Thank You!! To All Our Volunteers!

SWEAT Crew Leaders David and Morgan want to thank each and every volunteer who made this season possible.  From Session 1 to Session 8, the level of hard work, comradery, and understanding you shared went far to making our jobs easier.  It was a memorable summer, and you all hold a dear place in our hearts.  Thank you for the time you spent away from your jobs, your summer breaks, your loved ones to improve one of the most storied trails on earth.  We hope to see you next year! 

Your Crew Leaders.

Final SWEAT Session 2015

Day 1

Session 8’s hike-in was a deceptive one—only four miles, but every step of it uphill!  Still, the crew made it up in time for everyone to set up camp and begin some trailwork.  Tim and Bryan picked up where they left off on their previous 2015 SWEAT crews by swingblading, while Chuck (the ‘new guy’) showed off his professional landscaping skills with the loppers.  After supper the crew went to meet our neighbors at Cosby Knob Shelter—a couple making their way to Hot Springs—who seemed enthusiastic about joining SWEAT next year.

Day 2

Judging by the forecast, the rain appeared all but imminent.  Donned in rain suits we set out to accomplish as much as possible before the bottom dropped out…but it never did!  Session 7 volunteer, Britt, joined us around noon and went straight to cleaning waterbars.  Bryan quit early after taking a headache but was back on his feet by chow time.  Again we went to go visit the shelter neighbors, only to find one backpacker who was already asleep.

Day 3

The team got to see the work in store on the 4+ mile hike to Inadu Knob: brushing…brushing…and more brushing.  Leapfrogging was the game as the volunteers paired off on lopping and swingblading duties.  The sound of thunder never far away, the crew worked double-time and with fingers crossed.  By day’s end they’d accomplished 2 miles of trail work and dodged another downpour.

Day 4

After a breakfast of peanut butter and honey burritos, the crew went on a brushing rampage.  We met a handful of friendly hikers who thanked us for our work and offered us snacks.  Bring on the trail magic!  After our nightly shelter visit, we talked under the tarp until ‘hiker-thirty’ called everyone to their tents.

Day 5

Last workday for SWEAT 2015!  It was a bittersweet day for the crew: on one hand it was hard to believe the week had gone by so fast; on the other, we wanted to see the job through.  Following the crew’s last swipe of the swingblade, final cut with the loppers, they decided there was enough time to head back to basecamp early, where Meg was waiting with burgers and a birthday cake to celebrate Morgan’s 30th.  What a way to end a great season!

Big Crew, Big Session, Big Fun!

Session 7 Crew

Day 1 - The hike from Clingman’s Dome to camp was a 10+mile slog through the fog and rain.  We stopped at two shelters en route, allowing everybody the chance to lunch out of the wet and empty their boots.  With about three miles left, David had to respond to an injured hiker report.  Applying his excellent wilderness medical skills he was able to stabilize the hiker until other help arrived and they airlifted him out.  Good work, David!

Brit on the swingblade
Day 2 - It was a 6-mile hike to the end of our work area, made a little easier by clear skies.  Jeff, Kirk and Tina began brushing at Silers Bald Shelter while the rest of the gang ascended further north to tackle the blackberry invasion.  At the end of the day, Morgan commented that it seemed like the toughest workday of the season.  Luckily, there was a great supper and dessert to look forward to, followed by bedtime around 7:30.

Kessiah works the loppers
Day 3 - The crew split into two teams today, with Morgan, Tina, Jeff and Kirk heading south brushing while the rest of the bunch went north to finish a 2-mile section of waterbars and lopping.  On the way up, David’s crew heard a bear growl, so they kept close together in hopes of no further encounters.  After a good 3.5-mile total of work completed, everyone headed back to camp for tuna mac and conversation with the wild pig hunter, Rick.

Hanging out at camp
Day 4 - Yet another day of dividing and conquering.  Morgan’s group headed south and brushed their way back from Starkey Gap.  David’s group had a more thrilling workday after Kessiah spotted a rattlesnake on the trail!!!  The crew took some photos from a safe distance and resumed their brushing a little further downtrail.  Later, on the way back to camp, they were caught in a major downpour.  Luckily Kirk and Morgan had supper prepared for their soggy return.

Andrew on the loose!

Day 5 - The crew ate breakfast a little slower this morning, watching and hoping the rain would quit soon.  In the end everyone sucked it up to clean a few more waterbars and dig sidehill.  Tina showed everyone out with her amazing pulaski skills while Greg worked the shovel.  Returning to camp the skies opened long enough for the crew to dry their gear and sun bathe.  Dinner was followed by a game of ‘Bean-Boozled’ (look it up…YUCK!).

Group shot with some passing hikers
Day 6- The long walk home…frequent stops with the intermittent bear markers (aka fresh scat).  The ascent to the dome was long and arduous, but it paid off once the crew reached the top and were able to take in the breathtaking views.  After tacos at Soak Ash basecamp, David and Morgan handed out the prized trail crew shirts and everyone got time to reflect on another great week of trail maintenance.

Up on Mollie's Ridge

Day 1

On our climb from Cades Cove we met a hiker who’d lost her backpack to a bear!  It goes without saying that it put newbie volunteers Bryant and Sam on pins and needles (and never more than a stones throw from their packs on the way to Mollies Field.)  Randy returned for his second week, while ATC SORO’s Trail Specialist, Chris Binder, made a guest appearance on the way up.  Arriving at camp we encountered Smoky Mountain Hiking Club (SMHC) members Hopeful and Ox, who helped us devise a plan for the week over dinner.

Day 2

With our SMHC additions, we decided to divide and conquer trail-south of Mollies.  Team one worked on installing steps while team two handled brushing.  Both Ox and Hopeful proved to be a wellspring of trail knowledge, advising the crew on the do’s and don’ts of tread rehab.  And wouldn’t you know it…they shared dessert with us too!

Day 3

We witnessed an authentic moment of trail magic during breakfast:  A family of hikers had forgotten to pack their stove.  On the verge of cancelling their trip, Hopeful stepped forward and offered his.  What a lifesaver!  In other news, it was a big brushing day for SWEAT.  We headed north and worked back through the bugs and blowdowns.  During breaks, Sam and Bryant foraged for early blackberries, while Randy took time to rest his eyes.  

Day 4

With the team’s main objectives accomplished ahead of schedule, everyone was eager to work on steps and waterbars.  David led the step installments while Morgan handled the latter.  It was a productive day, with the crew finishing five steps, two waterbars, and a handful of drains. 

Day 5

After the morning safety meeting—led by none other than SWEAT veteran, Randy—the crew set out to accomplish more major jobs.  Sidehill was priority, followed by more waterbars.  Meanwhile, Sam serenaded the crew with an original song he’d written in light of his SWEAT experience.  What he lacks in vocals he makes up for in wit and creativity. 

Day 6

The long walk home…well, more like a trail run, owing to the majority of it being downhill.  Plus, everyone was promised some soft serve at the Cades Cove gift shop once we were finished.  Talk about brain freeze!