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