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.
Another long work week has passed, this time it just so happened that we worked alongside the railroad tracks.
Our main site this week was at Station Road near the Brecksville Train Stop along the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railway. The goal was to remove as much of the non-native invasive species from the site near the parking lots, in forested areas on either side of the railway tracks and also along the towpath.
Each day the train cars passed by our site several times and we got to listen to the horn up close and personal each time.
Noise aside our team was able to complete over 10 acres of work and remove hundreds of non-native plants such as autumn olive, bush honeysuckle, Japanese barberry, privet and multiflora rose.
This week we also spent time scouting sites and coming up with management and treatment strategies for those sites.
Highlight of the week: Our chainsaws arrived so we were able to finally cut down some of the larger woody shrubs that a handsaw could not cut through.
Hope everyone is staying hydrated during these hot days and that you are all enjoying your projects.
CVNP SCA Native Plants Team
Program Name: Pisgah Corps Mt. Mitchell Hitch 5
MDA Code: 10_NCAROL1_UFS
Max ID: 10116
Project Leader: Jonathan Kravitz
Blow Downs Annihilated 5
Rock Steps Installed 1
Rock Water Bars 1
Water bars with Drainage Dips 16
Rolling Dips 7
Corridor restoration 6145’
Our fifth hitch was commemorated by our fearless leader’s fearless leader’s return. The hitch was also marked with frequent thunderstorms, an exciting trip to 12 Bones (Asheville's best BBQ joint), where we also participated in President Obama's America’s Great Outdoor Initiative, a joyful re-unification with the Nantahala crew, and a few tearful heart to hearts. We started the week off working from Deep Gap towards Winter Star brushing through fields of blackberry bushes and sawing down any tree with even the potential to impede the corridor. Thursday we hiked down at 6 am to drive to Asheville to participate in the Outdoors Initiative and picked up Alex who would be working with us the next few days. We set him up in the nicest alcove of sheltered grass available and fed him heartily with pop-tarts and instant breakfasts. The last few days of the hitch were marked by frequent thunderstorms and everyone was very excited to head home at the end of the hitch to recreate and enjoy our week long break.
Rock Check Dams 3
Rock Water Bars 4
Rock Crush Created for Filling Tread 70cubic feet
Drainage Ditches 30ft
4th of July weekend marked the halfway point of our work season, and provided the crew and myself some time away from the trail. A personal highlight for me was watching fireworks alongside what seemed like the entire town of Marion in a Taco Bell parking lot.
Our first few days were noticeably sunny and warm in stark contrast to the constant heavy gray haze that perched itself on our worksite for what seemed like the entire summer. It was a welcome change that boosted moral as we labored to finish filling our second section of cribbing with crush. After the final touches were put on our second and final section of turnpike we moved up the trail and started building some new structures. Above our last section of turnpike the trail gets narrower and steeper, so we built an extensive fortification of heavy duty check dams and water bars.
Our last two days we were made exciting by a Forest Service blasting project which took place about a half mile up the trail from us. We stayed well clear of the hazard area but got to learn a little bit about what went into the round of blasting that was done before we came in to facilitate our work. On our pack out day we spent the morning clearing a path through about a ¼ mile of debris left on the trail. Although we were all tired and wanted to get out of the field, the change of pace was welcome, and we swiftly got the job done and headed home with a sense of accomplishment.
Hithch Leader: Chris
Originally scheduled to leave the BLM on Monday 6/20 for our second hitch, the WildCorps departure into the field was postponed by one day due toa suddne nast onset of the malicious poison oak contracted by Megan. Concerned for her safety and well being the group agreed it would be best for her to visit the highly regarded Garberville ER. After her triumphent emergence from the ward, the group decided that the prudent thing to do would be to wait until day two before heading into the wilderness. On the morning of the second day we parked at Northslide Peak trail head where we embarced for 9 days in the woods. Between the trailhead and our eventual campsite we brushed and retreaded 2.5miles of trail. Home sweet home was unanamously agreed upon to be a small but cozy spat just below bonus springs on the Miller Loop. Bay 3 began our onslaught of the Miller Loop which was rumored to be in great disrepair. It also provided the group with the opportunity to begin teaching Leah (our newest member) about trail maintenence. This would perpetrate throughout the following days. Days 4-9 were devoted to the same cause. It turned out that the rumors were true. 56 windfallen trees were removed, 10 drain dips repaired and 3 rock walls repaired and 41,184ft of tread restored! To provide ourselved with a change in senery, we decided to spend day 6 working towards Rattlesnake and Bear Hollow campsite. You may have heard of this treacherous trail and the 97 switchbacks that await any brave enough to include it in theiritinerary. This would be a project. Four cross-cuts were made by Erik and Chris while the rest of the group re-treaded. On day 7 we recisited Miller Loop to finalize it's completion. 3.1 more miles of King Range Trail in the books. Days 8 and 9 were devoted to working as much of the Rattlesnake as we could. Finally, day 10 had arrived. It was a day that we had been excitedly awaiting with anticipation because Alex (our firefighting friend) had mentioned the idea of a BBQ on this day. We arrived back to the BLM at about the same time as him however, he was not returning from doing 9 days of trail work. He was returning from a morning of diving and spear fishing in the Pacific Ocean. His trip proved to be a success because he was holding two Abalone and an admirably sized Capazone. Judging from our calused hands and full bellies both the hitch and BBQ were a sucess!