Maryland Outdoor Club
Sat, Jun 12 2004 - Trail Clearing & Camping Weekend (SNP) (View Original Event Details)

Event Organizer(s): Jesse Allen
Participants:Jesse Allen, Travis Fritz

Write Up:
J.R., Travis, and I got off to an early start from Odenton Saturday morning and packed ourselves into a tight-fitting car with all our gear to head out to Shenandoah National Park. At Beahms Gap, we met up with John McCrae, the north district trail manager for the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC), Karen Mostellar, Tom Brooks, and Terry Allen. Karen and Terry are trail overseers and Tom was working for the day to consider becoming a co-overseer for that section of trail. After introducing ourselves to each other, John passed out our tools and we grabbed lunch and headed south on the Appalachian Trail toward Pass Mountain.

Pass Mountain is one of several designated wilderness areas in the Shenandoah National Park (which is the only park with wilderness areas on the East Coast). Wilderness areas are designated by Congress as lands with no roads, minimal human impact, and all reasonable efforts to maintain them in a pristine natural state. Among other things, this means no power tools are used unless absolutely necessary and then only after a review and signoff from the park service. This was most recently done to clear downed trees across the Appalachian Trail (AT) on Pass Mountain and other wilderness areas in the park after Hurricane Isabel, but it is unusual. For us, this meant working with hand weed whackers, large cane/machete knives, as well as pruning shears. Our aim was to clear out brush, bramble, and blackberry bushes to at least a couple of feet or so from the AT over Pass Mountain through the entire wilderness area around the summit, as well as clearing out along the blue blaze side path from the AT down to the Pass Mountain Shelter. The section from Beahms Gap up to the summit wilderness boundary and from Pass Mountain Shelter down to Thorton Gap had been cleared during the week with a weed whacker already.

It was a reasonable hike of a mile or so to our starting point, where the difference between the cleared and uncleared parts of the trail was quite dramatic. We all spread out along the trail, hacking back the vegetation with great vigor and climbing up toward the summit as we went. It seemed hard going and we appeared to make only a little bit of progress, but each time we took a break to go back and pick up the lunch bag and carry it further forward to where we were working it was a surprisingly long walk. A little after noon when we had been working for a couple of hours, we reached the summit and decided to stop and hike in to the Pass Mountain shelter to have lunch there.

At the shelter, we met an AT north-bound thru-hiker, whose trail name is Wrangler, who had his tent propped up sidewise on the fireplace and most of his clothes and gear hanging on lines from the trees. Friday night, there had been a very heavy rainstorm in the area and almost everything got soaked, so he was taking a 'zero day' while everything dried out. We got out our hummus and pita bread lunch and got to talking about organic food and the wonders of Trader Joes. It turned out that Wrangler (perhaps appropriately enough) is a cattle man when he is not trying to walk his shoes off on the AT, and he regaled us with tales of working with animals and just what the label 'organic' can mean. In particular, he had had true free-range chickens at one point, and when they became dinner, they were, as he put it, 'as tough as Mike Tyson.'

After our fine repast, we hoed back into work clearing the blue blaze up to the AT and thence worked our way back up the AT toward the summit. A few day hikers went past, said hello, and expressed appreciation for our hard work on the trail. I was a little surprised an hour later to see the exact same hikers coming the opposite way: it turned out they were just hiking down random trails to see what was there. John suggested that in the future



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