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.

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