Sunday, September 26, 2010

Five Men, Three Bridges,One Day ~ Working 9-5 ~

Here is the 6:00 am beginning of a bridge building day!
A stop by the shed to select the tools that might be needed in the course of the day.
We were working several miles from the storage shed, so in order to keep from coming back during the day I tried to make sure I had ample supplies for what ever we might encounter. I planned for three fully equipped teams should that many volunteers show up.
Layer it all in the back of the Honda for easy removing when we get to the work site.
Bruce Wisely, our bridge engineer, master builder, and mentor arrived with three cut and ready to assemble bridges.
He brought the bridges in the back of his truck and in his wagon layerd in sequence for taking off and building bridge one, two, and then three..
Bruce reaches out a friendly welcome and we unloaded the first bridge along the roadside near the creeks.
After hauling all the lumber through the forest the first step is to build the "box". The beams and the end joist are set in place.
Professor Allen de Hart joined us on this work day. Allen is the founder of FMST and the inspiration and motivation to our trail efforts in Watauga. Allen is our MST regional trail advisor. Here he inspects the box sitting on the footer before the next step.
Post holes are dug for the setting of the upright anchors to tie the bridge into. There was so much underground water that our holes filled with water almost instantly as we dug.
Next the joists are hammered to the beams. They provide support and help prevent bowing the beams.
At this point the joists are in place, the end plates attached, and the anchors are in place and attached.
Concrete has been added to the holes and we are ready to go vertical!
Gerry attaches one of the posts for the handrails. They are bolted on and locked with washers and nuts.
Question ~ How many Nuts does it take to build a 16 foot bridge?*
Judging from this picture one might think this was a DOT job!
*(20 nuts and five men :)
Gary attaches the handrail atop the posts to finish off Bridge #1 built in just under two hours.
The second bridge is actually over flowing water, a real creek, not just a boggy bottom~
The beams are layed out to start to determine the placement of the bridge.
Working over a real creek also means : "Feats in the Creeks", make that "Feets in the Creek :).
Gary cranks down on one of the post bolts. This bridge moved along much smoother and we finished the second one in even less time.
To evenly space the treads we developed a technique that used a standard measure of one rebar thickness. Allen guides us with rebar and stern discipline (ouch, no hitting) to progress with the foot tread.
This bridge moved along much smoother and we finished the second bridge before lunch!
Gary caught yours truly, your blogmaster, actually swinging a hammer!
This was one of my favorite photos of the day. Allen (on the left) is 85 years old and Alex, who is on the right, is 22 years old. With a difference of 63 years, these two made quite a team effort to finish this last bridge.
And we did, before 5:00, three bridges under our feet.
~ embedded ~
And it is time to head home for the day.

Many, MANY thanks to Bruce Wisely for designing, cutting, and delivering these bridges to us from his shop in Raleigh. Bruce is a patient teacher and master bridge man. He stakes his claim to five of the five bridges we have built in our Watauga Section.

A HUGE THANK YOU to our volunteers who came today to help us. Two from off the mountain, and three from Watauga. Thank you Gerry, Gary, Shelton, Alex, Allen, and Bruce.  A good time and good work was had by all.

And thank you always to Allen, you have successfully led MST Watauga to accomplish so much over the last two years. We couldn't do it without you.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sunday Morning Light

7:00 am and ready for a sunrise
The morning rolls out across the valley clouds yellow as spun gold, fresh as Rapunzel romance, every morning is renewing, refreshing, re-invigorating in these hills.

My place is in this valley below; a little to the left of center, a lot like me.
After two weeks of weed whacking back these flowers to clear for the trail it was nice to experience them fresh again, in beauty, in Sunday morning light.
Callie dog paused at the first locust bench on the ridge above Carroll Gap. It seems small compared to the one we made last week.
Many of the pines on this ridge are dying or dead. Pine beetles? Acid rain? Natural selection? There are so many standing it looks like a skeleton forest.
Beneath the standing dead the next forest begins. Mostly pine saplings on the south side have begun to reclaim the forest floor.
On the north side the birches are establishing their dominance in the second growth.
In this monotone forest of demise this little spot of red leaf caught my eyes. I reached to collect what I saw as the first red leaf of autumn. I wanted to show it to my sweetie. ;-)

Alas, much to my surprise, when I pulled at the leaf, the entire tree came up, roots and all.
I must admit, I felt like I had yanked the last living specimen of red maple from the forest.

So I looked around and found just the right habitat and replanted this little charm. I am humbled, reminded that this is why we make these trails. So that intimate encounters with nature may occur. So that a sense of connection to something greater prevails upon us to discover, respect, rediscover, and protect Nature.
Perhaps the dying  pines will give way to new birches and red maples. Perhaps this tiny tree will someday have to be pruned at trail's edge when it has become large enough to seed the next forest of maples. Perhaps I will check on this little one for a few years to come. Even when I am long gone, this maple will still be only beginning to belong on this mountain.
Walking out onto the parkway, around the curve to the big view.
Morning still hangs in the air, clearing sky above, a Sunday morning light walk behind me on the Watauga Section of the Mountains to Sea Trail. Someday, I hope you will come out too ~

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Bench for Section One

I set aside these two locust logs in the spring of 2009 to be used to build a bench. Every time I would pass by over the last year and a half I would think to myself, I need to get that bench built.
Finally over Labor Day weekend I had some family help to get the project done.
Luke helped me haul that log down from the hill to the location for the bench. No kidding, I think it weighed about 350 pounds, locust is the most dense and heavy of our hardwoods. We made it about half way and decided to work on the footers a while.
Here I am bringing in the footers for our Lincoln log bench construction.
First cuts are made into the locust footer to be chopped out to create the cradle for the log.
Once these cuts are made it is time to chop them out.
Luke knocked out the fans and prepared the notch.
Then we went back and got the bench log and used gravity to help us get it the remaining 50 yards through the curve. End over end keeps part of the weight on the earth. Thanks Gravity!
A Bench is made and the first territorial claim is made by Callie dog!
A happy dog in a happy place sets the tone for the mid hike bench.
Emily and Luke enjoy a break on a bench that will last many years.
Here the family strikes a pose. Guess you could say this is a four seater!
Walking out in the end of summer, with the wildflowers rising 6 feet high it is time to recognize the transition to fall has begun.
I hope someday you will find a time to rest and sit upon the side of the trail and take in the wonder of these Blue Ridge Mountains from the Watauga Mountains to Sea section of trail.