Project Leader: Drew Foreman Project Dates: May 17,2010 - November 15,2010 Email Address: Aforeman@thesca.org 
The Ramsey’s Draft Trail team has come to a close. After six months of sawing, brushing, a little digging and a whole lot more sawing, we have parted ways. It was a tumultuous season filled with differing opinions, compromises and more differing opinions. It was a group of people that you would never see together in the “real world”, but isn’t that the point? To come together with people you have never met for a common purpose and get something worthwhile accomplished. Success, this team showed that differences in things such as eating habits, or musical tastes, however annoying at the time, are trivial in a world with “much bigger fish to fry”.
In the end we opened up just over twelve miles of otherwise impassable wilderness trails, to everyone. From boy scouts to hunters, from returning veterans to grandparents, people like this place; and after twenty paces in you can see why, with the draft trickling, the birds singing, and the Hemlocks towering, this is truly a gem of Virginia. I for one feel extremely fortunate to have been able to call the Ramsey’s Draft Wilderness home for the past six months.
A thank you to the Forest Service, to the management of the Blue Ridge apartment complex, to the community of Staunton Virginia, and a thank you to the SCA.
Work Totals for the Ramsey’s Draft Team
Trail brushed and logged out 12 miles
Trail restored and realigned 4850 ft
Trees across trail ˂62
Average tree diameter (Bucked) 16.82 in
Signage erected 1
Rock walls 2
Rock walls size 45 ft²
The final hitch. The crescendo of our conservation composition. Crosscut saws singing, axes splitting wood in their familiar rhythm; each team member grabs their instrument and plays their part. The cadence of our work together improving with every hitch. The physical and emotional weight of spending six days at a time in the backcountry continuously gains significance. Nothing is convenient. Everything we want to bring must be hauled several miles. This job necessitates an active approach to life and work. You can’t hang in the shadows and be a passive observer. You’re a part of a crew, and your actions reverberate throughout the entire group.
As the season has progressed, the trails we’ve worked on have taken on a life of their own. Almost every inch of Ramsey’s Draft and Jerry’s Run trails was intimately scrutinized by our crew. A forest now full of memories for each member of the team. We behave like doting parents when discussing these trails. Proud of our achievements and sincerely aware of our part in the bigger picture of conservation, we enjoy nothing more than prattling on about our work to anyone willing to listen. How many people get to say that they begin a work-day waking up on top of a mountain, in the snow, to a vivid, frozen, red sunrise?
Of all the statistics we’ve provided on this blogish website thing, the most significant are these: six months, six people. This amount of communal interaction is absolutely staggering. I’ve spent more time with my trail crew than all but my immediate family. Night after night, stargazing in the middle of the wilderness. Reliving the day, venting frustrations, discussing our fears, and sharing our dreams. Pressing someone‘s readily accessible buttons. Eyeing each others’ portions of food as we work out six days of rations in our minds. “Whoah, hold up there buddy. I think you’ve had a little too much of the quinoa.” The life of a trail-worker is socially demanding. Each member filling a certain niche in the group. Everyone plays specific roles during the workday, while cooking at camp, or while sitting around a fire. Every day is its own intricate dance. Sometimes we find the groove. Sometimes we’re crushing toes.
Yeah it’s an obvious, silly metaphor, but throughout our maintenance of these trails, the corridor of my own life has gained lucidity and purpose. I’ve learned how to live and work aware of the significance of every moment. It’s amazing what you notice when your mind isn’t preoccupied. Being able to take a minute to appreciate a caterpillar might not seem like a valuable skill in today’s workforce, but life is full of beautiful, tiny moments. Learning to become fully immersed in these moments has made me a happier, healthier, and more productive person.
This hitch concludes our strange, transformative, wilderness journey. Each of us are going our separate ways; to periodically live with parents (don‘t act like you didn‘t miss us), to finish school, to join the Navy (good luck Spencer!), to lead trail crews of our own, and to explore the rest of this ridiculously awesome world we live in. Each new moment is a stepping stone across a constantly changing stream (or draft…).
Coridoor cleared: 3947 ft
Trail restored: 910 ft
Our second to last hitch started out a bit rough. We were two men, or really two women, down for the first day. The boys, who usually are the less prepared of the group, were left in charge of their own and two additional meals and purchasing the group food. With an excess of bean and pasta and a tight budget, three meals nearly identical meals were devised with only a few seasonings and vegetables to spice them up. Both Kitt and Reuben devised original meals, still heavily drawing from the bulk food, and these kept all of us sane in the backcountry. Beyond the dinners, a few key pieces were forgotten while shopping because the boys couldn’t remember all the girls normally purchased at the store, all sorely missed the taste of brown sugar in their oatmeal in the mornings. Despite the minor problems with food, then entire hitch was filled with standard, tasty meals. Additionally, food was quite well proportioned so that the group ended up without the usual excess at the end of the hitch.
Beyond food, the hitch went along quite well. The hike in went as usual with heavy packs all around. We were unable to start on the two sections we had skipped last hitch because we had no camera to take before pictures. It seems trivial, but with the extent of the work to be done, a little documentation is necessary. So we spent the rest of our first hike in day clearing the corridor where we had left off before and crosscutting a few minor logs that lay in the path as we went along. At the end of the day we came to a particularly gnarly section of trail that we were supposed to clear out. There appeared to be two options, to cut far into the hill to fix the trail or reroute the section to the other side of Jerry’s Run. It inspired a grand debate that ended in the decision to leave the decision to Drew. Toward the very end of the work, Shane showed up giving us a final boost and helping us further our debate. That night Caitlin arrived and partook in the grand meal and dessert.
The next day we hiked the rest of the gear in and set up camp as usual. Then we got to work on the first section we skipped last hitch because we finally had the camera to document the initial state. Clearing the corridor of that section went quickly, but the amount of tread work kept us busy for the rest us the day with the exception of one venture to crosscut a log up ahead. During this venture, the ax handle split a piece off rendering it unsuitable for anything but driving wedges. Back at camp we found a tree down in our kitchen and the tarp down with it. We soon had everything back to normal, with a large tree off to the side, and went about our business as usual.
The next day started with the dropping of two large trees that were leaning across the trail. While Kitt, Reuben, and Drew tackled that, the rest of us continued to dig tread. Once the trees were down we split into groups to finish the tread and work on the next section we skipped last hitch. Both ventures were finished up by the end of the work day.
Day two in the backcountry took us to the spot where we had our heated debate over trail placement. Drew decided that the rerouted option was the most sustainable trail so we spend the rest of the day clearing the corridor, crosscutting, and cutting tread in that section. The crosscutting was easy except for one log that had two prongs that acted as a double trunk. Both needed to be removed from the trail, but neither could be cut individually using the two man crosscut. After a long laborious process both logs eventually yielded and our day ended with a new rerouted trail and time to continue up ahead.
Sunday was an average day of clearing corridor with a bit of crosscutting. At the end it did bring us to a crazy section with three trees on top of each other across the trail. Drew came up with an elaborate plan to safely and effectively remove them all. His plan included dropping one of their root balls back down a bit into its original. One tree was out by the end of the day, leaving the other two and the root balls for the next day.
Coming back to the crazy section, the plan continued to be executed perfectly including the root ball falling right back into its original hole. A dose of tread through that section finished out the work there, and it was up to the next section of crosscutting for us. Two trees needed to be cut out because they had root balls that were precariously perched on a hill above the trail. A Kitt West style trick shot was attempted in taking one piece of tree with another. The one tree was cut almost entirely out and the above tree was then slice in the same manner. The hope was that the second higher tree would take out the first. However, a bit of cajoling was necessary to get both down, which negated the trick shot.
On our last day, we split into teams to tackle the last bit of work for the hitch. Caitlin and Piper were sent up ahead with the crosscut saws to take out the necessary logs while the rest of us worked on tread and corridor that still required attention. Both crew worked well all day until we were ready to pack up and hike out. We left the trail 3947 feet clearer than we had found it, and we chalked up an impressive 910 feet of tread work. By all account this was a very successful and productive hitch.
4582 feet cooridoor
528 feet reconstruction
Twas Columbus Day Weekend, which merits a poem
To describe our adventures as the forest we roam.
Shopping day was quiet, not a voice in the air
And soon we realized it was because Reuben wasn’t there
We hiked out on our old route, to our beloved campsite
Worked the day, dropped our stuff, then headed back for the night
Reuben was back for dinner, so our group was whole once again
After dinner Drew made us a treat, brownies that were vegan!
Though no stockings, our tarp was hung from the trees with great care
As was the American flag, blowing in the fall air
Setting up camp, Kitt and Spencer were having too much fun
They made an awesome kitchen table of stones, straight out of pier 1.
Drew had errands to run before hiking out, and at dinner he had a surprise
He hiked out vegan cookies and a pecan pie, which was heaven to our eyes.
Jerry’s Run was our destination, and there was much to do
With new tread to dig, crosscutting, and corridor to clear, everyday brought something new.
We had a new single-man crosscut saw to play with, and there were logs to buck left and right
Many wedges were used to open the kerf, one even broke and shot out of sight
To challenge ourselves we tried “trick shots”, trying to rig it so the logs just rolled away
We had some epic successes, to be sure, but half the time the log would just stay
The weather was beautiful, not a cloud in the sky and the stars were a sight to see
Nighttime brought moonlit hikes, campfires, even deer watching us pee.
Drew left us Saturday night to hang out with Marguerite’s crew, and to help chainsaw,
We could have used him for Spencer’s meal……he had all the pots filled when the beans were still raw!
More food than the “Kitt West Black Bean Overabundance of Hitch 4”, the quantity of food was insane.
We still had leftovers on cleanup day, but nothing was rotten, so I can’t complain.
We cleared almost a mile of trail over the hitch, 4582 feet to be exact,
And with 528 ft of tread work, and falling down hills, it’s a miracle we all came back intact.
With two hitches to go, it’s evident that our work clothes have seen better days
Reuben’s pants have so many holes in them, we think the fabric is starting to decay.
The holiday brought hikers galore, and many stopped to thank us for our work and to chat
We saw 12 different hikers on Saturday alone, many talkative, and we’re ok with that.
Elwood surprised us, hiking out on Monday. We hadn’t seen him for the past 2 hitches!
As usual he brought us snacks, and then the next day we hiked out to the truck without any glitches.
The trailer had a flat tire, so we had a teambuilding exercise, and changed it, without breaking a sweat.
A quick stop at tasty freeze before Deerfield, but our plans had changed, we just didn’t know yet.
We were supposed to meet Drew with Marguerites crew, to go bowling then kayaking on Wednesday
But when we called to check in the trip had been canceled, so instead we went to Verona to stay.
A disappointing end to a fabulous hitch, I’m looking forward to our final two.
With lots more trail to cut, not just corridor and sawing, we’ll finish the season with something new.
And you’ll hear us cry out, as we’re driving away
I’m hungry, who wants to go to the Chinese Buffet?
This hitch will go down in the record books. For starters we cleared more trail this week than any other hitch thus far, over seven thousand feet to be exact. It was quite the display of teamwork and determination. After five months of blood, sweat, and nettles, it is my pleasure to announce to you that Ramsey’s draft trail is finished! This May it was a virtually impossible hike. The brush was so thick that you couldn’t throw a cat through it. Now you could ride an elephant to Hiner Spring if you could find an elephant to ride to Hiner Spring. So spread the word and go enjoy this amazing place.
For logistics sake we opted to hike in from the Todd Lake side of the wilderness rather than the Mountain House trailhead. It was a nice change in scenery. Just in time for the leaves to change no less. Every once and a while you would find yourself in a National Geographic centerfold and it made for a few: “we must be the coolest kids on the planet” moments. The weather betrayed us for the last couple of days. Things got cold and wet and we learned to appreciate good raingear. A little mist and fog never slowed us down though and the clouds miraculously lifted just in time for breakfast on hike out day.
We rotate cooking duties out here. My meals are notorious failures. Not for a lack of trying. It’s just bad luck. Or maybe I am just a bad cook. Either way, I fear that the team has lost trust in my cooking abilities.
It all started with the great black bean overestimation of hitch four. Turns out, eight cups of dried black beans yielded more than we could handle. Who knew? Another time there was a slight miscommunication in rice portioning . ”Just half a cup per person” sounds a lot like “ just have a cup per person”. Eventually we got it cleared up, but not without making enough rice to feed the Chicago Bears. The gang was not happy about having rice for lunch the rest of the hitch. “Heavy Metal Mexican Night” didn’t go over so well. Partly because I burned everything and partly because my teammates lack an appreciation for late 80’s thrash metal with their meal. Looks like the tacos aren’t the only ones with bad taste. On pizza night we learned the difference between brewer’s yeast and bread yeast….. the hard way. Brewer’s yeast is a horrible leavening agent by the way. Do not use it in your pizza dough.
At this point my cooking night has evolved into more of a group entertainment spectacle than anything else . At dinner time everyone gathers around the Whisperlites and watches Kitt make a slapstick routine out of preparing stir fry. Occasionally someone will spout condescending advice, but most of the time they just point and laugh at my expense. I feel like they look forward to the Kitt West culinary comedy hour almost as much as I have come to dread it.
But by far the highlight of the trip was Spencer’s meal. It was a pretty straight forward dish. Vegetables in tomato sauce over rice. Even still the guy made me look like Rachel Ray. His vegetables included a cucumber (can you sauté a cucumber?) and a squash that rotted in its own juice at the bottom of a bear vault for a few days. The squash wasn’t questionable, it was rotten. And it tasted like the bottom of a dumpster. Low and behold Reuben dry heaved again. For the record no one has ever dry heaved as a result of my cooking.
Inevitably someone had to step to the task of drinking the rotten squash water. Had you smelled this stuff you would agree that no human being could ever stomach such rancid slurry. So when Caitlin started collecting bets I figured I was sure to double my money. I almost felt guilty for subjecting my teammate to certain projectile vomiting. She never hesitated. And I will be a monkey’s uncle if she didn’t drink that rotten squash water like it was Kool-Aid. It was one of the most impressively disgusting feats that I have ever witnessed, hats off to Caitlin Arnold and her stomach of steel.
We will keep you posted on every inch of our progress and keep showing you impressive before/after pictures so you can see that we work a lot. What you don’t see is that we laugh a lot to. Sometimes we don’t even notice. It is the little everyday moments with the ones around you that really matter. We are six total strangers slowly becoming best friends in the woods together. It’s incredible. So don’t forget to stop and smell the roses.
My falafel soup-rice (pronounced “surprise”. Pretty clever, right?), went relatively unnoticed in the shadow of Spencer’s three ring circus meal. He may have taken the heat off of me. I am really sorry Spencer, but I can’t wait to point and laugh.
Hitch 8: A hitch reported, Time may well be contorted, All facts supported (by Spencer Thompson) 
In the clearing of 3010 ft of trail as well as a mile of logging out, Spencer went a little Haiku crazy. But really, there is no such thing as too many Haikus.
Shop pack ready leave drive there
Setup relax done
Braley Pond campsite
Giant snake in the bathroom
Beautiful star light
Tons of food to eat
How will it all fit in six
Seven the answer
Bring bear vaults and tools
Novel idea to try
Heavy on our backs
Many hikers here
Odd for a Wednesday at work
Hopefully more now
New pole saw at work
Cuts like a razor through hair
Trees are balding fast
Outside the box though from Kitt
Much food to be cooked
Pots and pans all out
Traditional Kitt West meal
Tasty full happy
High knob for a trip
Fire tower made of stone
Treacherous hike in
Beautiful views here
Peering into the distance
And at the tower
Piper sick today
Back home to rejuvenate
Hope she gets better
Work as usual
Corridor clearing plus saw
How that crosscut sings
Great surprise of two
Piper feeling well enough today
Rolling six deep again
Split into two groups
One saw and one corridor
Both vital tasks here
Pack of boy scouts through
Call us construction workers
Camp nearby as well
Rain came overnight
Drops splash on tents and forest
Not a problem though
Two teams once again
Slight shuffle so fair to all
Finish with the saw
No Elwood today
So nice when he visits us
Always brings great snacks
My first Ramsey’s meal
Standard for backcountry grub
Why did Reuben copy
Shane brought a pie and
Vegan cookies for Piper
Tasty treat for all
Kitt and Piper off
They erect the new signs here
Guiding all to come
Goodbye old campsite
You were a great place to stay
We will miss you much
Hiking out once more
Good not to have all that food
Makes our packs lighter
Last day is to clean
Remove the dirt from hard use
Look at it sparkle
Spencer Thompson 
I am a 19 year old from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This is my second time doing an SCA crew. My first was with the Florida Trail around Tallahassee. I got into the SCA because it offered a great way to help the environment and give back to society. On my off time I enjoy playing lacrosse, doing Brazilian Jiujitsu, and collecting knives. I have taken classes at the local community college and am looking to attain a degree in Chemical or Nuclear Engineering. Once I am done with this crew I am off to be a Nuclear Engineer in the Navy.
This hitch started with a cosmic bang with the arrival of Spencer Thompson (aka Young Buck). His presence heralds a new golden age of trail work (yay, an extra person to carry a bear vault!!!). Having been picked up at the airport by the entire team on the first day of this hitch, Spencer had just a short ride to adjust to our silliness before being stuck for 7 more days in the wilderness with us. No easy task.
Tool hike-in day proved to be as physically intense as we had predicted, requiring us to now traverse about 6 miles of Ramsey’s Draft Trail to reach our starting point for this hitch. Also, no more weed whips folks, the trail has changed dramatically for us. No longer in the old logging road bed, the trail has begun to gain elevation on a rocky but beautiful hill-side. This requires a slightly different set of tools, including an extra pick-mattock for some more bench work. After working for several hours and showing Spencer how the Ramsey’s Draft team clears corridor, we hiked out, cooked a delicious pasta dinner, and hit the sleeping bags early to get prepared for a long hike the next day.
Day 3 is always a fun, but rough day. Once all of our team gear and food had been sorted and our backpacks had been weighed down with tents, bear vaults, clothes, and assorted camping essentials, we were ready to roll out. Another exciting feature of this hitch was a change in camping locale. Having pushed far past our last back-country camping spot, we were ready for a new base camp. When selecting such a spot, there are several different factors that have to be assessed: proximity to water (preferably not stagnant…), a good selection of durable surfaces to pitch our tents on (harder to find than you might think), enough space to spread ourselves out (and not put our tents right next to the kitchen area), and lastly, avoid areas with a profusion of dead hemlocks. Seeing large branches impale the ground beneath some of these trees will tend to make you a little skittish about putting your tent in the wrong place. Thankfully, we found the perfect spot and were able to set up our tents and kitchen and dig out a super awesome latrine (Wooo Kitt!!). Oh, did I mention that we do trail work on this day too?
Along with the usual corridor clearing that needed to be done, there were some new and challenging jobs to be done during this hitch. At one curve in the trail, a large, dead hemlock had splintered and was leaning against another dead hemlock right over the trail. This was a recent occurrence and it was decided that this was a hazard that needed mitigation. With some careful axe work from Drew, the leaner was dropped exactly where we wanted it to, and the other tree was felled easily. Once the trees were down, there was a lot of very interesting crosscutting to do, which Kitt and Piper tag-teamed successfully. This hitch also marks the first time in which I have gotten to really work in the dirt. Cutting out a wider bench where necessary, digging out a partially underground dead tree and leveling the trail (Yay Caitlin!), and digging out a new rolling dip. This type of work proved to be very satisfying and involved. The grand finale was crosscutting a Massive hemlock that was down across the trail. This was a full team activity that involved lots of sawing and pushing. This tree was so big that we were unable to crosscut it with the typical two-person approach, requiring us to single buck it most of the way through (which is just as physically demanding as it sounds).
After spending 5 nights in the back-country, the new and improved Ramsey’s Draft Team was craving CHINESE BUFFET. After 6 days of careful food rationing and relentless food fantasies, tunnel vision sets in. At the end of this tunnel (well, my tunnel at least…) is CHINESE BUFFET. Pure Hibachi heaven.
Once hike-out day has been completed effectively and we are all stuffed and immobilized, we head back to our apartment in Verona to sleep in plush, King-sized beds (just kidding, we sleep on the floor).
Our final day is cleanup day. This involves cleaning. Is your mind blown yet? Actually, it’s quite fun. We get to sort through and check our gear and clean and sharpen our tools. Once everything is clean, dry, sharp, and oiled up, we head back to our beautiful Verona habitat.
One final note: Spencer has proved himself an adequate member of our team. We shall keep him.
We began our recent hitch with two nights at Braley Pond in preparation for five nights and six days in the backcountry. Following our usual day of organization we packed up our tools and headed into continue cutting back the corridor of the Ramsey’s Draft Trail. Our hike was then up to about four miles and took roughly an hour and fifteen minutes. We began by clearing a short reroute of brush and a few downed logs. The crew labored along cleaning up another quarter mile of the trail and moving a small section away from the rivers edge and back toward the mountain slope on its other side. After hiking out that evening we enjoyed dinner and a quick run to Tastee Freeze for a pre-wilderness snack. ON day three we packed up all the gear and food needed for six days inside Ramsey’s Draft.
With everything ready to go we headed to the trailhead at Confederate Breastworks (just up Rt. 250 from the RDW trailhead) so that Reuben and Drew could hike a new route into our intended camp site. They headed down the Shenandoah Mountain Trail that link s up with Jerry’s Run and then to the Ramsey’ Draft Trail. They reported many downed logs and some other precarious obstacles await us on Jerry’s Run. Once we were all reunited we set up tents and the camp kitchen and headed back up the trail to whip down a copious amount of nettles lining the trail.
Day four of our adventure included more clearing of the corridor. The popular tool of the day was the pole saw as we encountered many hemlock limbs hanging from above. Drew was surprised by a birthday visit from the lovely Marguerite. All we glad to have a guest at camp. The following three days saw more and more clearing of the trail. We had hoped for more opportunities to get on the cross- cut saw but most downed logs went quickly by the axe. The group entertained themselves in the evenings with a new game of rock target. Many laughs.
On our last day out on the trail we were met by Rebecca Martinez of the Staunton News Leader. She interviewed and took pictures of us for an article in the upcoming Sunday paper.
Before our day was out we back tracked near the convergence of Jerry’s Run top clear a huge, old oak that had fallen near the trail. Once camp was disassembled we made record time hiking out in 45 minutes. The team was rewarded shortly thereafter with a meal at the Chinese Buffet in Staunton. The last day of hitch we cleaned all the gear and tools at the Deerfield work station and organized our trailer ready for the next hitch.
And we are down to five.
This Hitch brings about the greatest change that the RDT has seen these three months. We have lost one of our own. Juli, the youngest member of our crew has decided that it is in his best interest to return to school rather than finish out the season with us. This decision shows the strength of character that we promote in our members, proper judgment for ourselves as individuals when deciding where we can best serve our community. And if that path doesn’t coincide with the SCA we encourage those tough choices.
This was another change in hitch style. We were to have a hybrid hitch of some front country and some back. this style of hitch allowed us to both carry enough food into the B.C. for four days along with our tools, and at the same time not tire us out trying to carry too much at once causing slow hiking a tired crew and a possibility of not having enough food.That being said, there was work to accomplish this hitch, and it seemed prudent to lay things out as easy as possible so here it goes:
4-nights spent in the backcountry
2560-feet of trail restored/corridor cleared
13-number of trees needed to be crosscut out of the trail
27-number of cuts needed to be made on those trees.
20.13 inches- Average diameter of trees that we took the crosscut to
320- Approximate number of times we crossed the creek
2-Forest service visitors (we saw both our contact Christian as well as the District Ranger Elwood on the trail this hitch, both stated we are doing a good job)
3-New belt holes were punched into our belts as a result of our three mile hike, and everyday work
1-Trip to Churchville Tastee Freeze, being in the backcountry we were not able to visit it as much, but it was oh so sweet
2.2-Average things ordered at taste Freeze, some missed it more than others
1.6-Average limbs with Poison Ivy. Some get it a bit easier than others.
29.6-Average pages read in the backcountry, sometimes there isn’t much else to do.
We also saw:
5-snakes (3 were timber rattlers)
This concludes our breakdown of the seventh hitch of the Ramseys Draft team if there are any concerns please direct them to the Project Leader Drew Foreman 208-631-7225
Fresh off our backcountry hitch, my fellow Ramsey’s Drafter’s and I set off to start our first 9 day hitch in a line of many. The 6 of us were completely unaware of how epic the hitch upon which we were about to embark would prove to be. From a defecating downed tree to an acrobatic snake, a catfish fry to a doubled day hike, this was a hitch in which obstacles were copious, the wildlife ubiquitous, and as always, the food was delicious . Rather than relay the happenings of the hitch to you in chronological order as logic would suggest, I’ve decided to do it in alphabetical order according to the alphabet game. You’ll have to wait until “G” to hear the rules.
Angsty Adolescent Animals: Oh yeah, starting off with a triple. So
far our wildlife encounters in Ramsey’s Draft Wilderness have been limited to snakes, birds, and the occasional rodent, but that changed dramatically this hitch. On day 6, when we got back to the
worksite after first lunch, there was a deer chilling between the trail and the draft. When we got too close, it turned and booked it up the hillside. But our excitement over the deer was short lived, as we saw a bear the following day. We were beginning to wonder if the giant piles of scat on the trail were just the product of inconsiderate and malnutritioned hikers, as we hadn’t actually seen a bear yet. But while hiking out on day 7, we witnessed a young black bear scamper from bushes near the trail up the hillside and out of sight.
Bountiful Berries: The thorny, viny, malicious ankle-biting devil plants that we’ve all been cursing for 2 months now finally sprouted berries! We think that they’re some kind of wild raspberries, but they’re edible, delicious and finally making amends for all the cuts and puncture wounds they’ve inflicted.
Complicated Crosscutting Conundrums: We had so many crazy logs to crosscut this hitch, with a couple on a massive slope, and on the last day we had our biggest challenge yet. There were 3 trees coming out of the same root ball, which was dislodged uphill from us. Two of them were wrapped around each other, and then under that root ball there was a fourth tree with its own root ball.
Defecating Dendriforms: While cutting the third log in the scenario described above, Caitlin and Reuben were under bucking and about a third of the way through the log started pouring out a brown liquid. A steady flow gushed out of the log for a solid 5 minutes, leaving the scene smelling like a mix of poop and decaying timber. By far the weirdest thing we’d seen yet.
Ecstatic Equipment: As we were backcountry last hitch, this was the first time we’ve all had a chance to use our super sweet new camel back daypacks on trail! Those of us who were previously sporting old book bags devoid of waist straps and significant shoulder padding were in heaven.
Fish Fry!!!!: Elwood came out to visit us on the trail on day 3, then stopped by camp later on to give us a flyer inviting us to a catfish fry for the ranger district. So on day 9 after cleaning tools and gear, we headed to the park, watermelon and iced tea in tow, for an afternoon of pigging out and politely mingling with our Forest Service colleagues while pretending not to notice as their faces contorted in disgust at our stench.
Gleeful Games: So if you haven’t figured it out yet, the alphabet game consists of coming up with 2 words that start with that letter of the alphabet, usually an adjective and a noun. On trail we go in a line, starting with A, then the next person has to repeat A and come up with B, and so on until the last person says the entire alphabet. We sometimes do themes, but mostly we just come up with the most ridiculous, unintelligible combinations we can.
Handle Havoc: So on day 5, we hiked all the way back to the parking lot before realizing that we had left the crosscut handle at the worksite (we cache all the tools but the crosscut, and to hike it out we remove one of the handles, sheath the saw, and rest it on our shoulder holding the remaining handle in front of us). So Kitt and I offered to go back and get it, meaning after our 3+ mile hike out, we proceeded to turn around and hike all the way back in, then immediately back out again, hiking 9 some miles in a 3 hour time period. Definitely had some blisters to show for that, but hopefully we learned our lesson.
Injudicious Independence: Drew took an administrative day to fill out all the paperwork so he could catch up without having to do computer work on his off days, so on day 4 we were left to our own devices on trail without our captain to guide us. It went fine, except we think Drew chose that day on purpose because we were elbow deep in poison ivy all day.
Jim + John + Jubilant Jargon: I know, I just blew your mind a little. On day 3 we had some neighbors at our campsite, Jim and John, who had been hiking together in the area for 18 years. We saw them on the trail on day 4, and the beautiful weekend weather brought an abundant amount of hikers for us to talk throughout days 5 and 6. People offered their praise, thanks, and even their food, before continuing on their way.
Kroger Killing: NOTE: No Krogers, or employees or patrons of therein establishment, were harmed during this hitch. We just went to Kroger instead of Martins or Food Lion for our grocery run, and we were well under budget for food, hence the “killing”.
Lacking Lunch: So just in case forgetting the crosscut handle wasn’t enough, on day 5 we also realized that we were going to run out of lunch fixings the next day. So while we hiked out to get the crosscut handle, the others made a grocery run in Staunton to get lunch fixings. So much fail for one day.
Mitigating Mayhem: One highlight of the trip was crosscutting this 2 ½, maybe 3 foot diameter log that was blocking the trail. It had been right on the edge of the cliff, maybe 15-20 feet above the stream, and had somehow fallen into the trail rather than downhill. Unsure of whether the stump and root ball would stay where it was or want to fall, we made 2 cuts and safely rolled the inside piece out of the way. We’d seen the root ball move a bit, so to mitigate any risk Drew gave it a light push, with only 2 fingers, and the stump and root ball went tumbling off the cliff into the draft.
Narcolepsy Negation: Years of sleep deprivation have made me practically narcoleptic, so no matter how short the car ride, I fall asleep, and reading in my tent or hammock undoubtedly leads to a nap. So I was challenged one day to not fall asleep until 8 p.m. Forgetting the challenge the three previous mornings and losing already at our 7 a.m. car ride, by day 5 I was determined to stay awake. After surviving the car ride there, the extra 6 mile hike for the crosscut handle made it so we got back to camp in time for dinner, and after that I was so absorbed in my book I stayed up until 11 p.m. 17 ½ hours, boom, done. Narcolepsy: negated.
Odious Obstructions: With all the downed logs we were cutting, there were a lot of trails people had made over the years around the obstructions. So part of our job was to cover up these false trails with debris, making them look ugly so people don’t think twice about it ever being a trail.
Plentiful Planks: A couple weeks back I suggested that we do group planks along with our pushups in an effort to keep everyone’s back and core in shape and to prevent injury. So we’ve been doing them together every night for a few hitches now, but this hitch through a joke turned not so funny, we did 5 sets of planks a day: before hiking out, first lunch, second lunch, after hiking out, and at night with pushups. Ow.
Quantifiable Quinoa: Since we start daydreaming about dinner before we’re even done with lunch, when it comes time to cook dinner our eyes are often bigger than our stomachs. In one hilarious misunderstanding, 6 cups of rice were made instead of 3, leaving us with 2 days worth of leftovers. Poor proportioning aside, the food was always delicious, and we never went hungry.
Raucous Rattlesnakes: We saw SOOOOO many snakes this hitch! We had an 11-year-old timber rattler assume the coil and rattle pose, then wear himself out rattling at us for a solid 10 minutes. Later in the hitch we saw a couple timber rattlers right off of the trail. Interspersed were less worrisome snakes, with one 6 foot long black snake refusing to move off of the trail, then finally climbing up a sapling and onto a fallen tree leaned against another in a display of acrobatic excellence that left us in awe.
Superfluous Showers: Superfluous in the sense that the showers were extra, but they were absolutely necessary. So on Drew’s administrative day we were all wading in poison ivy all day, so to avoid another trip to the emergency room for Reuben, we all piled into the rig and drove to Staunton after dinner for a mid-hitch shower to get all the poison ivy oils off of ourselves.
Tsunami Trepidation: So maybe it wasn’t a tsunami. We were all at camp doing pushups after dinner, and it had been getting dark and looking like rain for a while, when we heard it start over by the pond. We could hear it pouring and moving in our direction, like the clouds were undulating violently towards us. The warning was appreciated, and we made it under the wall tent before the downpour started.
Unnerving Ulmus: So it wasn’t an elm tree, but one day we walked by the campsite we had eaten lunch at the previous 2 days and there was a hemlock branch, maybe 4 feet long, sticking straight up out of the ground. It had fallen and speared itself into the ground about 5 inches, so it was an unsettling reminder of the dangers of dead trees and branches.
Veritable Vegetables: On day 1, before venturing to Kroger, we went to buy food from one of the ladies from the farmers market. She had fruits and vegetables as well as cheese, meat, and apple butter at her tent/trailer in the parking lot, so we wiped out half our vegetable shopping list right there.
Worrisome Wren: On day 3 we were clearing corridor when we discovered a nest of baby wrens right off the trail amidst some wild raspberry bushes. We left our three featherless friends alone in hopes that their mommy would come back, and sure enough when we returned they were guarded by a worried looking mama wren.
Xeroxed Xenas: So while the boys work on their guns, Caitlin and I have been doing leg exercises. She does 2 laps of lunges around the circle at camp, while I do wall sits while the guys finish up pushups. We’re both going to look like Xeroxed copies of Xena, Warrior Princess by the end of this. Yeah, we’re that buff. And yeah, X is that difficult. Give me a break.
Yonder Yulelog: So Juli left us on day 6 to go to a family reunion
and spend the week the lounging at the beach. Yes, one of his many nicknames is Yulelog, which when written Yule log is a piece of timber burnt at the hearth during Christmastime. Who knew?
Zesty Zealots: I’m so fortunate to be on a team with such exciting, passionate people dedicated to conservation, and I’m excited for what the next 4 months has in store for us. I hope you enjoyed this literary vacation from chronology, and the anecdotes from our epic hitch!
This was our first back country hitch. As a result we worked four ten hour days. Day one primarily consisted of preparing for hitch, hiking out and establishing camp but we begun work on the trail in the mid afternoon. Day 1 was concluded with a talk about objectives for the hitch during which a humming bird landed on Drew. Day 2 we con0tinued the work started the day before as well as began several projects. We completed a reroute and obliterated the user made trail but the big projects of the day were the beginning of a retention wall as well as reestablishing tread in several places. Wildlife spotted on this day consisted spotting a black snake by the retention wall. Day 3 brought the conclusion of the retention wall and all members of the group were more enlightened to the dedication and patience the rock work requires; some from personal experience, other just from observing the amount of work that goes into it. On this day we also completed another small reroute in order to prevent future issues with tread and took our work across the stream in which we worked on the trail to make it more obvious in the winter time. On day 3 we also fell two dead trees, one to keep it from uprooting the wall and the other to block a user made trail that may lead to confusion. Day 3 was also accompanied by the sighting of another snake, this time a black rattle snake. Day 4 was our wrap up day. We finished up work and broke camp making sure to re-vegetate and minimize and impact that we had with our camping. The afternoon was spent at Deerfield Work Center cleaning tools and gear so they are prepared for us to begin work again in 3 days.
We packed up and set out for a seven day hitch the morning of June 25th. After deciding on meal and such and stocking up on the essentials we headed to camp at Braley Pond and hoisted up the wall tent. Once settled into our sites we decided to test and organize our cash of crosscut saws. Using a preference based group rating system we chose two winners from a pool of thirteen saws. These would be the two we took out with us to the trail all week.
On our first day in the field we continued work on a 268 foot reroute of the trail. The reroute was needed to get the trail back along an old road bed used for logging in the 1960’s. The team axed and sawed several large downed trees; unfortunately many of which were dead hemlocks. We cleared out a fresh corridor and blazed a path to close a meander in the existing trail. Many of the crew members faced battles with some ruthless blackberry bushes but were victorious. The vast sea of nettles was quickly calmed by some swift weed whipping.
The third day of the tour had us finishing up work on the previous days reroute and obliterating the old trail. We got out our dirt bags to haul brush and leaves to and from the trail, used our cut up logs to block the closed section and raked out a new tread. Afterward we did some detailing and other clean-up with our handy iprune and began weed whipping brush further up the trail towards another portion of the trail in need of rerouting.
The next day was spent clearing a long stretch of over growth along the old road bed in a second reroute operation. We encountered many a downed tree including two very large hemlocks. Kitt and Piper made eight different cuts to remove the first and all six crew members we needed to cut and push out a section of the second. Interestingly, upon the removing of the second log, we uncovered a downed American chestnut, a rot resistant hardwood tree that suffered the same fate as hemlocks soon will in the 1970’s. In an effort to support proper hydration the group also decided to abandon use of a hand pump filter for a gravity bag and dromedary.
Day five was more activity on the second reroute. The crew finished axing and sawing anymore downed trees along the intended path, continued general corridor clearing practices and raked in a new tread. We began clearing our debris out to obliteration stations at each end of the reroute using a large, green tarp. While hiking out for the afternoon we were met by a lethargic fellow in the form of a six foot black racer snake skimming down the trail. It was decided over the evening meal and a tapioca dessert that group confidence in the work was at an all time high, moral was in good shape and things are going well.
Our last day on the trail was spent tying up loose ends and putting the finishing touches on the second reroute. We began transporting the various logs and clearing causalities to the old trail loop, pruning the tread and surrounding ground and using the pole saw to reach a few higher limbs dipping into the corridor. When all was said and done the team had cut 1128 feet in new reroutes for the Ramsey’s Draft trail.
The final day of the hitch saw us breaking down our camp up at Braley Pond and heading to the Deerfield Work Station. The day was spent cleaning and sharpening our tools, organizing all the gear and left over food and giving Kunkle the truck a bath. We worked quickly and efficiently to get back to Verona by late afternoon.
This tour in the woods prepared us for many more reroute projects coming up and gave us more time to refine our team dynamic. All in all everything had been a great success.
Loaded down with corridor clearing tools, crosscut saws (with fresh crosscut certifications), and long-sleeve poison-ivy blocking shirts, the Ramsey’s Draft SCA Team set out on their first 10 day hitch of the season. The focus of the beginning of this hitch was all about the two-man crosscut saw. The Team hauled in 6 crosscuts the first day to test their effectiveness in the hardwood forests of Virginia. Many of the saws did not “make the cut” and were deemed unfit for further use.
After spending the first couple of days bucking out bigger logs, the Team went back to clearing trail corridor of branches, saplings, and nettles. Nettles hurt a lot. Don’t sit in them. Heaps of branches and small trees had to be lopped, sawed, and hauled out of sight of the trail. Due to the sheer volume of vegetation being removed from the corridor, it became particularly challenging to avoid compacting new paths into the wilderness. The end result of our meticulous attention to our corridor and our impact outside of the corridor was a very natural looking trail that will remain a pleasant hiking experience for a long time to come.
Further into the hitch, the Team took on slightly different work. A couple of false trails were thoroughly obliterated. Then the group graded out some steep slopes on the banks of the stream. During the last few days of the hitch, the Team was broken into smaller groups and assigned to one of two important projects. One group was put in charge of removing problematic rocks and roots (some really really big roots from a dead hemlock) from a slippery and difficult slope in order to build up a rock retaining wall. The other group was assigned the task of clearing out a trail reroute for a couple hundred feet and methodically obliterate the old portion of trail. This work was largely done with saws, a weed whip, and the fire rake.
Both of these projects turned out beautifully. The rerouted section of trail is very clean and the old section of trail is barely noticeable. The rock retaining wall was completed on the last day of the hitch and is a significant improvement over the original trail. Also on the last day, some initial brush clearing and log bucking was done ahead at the next trail reroute. All in all, it was a very demanding and successful hitch.
Drew Foreman 
Drew Foreman, a man among other men and women, a 28 year old, person with much to do and little time to do it. There is so much to do in this great wide world, it is hard to figure out what to do with ourselves, so while I am figuring out what that is, I feel that the best thing I can do is good. This is the idea that brought me to the world of trail work and SCA. Here we go with a summary of the last three years my life; In 2007 I graduated with a B.S. in Environmental Science from Humboldt State in California, my home state. After this I chose to take some time to figure out myself, this became a bike and organic farm tour of New Zealand that flowed into a non committal job in San Francisco for a few months while I volunteered for varying community organizations, taught outdoor education in the Lake Tahoe area and looked for something better to do. This brings me to last season where I was fortunate enough to lead a traveling trail team on the Pacific Crest Trail, where I subsequently fell for the job. The long hours of arduous, back breaking, arm stressing, leg straining, beautiful views filled with great people. Who would turn down such an opportunity? I have recently (Feb-Mar) come off of a SCA leadership development crew where we were able to do some of the most amazing trail work I have seen to date, with rigging patients and the right tools anything is possible. Really, just go look at the work of the CCC. This brings us to my current position of project leader of the Ramseys Draft Wilderness crew, another position that I am amazed that I was given, working in the Wilderness all season with Crosscut saws and a great crew, what more could one person ask for, especially if they didn’t have to ask for it. Thank you and have a great 2010.
Crosscut Training 
The Ramsey’s Draft team is set to become a band of regular lumberjacks. The place is littered with downed trees. All of which seemed to sacrifice themselves across the main trail in a last ditched effort to keep us away. The photos of what lies ahead are ominous to say the least. Trees that you couldn’t wrap your arms around one after another like track hurdles. Might as well have plopped the Spanish armada down in front of us.
Our job this summer would be no easy task even with a supercharged Stihl and a car eating dinosaur at our disposal. Unfortunately the use of both car eating dinosaurs and chainsaws are strictly prohibited in the wilderness so as to minimize the impact of man and keep things the way that they should be. Fair enough, Looks like we will have to kick it old school. When men (or women) were men (or women). Time to master the lost art of the crosscut saw.
The fine folks at the Forrest Service provided us with three days to learn how to properly use one of these bad boys and pick the brains of the experts. It was by far the most anticipated portion of our SCA training. The restlessness of the previous night was comparable only to Christmas eve 94’ on the brink of a new Huffy.
The first day was in the classroom. We went over everything. Safety. The anatomy of the crosscut saw. Different styles of saws and their uses. Different types of tooth patterns, all the types of handles and how they work. Safety. Then there was saw maintenance. How to sheath your saw. How to carry it properly. How to store and transport it. Safety. We went over bucking techniques. The four bind brothers (top, bottom, side and end). Went over some limbing techniques. Safety. We learned how to swing an axe without swinging it into your shin. There were also a few videos on what to do and what not to do when bucking and felling. And a lot, lot more. Other highlights include me getting stung in the forehead by a hornet and a delicious cake courtesy of Mrs. Irvine.
Day two was bucking. Finally got to go out in the field and cut stuff. We started with axes. Limbed a few downed trees and chopped up the log. The rest of the day we played with the saws. Experimenting with the four bind brothers and how to mitigate them. Learned how and when the wedges come in handy. Encounterd a hive of ground bees that were not stoked on us cutting on their log. Everyone made it out unstung. Exausted, we called it a day.
Day three was felling a certification day. First we went over some felling techniques. My instructor “Slick” demonstrated how use your axe handle as a plumb bob in determining which way the tree wants to fall. He also showed us a trick using a stick to figure out how far away the tree will land. The Slick stick trick if you will. I was skeptical, but I’ll be a monkeys uncle if that tree did not land exactly where we thought it would. Then we went over face cuts and “Gunning” your cut in order to aim where it will fall. Finally it was time to apply what we learned and cut down our own tree under the eyes of Slick and his clipboard for our certification.
Trust me. You haven’t lived until you have brought down a tree the old fashioned way. It is quite rewarding. The whole crosscut certification experience turned more into a lesson on ourselves and what we are capable of than a lesson on cutting down trees. I was honored to participate. Big thanks to Warren, John, and “Slick” for letting us tap into their wealth of knowledge. The Ramseys Draft team is set to become a band of regular lumberjacks. Not even the Spanish Armada can stop us.
Hitch 0.5 
This short little five day hitch was to be an exercise in trail corridor clearing, and given that we are one of two28 week looooonnnngggg term teams here in the GWJeff, food purchasing, base camp. And you cant very well have a crosscut saw team sawing un-certified, un-clear, and walking about all willy-nilly in the Wilderness. So with the anticipation of crosscut training looming over our heads we head into the Ramseys Draft (big W) Wilderness, and emerge five days later with a cleaner ,clearer, more structured path on where we are going, the expectations of our crew leader and the desire to get to some big old-timie saws.
Bring on the Misery Whips.
Reuben Liebe 
From Nashville, Tennessee. I graduated from Maryville College in 2008 with a degree in Environmental Studies. After college, I spent a year as an Americorps VISTA in Kentucky working for a watershed non-profit. Through my time as a VISTA, I discovered that I would like to get involved with more “direct service” and decided that working for the Student Conservation Association would be a great start. This year with SCA is already proving to be a fantastic experience in one of the most beautiful areas of the country I have ever seen. Trail maintenance work is more intricate and challenging than I could have imagined. I am grateful for every day I am able to work in Ramsey’s Draft Wilderness and I am hoping that my poison ivy outbreaks will become less frequent these next five months.
Hi! I’m Piper from Kalamazoo, Michigan. Yes, there really is a Kalamazoo, and if you ask me what part of Michigan I’m from, don’t be surprised when I raise my right hand to use as a reference. I’m currently studying Biomedical Engineering with minors in Environmental Studies and Spanish at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio (so yeah, I’m a nerd). I played three years of collegiate volleyball before discovering that I’d much rather spend my free time planning protests, organizing social justice events, and putting on Fair Trade Expos. Volunteering at the InteReligious Task Force on Central America last semester and writing my Environmental Studies Senior Capstone research paper primarily on Plan Columbia and palm oil plantations got me really interested in trail work. I’m so excited to be working outside in gorgeous GW Jeff with SCA, and soaking in all that this awesome program has to offer.