Saturday, June 27, 2009

Eight Switchbacks Day 2

We picked up the next week with the Yates crew and made the round to the next switchback in no time.
Breaking into a sweet curve and ascent the crew moved up the ridge.
What looks like an easy job is really quite a challenge.
There were many roots to be worked around or removed through this stretch of the forest. It is very time consuming and laborious to make the grade with such difficulty.
Raking, cutting, digging, chopping, and prying are involved in making it to a level grade.
But as the work progresses from lead man to finisher the trail begins to take shape.
And the pleasure is for the hiking to those who will follow this path.
And now, time out for lunch!

Where Does Cribbing Come From?

Readers will be aware of the huge amount of cribbing we have had to use in one 1/2 mile stretch along the BRP. We always try to use locust logs for the hardness of the wood and the longevity of support it provides the trail.
When ever possible we cut trees that are on the ground or standing dead. We do not use any green or living cut timber.
The typical gear we must carry in includes the saw, fuel, and related tools for the operation of the saw. Then from within our wood cutting backpack we carry helmets, chaps, gloves, goggles, ear guards, and work boots or steel toes.
And of course a first aide kit.
This was a large downed locust tree. On this day we needed 10 foot lengths for our cribbing. Shelton is shown standing above the log making the cut.
Putting safety first is important and experienced saw men always think ahead and try to anticipate all aspects of success and mistakes that could be encountered.
Locust is hard wood. It is not unusual to only make a couple of dozen cross cuts before it is necessary to sharpen the chain.
But, done safely and working as a team (never alone) the cutting of cribbing provides resources for trail building in the wild.
On this day we cut 10 pieces of 10 foot locust and a number of smaller sections.
Then they were lined up for the down hill drag.
Many thanks to our volunteers, Gary for helping with the cutting, to Shelton for the chainsawing, and to John for dragging the sections down to the trail from above!
After the work in a light moment Gary is gathering our gear and our measuring string. There is a great pleasure found in doing good work for others.

C M & T work

Chris, Marrieta, and the Taylors continue to make progress on the next stretch between BRP 278 and 279.
There were a few stumbling rocks along the way.
Nothing a pry, pulaski, and sledge hammer can defeat! Thanks for busting these out of the foot tread!
Laying way for a sweet curve and a smooth straight away!
Thanks for your volunteer work on the MST Watauga Section!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

One Friday in June with the Yates Crew

The crew we contracted to work with us on this Friday was arranged by John and they are employed by Harry Yates. Hence them titled "Yates Crew". But as you will see, we also had four volunteers come and help out the effort that day.
Thanks Barry, Gerry, Allen, and Shelton!
The work begins here! Since this was a new crew I needed to demonstrate technique. We begun at a point that clearly showed the need for grade and tread to be established. It was not long before this crew caught on and took off running!

What a nice flat straightaway they started out with.

This shall be known as the Enchanted Pass. It was the first obstacle they encountered. I think the subtle shifts between the three trees is magical!

This was the first switchback and it was a gentle sweep around the curve.

This is but one of EIGHT switchbacks on this section of the trail. In fact it has come to be called the EIGHT Switchback trail. ;-)

This was the second and it was a bit more of a challenge with the tree and the roots in the turn.

But, it turned out pretty sweet after all.

Here Allen and Barry work out the grade on the third switchback. Allen has his classic "trail design pondering posture" in this photo. :-)

Our working volunteers made a huge difference that day. Here Barry takes a turn with the mattox or "grubbing hoe".

Gerry is leaning into his work!

Shelton is making the cut!

This is a fun photo sequence.

In the next three photos I will share a truly good feeling that can be experienced only by those who are working on a trail.

It is an absolute joy to finish the grade and detailing on a trail section.

The final raking is like putting icing on the cake.
Smooth, sweet, "buttery", it lays beautiful when done well.

Now finished and ready for the next step:



Making the very first footprints

on a Brand New Piece

of the MST Trail!


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Volunteers on the Trail June 6 National Trails Day 2009

Our volunteers on Saturday and Sunday played an important part in the progress. We had a large number to turn out. It was "National Trails Day", perhaps that was a motivation? The Girls on Saturday ~ Marietta, Sue, and Pamela

Jim and Sue joined us for the first time on our section of the trail.
But they are not inexperienced! Shown above with Allen. Jim and Sue are volunteer ambassadors and crew leaders for the American Hiking Society and participate trail work in many ways. Note their "National Trails Day" t-shirts. Cool.

Sue and Alex a UNC student volunteer use fire rakes to pull back the duff!
Saturday volunteers: John, Allen, Alex, Barry, Chris, Marieta, Pamela, Jim, and Sue .
Sunday Volunteers: Barry, Ted, Alex, Allen, Shelton

Thanks to all of our regulars and especially a thank you to our new helpers!

Here Allen puts a final raking on the cuts and tread made minutes before.
In fact, as the next picture shows, Allen was pushing the contract crew as he closely followed up on their good work.

Another volunteer from off the mountain. Alex joined us both days and learned the work of the trail from the master. Here Allen oversees Alex working with the mattock.

What energy! You can push him, but he never stops smiling!

In fact getting these two friends to stop long enough for a pose is difficult.

Good friends, good spirits, and good work last weekend!

And a great appreciation from Shelton, your MSTWatauga blog moderater!

Posts for Cribbing Support

What's going on in this photo?
How do 60 six foot posts get from the road side 500 yards up the trail?
This is the Post Brigade! Thanks for the photo Jim!

On Sunday June 7 work was begun on the steep section near milepost 277. Readers might recall from last week we have 512 feet of trail which is on a steep slope near the precipice of the Parkway.
Professor Allen deHart has helped with the engineering of a post and cribbing solution to the challenges that section contains. These posts are sunk two feet deep and will eventually be cut down to proper height.

Using 4 inch round treated lumber posts we have begun to set them along the lower edge of the trail. In this stretch there are few standing trees that can be used as support for the edge cribbing.

The trail cut in this picture is just the initial standing point for the workers. The actual trail tread cut will be up at the blue/orange flag level on the left of the photo.
We will need to use approximately 56 posts in this section, locust cribbing, and rockfall kickboards for safety. It is a difficult section to design a solution.
Chris and Shelton cut cribbing along this section over the last two weeks.
We have plenty of locust sections already down and cut to length.
This serpentine locust will make several good lengths of hardwood trail side support.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Morning Light with MST Volunteers

When we started our day early in the morning there was a fog sitting on the edge of the ridge. An electrical storm and a hard rain had just stopped. Behind the storm a sunrise warmed mandala of prismatic light provided us with inspiration (and devotion) for the day.
Allen stepped out of his MST vehicle and into the light and deemed this to be a good day to be working on the trail. Good morning Allen!

Gerry got busy priming the chainsaw for the work ahead.
Chris worked with Barry to move a mighty timber.
While Ted held on to the up end to keep back the sliding.
Barry and Ted catch up on a season of travels (obviously not travails!)
Many old friends and volunteers enjoy working with us even for a few hours a few days each month.
Curly puts in her time to "pay back" for the joys she has had on her many trail adventures in the US and Europe!
Here Allen is busy removing bark from a locust cribbing log.
We all work hard, but being volunteers, there is always time for a break. ;-)
At 57 I am a youngster in this group whose ages are 57, 67, 76, and 83! How cool is that?!
Thanks to all our Watauga County Task Force volunteers who worked last weekend! John, Gerry, Barry, Allen, Curly, Ted, Chris, and Shelton ~ we appreciate your work efforts.