Wednesday, November 24, 2010

November 20 Trail Construction

Starting this morning on the roadside of the BRP. These seed puffs of goldenrod were dazzling!
We had a good turn out for a late November work day. Six volunteers showed up to continue the progress south from Goshen Creek.
Task force leader John Lanman organized the work day and distributed tools.
I've been collecting photos from trail worker bumper stickers over the years and plan to do a trail workers gallery of  memorable messages soon~

Today I will share a few steps about the process of cutting a trail tread. One of the most valuable tools is the mattock, sometimes called a Pulaski. In the photo above Don uses one if full swing mode. Notice his cut is along a straight line between the flags that have been placed for this section.

Much difficulty can be expected in the initial cut and pull with the mattock.
This cut is crucial and should be deep enough to cut through all roots that cross the trail from the upper edge.
The flat and broad edge of the mattock makes the first cut line as straight as possible between the two flags.
Here is an indication of the line cut and the length of the mattock.
Generally workers will take a section between flags and work from one point to the next in this order.
After a cut line has been made, the edge slice is pulled back with a fire rake.
Once raked back, indications of where additional digging and leveling is needed can be determined. This section has now been cut, pulled, and raked.
At this point the loppers come in handy. Loppers are used to cut roots below the tread surface, snipping the many fibrous and strong roots.
In this close up you can see the many hundreds of roots that may be revealed within a trail tread cut. It is not necessary to pull all of these up and remove them from the tread. These roots also provide stability to the dirt and upon compression made by walking help reinforce the foot tread. The general rule is if it is long enough to catch a toe of the boot it should be cut and removed.
A well cut edge is visible in this stretch. The grade of the foot tread is level and the surface has been raked.
James Jack is tackling a root that was large enough to be dug out completely on the other side of this fallen decaying tree.

Mark surveys his next stretch to be developed.

Lunch time, story time, memories and quiet reflection are a welcome break for our volunteers. From left to right: John, JamesJack, Gerry, Don, Mark, and camera man, Shelton were our volunteers today. Thanks all! Never underestimate the accomplishments of a dedicated few individuals!
This may well be the last colorful leaves of autumn. I was lucky to look up after break and spot this moment of intense sunlight on these few remaining maple leaves. It was pretty high up and I had to switch lens to zoom in and get this capture. In this quite, highlighted second I realized the final color of fall was making a transition into the grays and browns of winter.
And there is beauty and wonder to be found therein. As each of the seasons are but a never ending spiral of transitions, demise, and rebirth.

Here's wishing everyone a relaxing, rewarding, and thankful Thanksgiving holiday.
Thanks "Given" to all of our volunteers for their service.
Thanks "Given" for all the moments of wonder, beauty, and challenges provided in nature.
Thanks "Given" for the grace found in the giving.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Marching South ~ Ashe Volunteers Expand Territory in Watauga

The frost lay heavy on this November morning. People 'round here call it a hard frost, a killin' frost.
Surely this wild buttercup will be frozen meltdown brown by tomorrow.

I'm never too hurried to stop and shoot, even at 7:00 am on the way to the storage shed to get the tools for the day there is time to discover beauty. This last rose of fall stands alone against the onset of winter. (click on photos to enlarge)

We had a good work crew today. Seven new friends from the South Ashe task force and four volunteers from the Watauga Crew.
Entering the forest and climbing the ridge toward the new trail I found these lines of light and shadow. Wishing our trail work would be in such an open area today instead of the rhododendron forest.
Reaching the starting point everyone took a few minutes to peel out of the extra layers, the climb had warmed us up. It might be 34 degrees outside, but we were toasty by now.
Our youngest crew member, Haywood, went right to work on a problem he was ready to tackle. He hung his pack on the hanger and started the dig.
Jim found a spot just down the trail to begin to level. Everyone went to a seperate but close spot to work. Trail building is a kind of puzzle to be solved, pieces worked on one at a time until they fit together at the edges and create a continuous new section.
Soon it was time for a break and everyone found a seat on the high bank to relax and refresh. In this photo (near to far) Tom, Russ, Barry, Don and Lorris relax within the brotherhood.
Chris and Marietta take a break and ponder the weeks ahead. Soon Chris will roll off the mountain for the winter. He'll be back on the trail in the Spring ready to march further south toward Blowing Rock.
Haywood and Granpa Jim are an inspiration to work with. Haywood has already developed the "SKILZ" it takes to build a trail. He coached me on a couple of decisions. Many times he pitched in at just the right moment to accomplish the task.
This would turn out to be one of the major challenges of the day. Removing huge "dugout canoe" that was buried many a century ago right smack dab in the middle of the trail! Why did those natives bury that hardwood canoe in our trail?
Here Chris begins to tackle this interesting problem under the watchful supervision of Haywood.
A few feet further down the trail Lorris and Russ wrestle a mighty rhodo root ball from the center of the trail. Jim says some of these can be 100 years old. In the progression of the forest they grow to the light, they get spindly and lay down, only to grow back up from the root ball again.
There is such a sense of accomplishment to pull those monsters out. Bravo!
But now, back to that canoe, (which was really a 10 foot hardwood root) that runs lateral in the middle of the trail. Seemingly it would be easy to remove. NOT! At one point there were five men working on this one problem.
The more prying and chopping and digging we did we discovered that on the underside of the root there were offshoot roots going straight down into the earth. Chris and Don and Haywood pry it up using the two mattoxs as a fulcrum and the rock bar as the lever.
Once it was pried up about 6 inches, Jim delivered the final assault with the axe on the underside roots.
It turned out to be massive! Chris wrestled it out and he and Don heaved it a good.... oh, 6 inches below the trail! ;-)
No penalty assessed for over celebration on that goal!! (I love this capture, click photo to enlarge)
Now there is trail where once there was none. Others will walk where we struggled. Someone coined the phrase "we work hard so you walk easily" to describe the trailbuilders motto.
Nothing compares to the smell, the feel, the refreshing walk on newly carved trail.
I went back up to the new section the next day with my trail dog for an inspection.
Oh what a pleasure to find passage through this rhododendron forest.
Wrestled from beneath the surface of the earth that behemoth of a root still lays menacingly along the trailside. GRRRRRRR....
Sometimes folks say a new trail cut looks like an injury in the forest. But just a few inches above there are patches of  green moss and flora. I can assure you, in less that a year, the mosses will cover this section of bare earth and rebuild the community of life that lived along the path. In nature things become natural again.
Some of the most marvelously twisted Laurel trees are within this section. Ancient, gnarled, bent and tormented by the harsh winters in these mountains these laurels have a remarkable will to survive.
No where else have I seen such monumental laurel except these sections in Watauga. They are so tall they look like trees. Yes, Nature recovers from mans' intrusions.
This mighty oak log must have been 100 years old when it fell ~ at least 100 years ago. Until today it laid still, quiet, slowly becoming earth. We only hastened the process by cutting a trail through it this morning. And from this day forward each passing hiker, sniffing dog, and shooting photographer will notice and marvel at its ancient wonder.

Thanks to all of our volunteers who came out to build trail today:
Jim, Haywood, Chris, Marietta, Shelton, Don, Lorris, Tom, Barry, and Russ.
The experience is fleeting, but nature is eternal, nature is the constant, and in trail work, our nature is to be in the moment.

We build these trails
so others may go
where we have gone
when we are gone
from where we have been.