The Latrine Queens
Lop, Chop, and Clean Drains to Keep the A.T. Pristine

The last Session of SWEAT Crew 2014 started on Thursday, August 21.

We set out from Newfound Gap for our maintenance work between Dry Sluice Gap and Laurel top.

Brooke, Lauren, Lindsay, Jenn, Mary, Haley, and Mic had a wonderful stop at Charlies Bunion on the way out. Having the perfect weather for the stop means we took tons of pictures to show you how amazing it is out there! 

We arrived, established camp, and were later joined by Elliot and Chloe for dinner. Over the next four work days we were able to accomplish some much needed work for the A.T. The ridgeline Trail between False Gap and Laurel Top had become seriously overgrown and branches were impeding on hikers ability to pass through. The volunteers put their muscles in motion by swinging and chopping out jungles of black berry bushes from the trail corridor, creating enough space for hikers to pleasurably maneuver through the beautiful section of Trail.

After a summer of rainstorms, the waterbars on this section of trail needed particular attention, too, so with ample skill and positive attitudes the volunteers cleaned 81 water bars. After addressing the critical essential maintenance the crew focused their attention on some mucky spots they had identified in their days of work on this section.

These muddy spots were responsible for widening the Trail, since hikers loath to walk through them, often go around, causing a widened trail. As we way in the trail maintenance world, “only you can prevent trail creep.” 

This time, the crew took on the challenge to de-muck multiple areas of the trail while adding drainage to prevent future erosion.
Doing some draining...and, it sure needed it!

De-mucking, continued. 

Time to test out the Trail, post draining. Is it good enough to dance on? The Queens find out. 
Meets our approval!

Oh, Yeah!!

Back at camp, Session 9 passed the time with the help of Elliot's travel size Scrabble board game. We also made it our primary goal to make sure to finish each and every last bite of dinner so that we would have less weight to carry out. This decision indirectly led to our eventual crew name: the Latrine Queens. And these Queens got some great work done! A big thanks to all for coming out!

This crew was also witness to salamander on salamander violence, and captured the carnage of one eating the other with these pictures. Who knew they did that? 




Smart Start to a Relocation Project

Sessions 7 and 8 tackle a relocation project of the trail that has been planned for 10 years. The relocation moves the trail from a steep fall-line trail to a more sustainable grade that should make the hiking more enjoyable. The crew worked on one of two relocations between Buckeye Gap and Silers Bald.

The crews quickly got dubbed by their common and relatable qualities, the Foodie Crew for Session 7 and The Guys Crew for Session 8.

It all started on Sunday, August 3rd when Session 7 of SWEAT hiked seven miles to their spike camp.
From there, our crew comprised of Amanda, Shane, Tracy, Anthony, and Austin would clear the flag line and dig trail. It’s a big undertaking, but they were up for the challenge.

With enthusiasm and dedication, Session 7 aka “The Foodie Crew” answered the call of building the reroute (perhaps comforted by their seemingly endless nightly discussions on all kinds of favorite recipes and plates). We began our work as a crew by first walking the length of the flag line. After a talk by the leaders on proper tool usage and safety, the crew began step one of the sidehill process: Clearing. We cleared the flag line with the use of pulaskis, swing blades, and hand saws removing blowdowns, organic material, and black berry patches from the future trail.

On day three we continued the process by removing large stumps from the ground and potential tripping hazards in large roots. By day four we were preparing to dig. The leaders again gave a demonstration on how to properly dig sidehill and explained the proper angles and lengths involved in digging new tread. Before the completion of our final work day one day later, the Foodie crew had dug over 500 feet of beautiful and slightly outsloped new tread.

By the time Tuesday, August 12 rolled around it was time for Session 8 to pick up where the Foodies had left off. Kirk, Anthony, Sam, Dave, and Danny came to be known simply as the Guys Crew. And these guys accomplished a heck of a lot of work. 

The days were simple yet exhausting. For four days, we swung picks at the ground, removed rocks and roots from the trail, and sculpted a new back slope and bench for future use by endless amounts of hikers visiting the Smokies and the A.T. for years to come. In three days, we accomplished digging just over 1,000 feet of new tread. For anyone who’s spent swinging a pulaski, that’s an impressive feat indeed. Before our time was up, the Guys spent a considerable amount of time fine-tuning the trail we dug and rehashing by spreading leaves over the new trail for erosion prevention.

Digging new tread is never an easy task but the volunteers for Session 7 & 8 were a force to be reckoned with. Their hard work and sweat was responsible for over 1,500 feet of new tread, which will be finished this September by another ATC Trail Crew and hopefully opened later this year. The Foodie and Guys crew certainly deserve much of the credit for breaking the ground on making this happen. Great work ya'll.


When to Make the Call

The S.W.E.A.T. crew is difficult. Crew life for this team is very demanding, and this year there was more than one volunteer to leave because of health or safety concerns. In fact, there were five volunteers over the course of the first six sessions, who ultimately weren't ready for trail crew. They made the decision independently or through discussion with trail crew leaders to head home early. Here’s one such story from Robert Collins, about how it takes all of us, making good decisions, to stay safe in the backcountry. It highlights how volunteers, as much as crew leaders have to “make the call” to keep themselves and their team safe.

Hello Leanna, 

I just wanted to take a minute to recognize the pros on SWEAT crew. Unfortunately on the first day I developed a sharp pain from my hip down to my right knee. I have never had knee problems and this was both baffling and very disappointing.

After conferring with Mic Collins (crew leader) I decided to pull myself off the trip so as not to cause any more damage or worse become a burden to the crew later on with a back country injury. I was taught in Wilderness First Responder that the right call is usually the hardest call but it is to the advantage of yourself and group. 

Mic was very supportive and appreciative of my decision. He split my gear up between other members, who were all really cool and supportive and then Allegra hiked out with me. She was also very supportive and encouraging and kept my spirits up.

We met Chloe at the trailhead and she drove me back to base camp and also gave me a smiles, encouragement and support. The professionalism, courtesy and the super positive attitude they displayed helped me get through a very disappointing, painful and discouraging time.

Even though I didn't get to spend the whole week with them I feel I have made friends for life. I was able to drive home and the next morning my knee was very swollen and stiff so I made the right choice. I have an appointment with a knee specialist on Tuesday to try and find out what's going on. I will let you know in the next week or so if I can still make the Rocky Top work trip in September.  

Please let everyone at ATC know what a wonderful group of people they have chosen to lead the SWEAT crew and I hope to come back next year better than ever and have the opportunity to earn a SWEAT crew t-shirt. 

Big thanks to Robert for letting us share his story. It's super important for all volunteers to recognize that they have as much responsibility as crew leaders to make the call on safety, but our crew leaders are there in case there's ever a lapse in judgement to help folks make the right decision. 

ATC is looking at how we can better screen and prepare volunteers for the rigors of this crew, in particular, if you have suggestions, please send them to 

Update: Sept. 15. Roberts PT was successful, and he has joined us for session two of Rocky Top, climbing the ever-so-steep Snake Den Ridge Trail to work on the A.T. near Inadu Knob.