Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mountain Alliance Trail Work ~ Making a Difference!

On Thursday April 30, 2009 students from Watauga High School and members of Mountain Alliance participated in volunteer service on the Mountains to Sea Trail.
A group of 12 students and adult leaders received an orientation to the MST and an overview of safety and trail construction techniques. Hard work and big smiles were the evidence that these teens wanted to make a difference ~
Some worked in teams of three, some worked alone,
but the one thing that made real progress ....
.... was working together.
In less than two hours of work time, this crew of fine youngsters cut and leveled a section which prior to their efforts today had barely been opened . Here Todd, Mountain Alliance leader gets busy or gets out of the way! Some of the best volunteers we have had have been teenagers. When someone says the youth of today don't want to work, I think of the efforts these young leaders have made for the MST.
After a hard work session, still smiles to show in pleasure of their accomplishments.
The motto at the top of the bus says it all ~ many thanks to the Mountain Alliance organization and the students of Watauga High School who participated!

This little video shows the work they did in the short time we had to work.

Followed by the next one showing how much fun it is to become involved with the Mountains to Sea trail. We meet every Saturday morning at the Deep Gap Post Office at 8:30 am.

I Hope you will come discover us soon!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

April 25, 26 Good Work

Last Saturday Gerry led a crew of volunteers to work on the west side of BRP between MP 278-279. This is a nice place to walk and work. It is a gentle climb through forested woodlands. One of the easiest and prettiest sections to work or walk on this part of the MST.

There were not many volunteers but the work that was done sure is sweet.
This is the trail entry from the parkway. The grade was such here that surface clearing was all that was done. Moving some brush and cutting some dead falls. But just beyond this surface tread (seen in the lower left corner) the incline begins. This sweet curve leads off from the downed locust.
This straight away is perfection. It walks smooth and inclines over about 100 yards to the top of the ridge.
The image above is from near the top of the ridge looking back to the entry point.
I love this passage between these two pines Very nice job of threading through there crew! As you step out at the top of this ridge the view straight across the valley is west to Grandfather. On a clear day you can see Tanawah in the distance.
And just beyond the graded section, the raking crew has already made the first pass on the next stretch. Thanks to all who worked on this section: Gerry, Marietta, Chris, John, and Shelton.
We will be working on this section again next Saturday, May 2 in the Deep Gap area. Come join us!
We meet at 8:30 at the mini warehouse adjacent to the Deep Gap Post Office. Any amount of time appreciated and something to do to fit all ability levels. We supply the tools and gloves. Call 828.264.5317 for more information.... or call our section leader John, you can reach him at 828-963-6901

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Goshen Creek

John, Shelton, and Allen explored an alternative routing for the trail along Goshen Creek.

This is the bridge that is closed on the parkway. It is just past Bamboo where the road block diverts traffic off the parkwary.

Hopefully it will be completed soon. In this photo you can see the decking forms being made ready to pour concrete.

These interesting pieces of steel are the width of the bridge deck and will be mounted as space joints. Notice the spikes angle down and out to tie the concrete together between the pourings. The bridge work was interesting but the real beauty of the day was Goshen Creek.

This river has many waterfalls and large stones. Mostly a shaded river nearly all rocks are moss covered.

Long a favorite fishing location this section has not seen much exploration since the bridge and parkway have been closed all the way to Aho.

This is one of the most beautiful water features along the Mountains to Sea Trail in our section. There is a very ancient and primordial sense about this river along this stretch.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Working to Create a Trail to the Future

Working together on the trail with this group of OA (Order of the Arrow) boy scouts was a real pleasure.

One of the missions of MST is to develop a sense of ownership of the trail with our younger citizens. The future of our environment, our national forests, our national trails, and our dreams for this trail lie in the hands of the youth with whom we share our enthusiasm, who we mentor in their efforts, and to whom we pass the torch for the future of the Mountains to Sea Trail through North Carolina.

This little video above is a fun glimpse to the enthusiasm and efforts made by these fine young men on April 4, 2009. Simply click on the arrow to view. Hopefully, they will remember this day and feel rewarded by their efforts for many years to come. Thanks Scouts!

Culvert Bridge

One of the unique features of the section just past BRP MP278 is this culvert bridge. It was built by the Arrowmen on April 4. With the guidance of their scoutmaster, the crew gathered stone and filled a washout.

They built a crib to support the culvert. The culvert was a dislodged abandoned piece of concrete pipe from the parkway construction many years ago.

They manuevered it in place with hand tools and levers, set it in the crib, and now it serves as a bridge and a drainage culvert. Good work!

Work Crew Flagging

There are many flagging tags along the trail to help us as we are working. With different crews and volunteer workers it is helpful to know what needs to be done and the flags serve as indicators.
Pink flags are the original survey flags. They follow the line of the trail, but are not the definitive foot trail. Most of these flags were placed in surveys between 1996 and 2008 by Allen deHart and assistants. These flags create the straight lines of sight for developing the trail.
On areas that we are beginning to develop the foot trail there are blue ground level flags. These flags are indicators for the cut line for leveling and are always on the high side of the trail. Often they are 5-10 feet apart and indicate where dirt should be pulled from to level the lower side of the foot trail. The goal is to create as straight of a cut as possible between the blue flags.
In our section we have been using yellow flags to indicate a caution area or obstacle. These areas need a priority attention for safety concerns. They may indicate a potential stumble or a eye level danger or any other potential safety issue that needs attention and maintenance.
A green flag indicates that there is a ground level hazard or maintenance need. Sometimes that may be a single item such as a rock in the trail, or stumbling root, or hole. If the flag is on a single item it may be that simple. The green flags that are attached to a blue flag indicate a section or stretch that needs trail leveling. Generally there will be a green flag on a blue flag and then another at a point that indicates the length of the stretch that needs improvements.
Following is a short video clip showing examples of the flags as used in one area on the MST trail in Watauga County.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Archaeological Surveying

Back in November on a cold, frigid day (the temperature was in the teens and the winds were howling) we walked the north section through Watauga with the archaeologist. Each new area being proposed for the trail through the National Forest and along the Blue Ridge Parkway requires approval at many levels of inspection.

The archaeological survey is conducted by a professional who is reviewing the territory for signs of earlier habitat. Trails are never new, they are found or developed, but long before we walked this path many other footsteps traversed this Appalachian Mountain range. We are searching for evidence of Native American encampments, trade or fish camps, and pioneer settlements.
Equipped with Military grade GPS systems (see the backpack mounted satellite receiver) the archaeologist studies each section and also maps the coordinates along the way to help establish the permanent record of the line of the trail.
When an area is curious enough by his knowledge of history and settlement to warrant a dig we would stop and set up for sampling. In this picture a site is being excavated and screened for evidence of previous settlements.
The satellite GPS was constantly "mapping" and would ping every five seconds locking in the coordinates and location of the surveyors. This in time will be overlapped with other satellite imaging, landsat photos, and maps to establish our final trail orientations along the BRP. Much as the NFS did years ago in determining the parkway boundaries.
It is a remarkable feeling to stand on the ridge along this section of the MST and look out over the edge of the Appalachian Blue Ridge escarpment to the distant horizon. This view spans nearly 50 miles to the south east. At this point the MST is nearly on the "crest of the blue ridge". Here, water that falls on the other side of this ridge goes to the Atlantic Ocean. On the side I photographed from, water runs to the Gulf of Mexico. Hence, crest of the Blue Ridge.

Autumn, Apple, and Beagle time

These two beagles were watching us from a perch on bales of hay in this October scene near Aho along the trail.

Back in the fall at the end of one of the work days we stopped to retrace the survey over the top of the ridge at Thurnderhill Overlook. There were many apples on the ground and Allen collected from three trees and assortment to share with the board of directors of FMST

It had been a long day of working and picking apples was the perfect ending.
The deer keep the ground under this tree cleared and stomped. Looks like Allen is a part of the nature.
Pink ribbons replace and tied high on the ridge, surveyors line completed.

Art of the Morning Light

In these photos we were huddled against the rock face near Blowing Rock.
Winds were howling and we were trying to stay close to the rock to create a wind break while we were planning the days work.
The bold morning light made great shadows. I thought the black and white images seemed perfect for that morning.
Different angles provide contrasting light and shape and forms.
John reviews his notes and we sit facing the sun learning from Allen what to do next.
Allen was bundled and completely comfortable snuggled up against that boulder.
We all were getting motivated to move, but in such a morning light, desiring to remain still.

Getting the Day Started

John was our leader and organized our group for the work of the day.
Here John explains the pointer finger over knuckles technique ;-) Really he is explaining how we would make a level trail on a sloped hillside. That is always the challenge of trail work in the mountains. It is not always as simple as an up and down the hillside problem. Since we traverse a hillside, we must account for slope too.
After a brief orientation and motivation we were ready to go to the trail.
We always begin our day at the warehouse where we store or work tools. Making sure we have had time to be inspired and assess our plan for the day. Then we follow the leader to the site we are working. Always look for an orange MST work sign at the location we are working on that day.
Here we cover four generations of trail workers all on the trail the same day!

Enthusiastic Workers

Now this is the face of enthusiasm! On this day a group of boy scouts were helping construct the trail along BRP mile post 278.
This great crew were all Order of the Arrow scouts who drove up the mountain at 6:00 am to get started.
We actually made it onto the trail around 9:00 and got going on two locations at first.
Their scoutmaster got in the way sometimes as they worked fast and leap frogged each other along the way working up the mountain. :-)

It was a busy day and everyone was focused on the task and opportunity to make something that would last for centuries to come!

Work Day April 4, 2009

There is always some thing for everyone to do on a work day.
The lead crew follows the ground flags and begins raking back the loose debris and forest duff.
The Pink ribbon flags are the original survey flags. They mark the direction of the trail and were placed between 1995 - 2008. The blue ground flags are the cut line, or upper edge of the foot trail.
The next work is cutting and raking back from the blue flags to create the foot trail. A width of 24-30 inches is optimal for leveling.
A variety of hand tools are used. These scouts are using fire rakes, mattocks, and shovels to level the cleared and cut trail.
Then the area cleared is walked and checked for high spots or holes.
Dirt is pulled away from rises and raked into hollows. Sometimes it is relatively easy work!
It is always fun and good exercise too!