Project Leader: Marguerite Viola Project Dates: May 17 - November 17 11 Theresa Circle, Apt. 201 Verona, VA 24482 Email Address: email@example.com
New trail layout and construction: 4240’
New trail through boulder fields: 590’
Trail reconstruction 1 mile plus: 2190’
Brushed and cleared through a clear cut: 2888’
Stone cribs: 1
Rock Wall: 8’x3’
Rolling Dips: 5
Signs installed: 3
Switchback constructed, type 3: 1
The Alleghany trail crew season has finally wrapped up just as the nights started to freeze and most of the leaves had dropped to the ground. As I looked through the pictures from our six month season, I’ve been reflecting a bit on our season.
We dug tread and more tread and then a bit more tread. We found out that there is always more trail to be dug and built around the corner. The best part of digging new tread is getting to walk on a trail that wasn’t there only hours before. It is unbelievable how much work a group of 6 people can get done over a day of work. Big rocks were no match for the Alleghany Trail Crew. We moved huge rocks the size of desks with just rock bars. Moving large rocks is frustrating and extremely satisfying. Trail crew is a different kind a life, hard dirty, tiring, and wonderfully exhilarating. I for one am thankful to be done and to have had one more summer out on the trail with a fabulous group of people.
Big thanks to the Staunton Farmers Market, Blue Ridge apartments, SCA office staff, Forest Service and most importantly to my crew- you guys rock!
850’ New Tread
This week we had our first full hitch working on the McGraw’s shortcut near Clifton Forge, VA It was nice to change campsites and get a new view. The fall colors are changing everyday and the crisp mornings put an extra bounce in each of our steps across the crunchy leaves on our way to work. We worked mainly on restoring tread and cutting in new tread this hitch. We efficiently completed 825’ of retread and 850’ of new tread, a very productive hitch for us.
In other excitement, we had a visitor this week. My friend from Montana came to check out what trail crew is all about. Our first outsider to stay for an entire hitch, it was fun to remember what all this felt like when it was new. I watched everyone teach Earl something about working on trail and living in the woods and felt proud we’ve now learned enough to teach. Thanks Earl!
We look forward to one more hitch on McGraw Loop to wrap up our season.
3700’ Trail restoration
Well as usual, this hitch was filled with bear stories! Well, really just one, but it’s pretty awesome. The week started off smoothly, continuing on the other side of Peter’s Run Ridge Trail. On Thursday we sat down to lunch about 100’ downhill from our water. After enjoying a few bites, I looked up and yelled, “Bear… Big, Black, Bear… with something in its mouth!”
The bear was standing next to our water with Chris’ coffee mug in its mouth. Thi and Chris scared it off; we finished lunch and headed back to work. Not 30 minutes later Thi walked to the water and yelled “The bear is back!” This time it had gone right for the food. ( We keep all of our food in bear safe canisters.) It took the bear bin up the hill and then dropped it an walked closer to us staying on top of the hillside. Marguerite quickly decided to pack up for the day as the bear followed us on our intial move to collect our gear. Following the trail as an amoeba, we were able to quickly collect out water bottles, find the stolen bear bin and head out.
The next day we were relocated to a new site; a 30 minute drive away and safe from our bear friend. Our new site is very beautiful with more active and less aggressive wildlife. In little over half a hitch we were able to complete 3700’ of trail restoration. We were also given quite the treat on our last day when we were taken out for Chinese by our local forest service contacts, Yvonne and Sharon. Even with the issues we faced this turned out to be a great hitch, with an awesome story to tell.
Let me start by saying that there is a new section added to Peter’s Ridge trail. It is roughly 2.14 miles of meandering tread that travels through boulder fields, clear cuts, fire road, and wooded areas. This is the first hitch where we have notice the changes from summer to fall with leaves falling faster than we expected. During this hitch we restored 1,100 feet of tread which lead us to our completion of this section.
Our journey is almost at an end
We’ll have stories tell
Of how we survived bear attacks
And how we did so well
This time has come sooner than we thought
The leaves are falling with colors of red and gold
In only a short time
These months will start getting cold
We’ve all learned from this experience
And a lot about each other
A unique group of people
Makes a crew like no other
We learned that if a bear slobbers
And stalks you as if it were diseased
You may end up on an island
With people who have rabies
We have overcome quite a bit
We dealt with the bears and snakes
Avoided them to say the least
Just trying to keep safe
Watching the seasons change
This month and a half will fly by
We’ll go our separate ways
But not before saying goodbye
With new adventures to explore
Chasing after our dreams
Never forgetting the experience
Of being on this trail team.
90' New tread through a boulder field
600' Trail Reconstruction
We sorely missed Marguerite this week while she took a medical leave of absence. Though missing a member feels a bit like having a limp, flying without our project leader seemed an appropriate test of our group at this two-thirds mark. The hitch went considerably well as we moved to a new portion of trail and through yet another boulder field. We are starting to feel like a well oiled machine, and a shake up in location and group dynamics gave us pause for thought on just how much we've learned since May. That said, we look forward to Marguerite coming back on trail with us next week in good health.
In an attempt to put a little space between us and the bears, we moved across the hollow to a new portion of the same "Peter's Ridge" trail. We were charged with creating a path through a boulder field that the Boy Scouts didn't quite make it through when the trail was originally constructed. Though we have been through boulder fields before, the gradual slope of this one posed a new challenge: gravity. Moving boulders out of the ground and then up and over rocks required a little more strength and communication, but we wrestled our way through. Shane came out to help us out for an afternoon, and another set of hands and pair of eyes was a welcome addtition, not to mention the brute strength. Beyond the boulder field, we repaired other sections of trail to meet Forest Service specs.
We also saw a big change in weather this week (and the start of hunting season!). Shorter days and chillier nights came on strong, but that also means getting to watch the leaves change daily, working in cooler weather, and seeing a brighter night sky. These things are a pleasant change, and I for one feel lucky to get to watch the seasons shift daily. Shadows are a little longer, and the leaves have begun to fall into the swimming hole next to our camp. For now, I just push them aside and keep on swimming.
580' New Tread Constructed
It starts out like any other work day, but would end like no other for the Allegheny Highlands trail crew. Breakfast preparation starts promptly at 5 A.M., eaten and cleaned up in time to head off to the trail at 6:30 A.M. The twilight hike through cool morning mist is more like a dream than a commute to work. The haze is snapped off by a loud rattle; not the kind a toy makes but rather the mid-pitched buzzing of a snake announcing its presence. Congratulations are in order as two adult snakes coil around their eight babies. It’s also the last time the morning hike will go this way.
The order of the day is picking in new trail tread to a width of 26 inches and trimming branches to form an 8 foot wide by 10 foot high walking corridor. Things go smoothly through the first lunch break at 9:30 A.M.
Just before noon a rustling sound comes from the area where tools and bags are cached, but many things go bump in the restless woods and this seems routine. The second lunch break reveals a torn up backpack covered in saliva with every bit of food that was inside strewn about. Bear(s). Grandma’s Cheerio Chex mix is gone, not even the smell remains. All vegetables have been chewed up and spit out. Cleaning up is messy with everything covered in spit and dirt. Unmolested food is redistributed, lunch eaten, and the afternoon’s work is re-covering the edges of the new trail with leaves. The hike-out starts at 3:15 P.M., the cool morning a distant memory as the temperature now pushes the low 90’s.
After dinner at 5:30 P.M. everyone takes up individual activities like jogging, reading, music, writing, and post card making. A little reading of the CDC website leads to a talk about bear saliva possibly transmitting Rabies. Plans are made for a hospital trip and everyone hits the sack around 9 P.M.
This hitch was a big one for our crew. If you have been following the Mystery Gang, you’ll know we’ve been dealing with some rocks for awhile now. Well, this hitch we finally busted through the boulder field! This, including the work we did in the clear cut last hitch, puts us halfway through this trail. Speaking of halfway, the 16th was mega hump day, marking the halfway point in our season. For these reasons, we have been referring to this as the mega hump hitch, and it has gone quite well. It’s strange to think that other crews are finishing up their season and we still have another three months to go. Our entire crew is excited to be sticking around as we have much more work to accomplish.
During this hitch, we also saw many guests, both human and animal kind. Both Toji and John, who are project leaders from twelve week crews just finishing up their seasons, stopped by to accompany us for one of our regular bowling trips. Alex, the eastern program manager for SCA, also stopped by and spent some time working with us, sticking around to enjoy dinner and a night in camp. The number of animals we saw was great. There was a wide array, including turkey, fox, deer, lizards, skinks, snakes, a bear, and two pileated woodpeckers, which made one of the oddest sounds I have ever heard. The weather changed often, going from foggy to hot to rainy, but when it cooled off, more animals came out in greater numbers, and we were able to enjoy nature even more.
All totaled, we concurred a good chunk of trail this week. The large portion was trail restoration left over from the boy scouts work a few years back, which we were able to quickly bust out 720 feet of. Along with this, we were able to finish up 208 feet of new tread. Hopefully these numbers will continue to grow as we inch our way towards the end of this trail and on to more places, opening up new outdoor experiences for the communities we serve.
880’ Trail Brushed and Cleared
262’ New Trail Built
It’s hard to believe that the last time I shared my thoughts with the great people of the Internet land it was nearly two months ago. Approaching the half way point of this six month endeavor, blazing the way from Fore Mountain Trail to Dolly Anne Rd, this primarily novice trail crew has pummeled its way through some treacherous terrain. From rocked-filled ravines to rattlesnakes and raspberry brushes, these past nine days have been right on cue with the ongoing Virginian adventure.
I believe the work “rocks” may have come up a few times in our crew’s last entry and despite the irritating redundancy; I simply must say “Rocks”! The magnitude and multitude of these lifeless, yet so full of character, monsters have had us perplexed since the first time we set eyes on them. With just three months of trail work under our belts, we’ve been blasting through the boulder fields like a crew of seasoned trail workers. Had we began our season with the rock work which is now nearing completion, I’m not sure we could have sailed so smoothly through such high seas. With the previous rock work confronted on trail and unstoppable teamwork, we’re all still asking ourselves how we’ve made it so far in such a timely fashion. Although our ability to work as one has been impeccable, it was no match for our little prickly friends that shared a few of their berries. I’ll just say writing isn’t as enjoyable as usual after clearly 880’ of thorny little buggers.
On to the snakes, the majority of the human population (excluding myself and a handful of others) considers to be little buggers of some sort. We came across 3 Timber Rattlesnakes, a Black Racer and a Smooth Green Snake. Much like my last entry concerning the mating process of tree frogs, I’ll leave the mention of snakes at that to keep the digression to a minimum. That being said, I suppose I’ll adjourn and leave you with a few photographs. (Coming very soon)
Well, another hitch completed for the Alleghany Highlands crew. We rolled right through our two month anniversary without much celebration, which I take as a sign that folks are not itching too bad to get out of here. Camp chores and trail work seem to be going smoother with each week as we learn more and more… and more about each other and how to work together. And none too soon, as this week posed some new challenges to us. We completed the eight foot rock wall we began last hitch, broke through the much anticipated “mini boulder field”, endured almost daily thunderstorms, and still managed to complete 250 feet of tread with an additional 140 feet near completion.
Our work up until the past week has consisted of cutting 24 inches of tread into leaves, roots, dirt and smaller rocks using picks, hoes and rakes. This week we forged into new territory as we dealt mainly with very large rocks. We moved and set stones for the first several days of our hitch to complete a three-tier rock wall. The wall allows the tread to skirt a large tree, rather than cutting through its main roots. We then brought our trail further down the mountain and through a boulder field we had been eagerly awaiting for the change of pace it brought. We used sledges, picks, and rock bars (indestructible 18 lb. pry bars) to break a path through the rocks.
We were all amazed at how much we are able to do with a few tools and good teamwork. Rock work is new to all of us. Before this hitch, I never would have thought we could have moved rocks of such size with a few people and a couple of tools. These mountains are still standing, 250 million years after they were formed – some of the oldest in the world. It is a powerful feeling to be able move rocks off a hillside that have taken millions of years to get there. With aching bodies and soggy gear, we are ready for this break more so than ever. But I can’t wait to walk across a trail of gravel and dirt where boulders once lay. What are we looking forward to next hitch? An even bigger boulder field.
These past couples of days were long and exhausting. Our mornings started at 4:30am and by 6:30am we were digging new tread. We started on a couple of rock walls this week and we look forward to seeing the end result. With there being no rain these few days the heat became physically draining and pushed us to our limit. On this hitch we have gained 274ft of finished tread and have 190ft of new tread.
We are all here for a purpose
We are here to serve
We are conservationist
And our goal is to preserve
We are strong workers
We work far and in-between
With rock walls and 24inch tread
We have become a trail team
There is so much to learn
New places to discover
What we might find
And soon will uncover
We grow stronger and wiser
As days go by
Time will seem short
And soon we’ll be saying goodbyes
But for now we have time
So we will do our best
For our work skills
Will be put to the test
This land has more to offer
Than the average person can see
Take a short walk with us
And soon you will see
We are conservationist
And it’s what we do
The trails we build
Are made especially for YOU!
Hey everybody, Thi here to tell you about this week’s hitch. Due to some run-ins with local wildlife, the hungry bear kind, we are no longer sleeping among the tree frogs. Resting peacefully slightly closer to civilization we’ve managed to install 262 feet of new tread on our trail, 1 rock crib and flag 400 feet of new trail.
For the uninitiated, trail crew is a strange mix of camping, landscaping, and construction work. All of our time is spent either sleeping, eating, working, or preparing for one of those activities. Since I dream mostly about food my list is slightly shorter.
One of my favorite T.V. shows involves a pretty young lady who travels around and eats all of her meals on $40 a day. Imagine my shock when I was told that through bulk food orders and careful planning we feed 6 crew members with $7.50 per person per day. For the price of one oversized fast food “value” meal, we get three sit down group meals and two snacks a day. The cooking has only been limited by imagination as we have explored American, Mexican, Italian, Indian, and Asian cuisine.
Sound interesting? Visitors are welcome so come get your hands dirty and your belly full!
It’s been just over a month since the start of our 6 month journey and our second hitch of the season is nearly over. From our training at the Augusta Hot Shot Base, to getting to know the new neighbors and communities of both Verona and Staunton, Virginia, and finally setting up camp which was recently taken down by our dear friend Brutus the bear, we’ve been through quite a lot in past few weeks. Condensing even the past 10 days of trail work, camping, and wildlife encounters into 3 short paragraphs would be considered quite a feat for many, so I’ll do my best not to digress too much.
I feel it’s necessary to begin with the mass of mating tree frogs and toads which made their nightly rendezvous’ just 15 feet from our tents, which wasn’t the most soothing lullaby at bedtime. On the other hand, for a wildlife photographer who’s obsessed with reptiles and amphibians, it was one of those rare occasions one dreams about. As I made my way to the water’s edge, just a few of the bug-eyed amphibians were singing their eardrum-rattling songs of love. It wasn’t long before the mad dash of mating mongrels was directly at me from all directions. Hundreds of Cope’s/ Common Gray Tree Frogs and American Toads were literally hopping across my feet on their way to revitalizing the dwindling amphibian population. Oh right, digression. I could write about this chaotic yet ever so peaceful occurrence for days, but I suppose I might lose a few readers. Now the quick and dirty on trail work.
With a crew of 6 and the project leader being the only one with any trail work experience whatsoever, I’d have to say we’re off to a great start. We’ve surely faced some challenges and run into a few minor setbacks from dialing in our finished trail to avoiding Brutus and his love for tires but all in all a great learning experience and way to get us accustomed to life in the wild.
In the wilds of Virginia we saw 3 bears, turkeys and a baby copperhead! We completed 300' of trail restoration and finished 560' of new tread.
The team started out the week working on restoring tread that had been constructed 2 years ago. It was a good introduction into how to make a 24" wide out sloped tread with a 45 degree back slope. Our next task was to begin making a new trail. The team is quickly learning how to walk in the woods, shoot the grade, lay out a flag line and build a trail. There is nothing like walking on a beautiful new trail that didn't exist a few days earlier.
On our first day of work we found a small baby copperhead coiled up in the leaves near the trail. The snake stayed in that same spot for the next 2 days. The wildlife is abundant where we are living and working. On our evening walks we saw turkeys, 3 bears, frogs and deer. There is a beautiful meadow a short walk from our camp. Upon further exploration of the meadow we found a small grove of old apple trees. We have big plans for all the fresh apples we will be picking in a few months.
It rained almost every day. But except for one bad thunderstorm the rain didn’t stop us from working. The rain storms are short and refreshing. Even in the pouring rain it’s still hot so getting wet while work just feels great. After the storm the sun comes out again and we dry out all our stuff. The team has a new name, thanks to Amanda, The Mystery Gang. Amanda made us a flag that we keep with us at our campsites all summer.
My name is Marguerite Viola and I am the Project Leader for the Alleghany Highlands Trail System in Virginia. I’m excited to join the SCA family this year! My first SCA experience was working on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in Southern California on a six week long Leadership Development and Work Skills trail crew.
Last year, I completed a yearlong AmeriCorps term with the Northwest Service Academy out of Trout Lake, WA. I lead a traveling six-month Pacific Crest Trail Team. I was lucky enough to get to work on the PCT from Mt. Rainier in WA to the deserts of Southern California near Palm Springs.
I was born and raised in the Philadelphia area. I lived in NYC for a few years working as a dog walker and volunteering for Friend’s of First Run, a non-profit group who manages the dog park in Tompkins Square Park, NYC. I ran a small dog rescue group, maintained the gardens, and helped organize volunteer events. In 2004, I moved back to the Philadelphia area. I graduated from Rosemont College in 2008 with a B.S. in Business and a B.A. in Studio Art, Interior Design. I worked as an interior architectural designer during and after college. I also managed candy and hotdog vendors at major concerts and sporting events. I was lucky enough to work at Giant’s Stadium and Lincoln Financial Center.
In the fall of ’08 I took a 6 month road trip across the USA with my dog. I hiked, camped and climbed as I traveled around in an old diesel Mercedes converted to run on vegetable oil. I went on alternative spring break service trip to El Salvador during college. I stayed on Fair Trade Organic coffee farm set high in the Mountain’s of El Salvador learning how a small group of people can make positive environmental changes. Music, cooking and the environment are my big personal passions as welling as traveling. I love hiking, climbing, camping, biking, basically anything that gets me moving and hanging out in the great outdoors.
Hey all! My name is Eli(jah) Fry. I’m from a little town called Bellevue in the good old Buckeye state of Ohio. However, I split my time between there and the Mid-Hudson Valley area of New York. I am a certified EMT, a saxophone player, music and theater lover and stargazer. I also fully believe in the coming zombie apocalypse. I’m loving the work that we’re doing here and being outdoors. In closing, Go Buckeyes! Stay safe from the zombies.
Thi comes to the SCA after working as a college lacrosse coach at Rollins College in Orlando, FL. Considering a career in public service, the SCA has provided a unique opportunity to serve both the land and the nation as a member of the trail crews in George Washington Jefferson National Forrest.
A graduate of the University of Florida with a degree in Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Thi has also worked as a civil engineer. His favorite foods include coffee ice cream, chicken wings, Chipotle burritos, and mom’s egg rolls.
I was born in Miami FL and moved to VA about 7 years ago. I live a busy life style and it's easy to get distracted and to be able to see what matters most. This is one of the many reason why I joined SCA. I enjoy playing sports, such as mountain biking, soccer, softball, rollerblading, swimming, and hiking. I am an EMT for the state of VA and I teach CPR for the American Red Cross. I am also an intern for the Newport News Police Dept. I worked in the investigations unit helping the dectivities solve cases. Before SCA I was a preschool teacher at a learning center in York County Virginia. I started working with the school age children for a couple of years then I eventually found my place with the preschool children. While working I attended a Thomas Nelson Community College and graduated with my associates degree in Social Science. I would like to continue my education with paramedic/nursing certification in the future. I went to Montana last summer with Northern Virginia Community College geology dept and had the pleasure studying Montana's feature and geologic structures. I have a strong passion for conservation and I believe that we will make a difference for years to come. The outdoors is my home and playground.
Hi, I'm Gabrielle Beaudin. I drove all the way from my home town of Bellingham, Washington to come work on the trails in Virginia. I recently graduated from the University of Washington, where I studied Environmental Science. I have spent a lot of time cruising around the West Coast; hiking and snowboarding in the mountains, playing in the Pacific, and swimming in any body of water I can find. I usually spend the summers commercial fishing in Alaska with my family, so this is a change of pace. I am excited to see a new part of this big, beautiful country we live in. So far as I can tell, Virginia suits me just fine.
|Alleghany Highlands Trail System|
|Marguerite Viola, Project Leader|
|I swear I saw God in those bear’s eyes by Eli Fry|
|A Day in the Life|
|The Mega Hump Hitch|
|Getting to Know the Lifeless Yet Ever-So-Personable Monsters By Chris Hensley|
|Rocks, Rocks, Rocks! By Gabrielle Beaudin|
|Summer Nights by Amanda McQuistian|
|Going International Without a Passport|
|Trouble sleeping? Try a few hundred mating tree frogs.|
|Hitch 1, Done!|