Our second hitch on the Chattooga brought an exciting and productive close to the season. Having finished clearing the trail and repairing the drainage on our last hitch, we spent our last hitch tackling some more interesting projects. Our first was a set of timber steps in a short but steep section of trail near a popular swimming hole. We built the steps out of a black locust tree that had fallen about ¾ of a mile down the trail, and salvaged some leftover 10x10 sections of pressure treated lumber. The whole crew worked as a team shaping the logs, setting the steps and securing them in place with re-bar. After the steps were complete we re-benched a 15ft section of trail that was slipping down the hill and had been overrun with rhododendron roots.
Our major project for the hitch was replacing the decking boards on a 50ft steel bridge that spanned a tributary creek about 2miles in from the trail head. Hiking in the freshly pressure treated timbers proved to be somewhat challenging, but the crews experience from the vertically daunting flanks of Mt Mitchell left them well prepared. Additional help from Richie, our new member and Rob, who volunteered with us for three days, allowed us to tackle the hike with relative ease. After the boards and hardware were all brought to the bridge, we started removing the old boards, re-drilling the angle irons to accept the new bolts we were given, laying down new boards, spacing the boards, drilling new bolt holes in the boards, and finally bolting everything all back together. Replacing the deck was a fun change of pace from our normal work, and we were proud to have a good looking finished product. Our last few days were spent removing a downed tree that needed a combination of Griphoist and chainsaw work, and finally cleaning and sharpening our equipment and packing up camp for the last time. Now it’s time to get ready for the next adventure, whatever it may be.