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