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.

No comments:

Post a Comment