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!