Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Meet Our New Volunteers!

Young Ryan joined his famous Grandfather on the trail Saturday. This was the first time he had joined us and he had great guidance and encouragement from his Grandpa.
John and Ryan were a delight to see together and I can tell already he is going to be a pretty particular about doing it right when he works on the trail.
Of course with Allen and John as his mentors, he will know trail building as well as the best of us.
Thanks for your good work Ryan, you fixed that area up perfectly!
Melissa and Jack joined us for the first time Saturday too. They got up at sunrise in order to drive up from Charlotte to do volunteer service on the MST.
Jack and Melissa were eager to learn about the trail and be a part of the excitement. During our lunch break, Allen pulled out his MST maps to share. It is always fascinating to see maps that have notations from as far back as 1998 handwritten on the doggeared pages.
We were educated about the "Civil War Trenches" that were in the area we were working. At one time the trail actually neared them, now it is on the other side of the parkway. A short walk down to see what remains of the trenches was taken before heading back up to the trail to work.
In the afternoon Melissa and Jack helped with setting posts for the safety fencing we were installing. And why do we need safety fencing??? That light area behind them is the Blue Ridge Parkway, less than 12 feet away and 40 feet down the cliff!!!
That was the hard work, but their day begun with a task no one else would take!
Look at the photos below and try to figure out what they did.
Melissa commented it was sorta like looking for Easter eggs! ;-)
You can tell by the bounty they did a good job!
Little did they know that they were doing a task that indicates our progress. Finally, they were removing all tags, flags, surveys, and tapes from the 1.5 mile stretch starting at the 421 Bridge all the way to Osbourne Mountain Overlook! Thanks!
It is the involvement of new volunteers and inspired youngsters that will carry our trail forward for generations to come.
I think its time we have a "bring someone new" with you to work next week!
Thanks to all our volunteers, new and old, you are as valuable to MST as solid gold!

Monday, July 20, 2009

July 11 BRP MP 279

Four volunteers: Chris, Barry, Ted, and Shelton begun working on a new section along the Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 279. This section is mostly a pine forest with lots of rhododendron.
In the photo above you can see the difficulty we encounter trying to cut our trail through the rhodies. Here Chris cuts out a root ball so Ted and Barry can work the grade.
Shelton strikes a blow with the axe at a stubborn root to be removed from the foot tread.
In the heat of the day working requires frequent water breaks, times to chat, to catch up on the week, and plan the work ahead.
Moments of quiet to calm the spirit,
focus the mind, and rest for the attack again.
Work is done for now and Chris is shown hauling out the tools of the day. Above is the first of 5 switch backs in this section of trail. Our work on this switchback alone was a major accomplishment. Dirt was cut from above the trail and brought down below to set the grade and reduce the incline. Walking out on a newly created section of a trail is a reward unto itself.
But oh what a sweet experience it is to walk out on trail knowing it was not there before your efforts, but will be there,~~~~
forever more!
Thanks always to our volunteers who make the effort to make the way for the hikers of tomorrow.

At the Heart of the Big Wall Section

Scale helps figure this one out ~
when clearing for the creek crossing this Heart shaped stone was uncovered.
Large stepping stones were placed at the base of a cascade spillway on the section referred to as the "Big Wall".
This view shows the descending curve leading down to the creek
and "de Hart" stone :-)
This nice long meandering approach to the creek crossing is a delight.
When cutting the trail it is always enjoyable to notice a change in soil color. This orange and ochre soil is filled with iron oxide.
Most of the earth we uncover is filled with hummus and is dark in color.
Another nice discovery along this stretch was the abundance of massive grape vines.
I have given this little holler the name of Tarzan valley. The vines stretch from tree to tree to tree. Many are quite large, nearly 6 inches in diameter. In the winter they are very visible in the tree tops and it is easy to imagine Tarzan swinging tree to tree along this section.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Trail Building ~ Building Citizens

On Tuesday we had a small volunteer crew of two adults and three young men. They youth were ages 10 - 12. Shelton and Ashley were the adult volunteers.
This is an example of how a simple challenge can be used to build confidence, community, and citizenship through volunteer opportunity.
This is the little section we set to work on, with the challenge of working together as a team to level a stretch that needed to reach grade and to clear the sides of overgrowth.
These three youngsters made an effort to accomplish tasks they had no reason to do but for the benefit of others. Selfless volunteering!
And in the process they gained confidence and skill and a sense of accomplishment.
Using tools that they would not likely pick up and put to work at home without some serious motivation, they readily took to the challenge of cutting, digging, and raking the fresh cut out to level.
And while working there was time out for a brief conversation. Not unlike adult volunteers who find time for chatting and telling tales, these young men strike a pose in the light for their break.
Quick to respond when the trail boss says "Hey guys what are you doing?" ;-)
The reply was an instant, "we were discussing what to do here"....
And then back to work. At the end of our challenge I suggested we walk down the trail to a section that had not been worked on at all. We went to an uncut, unlevel, and steep sloped section and stood there off balance while discussing what would need to be done to make that part ready for hiking. They were already experts and had good suggestions of what needed to be done.
I thought it would be fun to have them walk back out over the section they had improved. As they passed over their work the sense of pride in accomplishment was obvious.
One kid said "this is good!" and the next child RAN across his stretch of level trail. But the one that pleased me the most was the young man who performed that wonderfully unique childhood action, he "SKIPPED" across his trail!
When we provide youth with the opportunity to recognize a need, meet the challenge, and sense accomplishment we are building good citizens.
Through doing
"something for nothing"
and everything for others,
trail building helps put the
"citizenship" :-)