destroyed previously installed check steps.  After coming together to make a plan and delegate jobs the crew worked through the afternoon to address the issue.  Jeff, Lee, and JR built new water bars, using rocks and logs, while Ron, Quinn, and Katie worked diligently to dig in and set new check steps.  By the end of the day, we had built three new water bars and 7 check steps, ensuring a safer and more quality experience for hikers passing through.

As we prepared to head back to camp for the day, we received a pleasant surprise due to some amazing trail magic brought to us by Allegra's husband, Jake Hansen AKA Sweaty Cheddah. We were rewarded for our hard work when Jake met up with us and pulled out of his bag of tricks a half gallon of ice cream for our enjoyment on the Trail.  Yes, you read correctly, a half gallon of ice cream, 8 miles in the back country on the AT.  How, you ask?

The formula is as follows:  A half gallon of ice cream placed in a stuff sack with a nalgene full of ice, wrapped up in a sleeping bag for complete insulation, and boom, you've got a good 5 hours before melting point.  Thanks for the tasty treat Jake!  #IceCreamOnTheAT

June 29: Day four was a highlight for The Almost Over the Hill Crew due to the amount of trail covered and work completed.  As a crew, we cleaned a grand total of 131 waterbars and cleared a mile of corridor with the use of swingblades and loppers, reaching all the way to Camel Gap.  In the afternoon, we were rewarded for our hard work by two visitors, our Camp Coordinator Chloe and the ATC ridgerunner, David AKA Star Child.  We snacked on zucchini cake made from scratch by Chloe and fresh cherries brought to us by David.  Another day brightened by some amazing trail magic, Thank Chloe and David!

June 30: On our final day's work the crew focused south towards Mount Chapman.  We cleaned 50 more waterbars and cleared a final mile of corridor.  With severe weather forecasts for the afternoon, we decided to address some needs at and around the Tricorner Knob Shelter.  The groups split up to clear brush, eliminate obnoxious stumps, and to sidehill a small section of the approach trail.  
July 1: The crew woke up early in anticipation of our long hike out. We had breakfast, broke down camp, and made it back to the van in just under 5 hours. 

Week Summary: SWEAT Crew Session three was a major success in improving the safety of the AT. The Almost Over the Hill Crew lived up to their name and proved they were not quite over the hill yet, as we were able to complete the work at the top of our priority list while taking on some additional responsibilities. This was a long section of the A.T. to maintain, and the efforts of the crew certainly produced quality work that will have a long lasting affect in maintaining the trail.

By the numbers:

Waterbars cleaned: 213
Waterbars built: 5
Corridor cleared: 5 miles
Sidehill dug: 150 feet
Log steps: 7

Harlem Shake

I just don't know how this video escaped my notice last year. Thanks to my good buddy Ron Hudnell, I now know it exists.

Now, for your viewing pleasure...may I present...S.W.E.A.T Crew

We still have four open spots on the upcoming S.W.E.A.T Session 5, that begins on July 16 and concludes July 21. If you've got plenty of backpacking experience and are ready to spend six-days with us in the backcountry doing some maintenance, and who knows what else...register today at by using the Volunteer Today button in the upper right corner of the screen.

Session Two's Smashing Success

Session Two worked on Section Three. That's from Rocky Top to Starkey Gap, for the uninitiated. It's also a season-long tongue-twister. Session three on section seven. Session four on section two. You get the idea! 

Our professional trail crew leaders Mic Collins and Allegra Torres were accompanied by volunteers Katie (on her second of four sessions!), Alan, Anthony, and Quin. Quin got the greatest distance award, hailing from Pittsburgh for this wilderness adventure. 

Into the woods they took their food, camping supplies, personal protective equipment and a bunch of tools: 2 handsaws, 2 loppers, 3 pulaskis, 1 pruning saw, 2 pick-mattocks, 1 fire rack, 4 swing blades, 2 shovels, 2 buckets

On Tuesday, June 17, the group parked our sweet ATC van at Lead Cove Trailhead where we were met and joined by Randy Puckett, a former SWEAT Crew Leader and all around great guy. We hiked 5 miles north with a vertical gain of 4,000 feet to the Appalachian Trail. Randy showed us a wonderful spot to have lunch and the group took a break in the grass overlooking the mountains and Fontana Dam. The weather held strong for us so we had beautiful day to hike. We arrived at our primitive campsite, set up our tents and tarps, made some dinner, and got some much needed sleep.

Wednesday, June 18 was a productive first day of work. We hiked north on the Trail to Starkey Gap. The group cleared a half mile of the corridor,  cleaned a couple water bars and built 2 new ones. The real work came later in the day when the group addressed a steep section of trail eroded down to bed rock. We added 6 rock steps, 2 log steps, and 2 drainage dips to the section to help hold soil and allow hikers a safe route from one end to the other. There were some crashes of thunder just as we finished our job for the day and the crew got drenched in rain on our walk back to camp. Fortunately, Allegra made a delicious Thanksgiving-style dinner and our wet spirits were lifted by the delicious food.

Thursday, June 19: We hiked north again to where we had stopped work the previous day. In addition to clearing 1.5 miles of corridor with swing blades and loppers, clearing 20 waterbars with picks and pulaskis, the crew took on a major operation and dug 150 feet of new sidehill in areas where the trail was in danger of washing out.

Friday, June 20: The crew said goodbye to Randy as he departed from the group in the morning. Having Randy volunteer with the group was a great as he shared valuable knowledge from his years of experience on the trail and brought an energetic spirit to work and camp life, Thanks Randy! Friday was a very productive day as the group hiked out to Rocky Top then worked back towards camp, clearing 2 miles of corridor, cleaning 33 water bars, and building 5 drainage dips.

Saturday, June 21: On our final day of work fell on the longest day of the year, the summer solstice. The crew split up to accomplish the final mile of corridor clearing with swing blades and loppers and clearing out the final 6 waterbars. In the afternoon the group was able to meet up and address another area of the trail in danger of washing out. By the end of the day we had dug another 85 feet of sidehill and made it back to camp just before being drenched by another rainstorm. Once the storm passed through, Mic, Katie, and Quin hiked back to Rocky Top to watch the sunset. It was magnificent!

Sunday, June 22: The crew woke up early in anticipation of our long hike out. We had breakfast, broke down camp, and made it back to the van in about 5 hours. Just before the end of our hike out, the group encountered a momma bear and her cub. We all caught an exhilarating glimpse but quickly continued on our way out of respect for the wildlife and their home.

Week Summary: SWEAT Crew Session Two was another success. With our spirited, youthful crew, we were able to complete the work at the top of our priority list while taking on some additional responsibilities. This section of the A.T. was remote, and the efforts of the crew certainly helped to improve the trail experience fore all who pass through. SWEAT hopes to continue the hard work and strong efforts established by the members of Session Two aka Alan and the Youngins.

By the numbers

Waterbars cleaned: 61
Waterbars built: 2
Drainage dips built: 7
Corridor cleared: 5 miles
Sidehill dug: 235 feet
Rock steps: 6
Log steps: 2