Maryland Outdoor Club
Fri, Sep 16 2005 - Working and Woking (View Original Event Details)

Event Organizer(s): Jesse Allen
Participants:Jesse Allen, Lucas Fisher, Erin Lasley, Veronique PASCAL

Write Up:
Our weekend got off to a slow start with some extra waiting at the carpool waiting for an MOC member who never did show up. Poor gal has no idea how much fun she was going to miss out on...

After introductions, we carpooled up to the PATC Blackburn Center. This author apparently is a bit of a leadfoot, according to accusations leveled later, courtesy of going a steady 15-20 miles per hour on the “ski ramp” section of the gravel road up to the cabin. I recall getting stuck on that road in winter with a car full of gear and it ain’t pretty. Not going to happen again.

Once at Blackburn, we introduced ourselves to the cabin caretaker, Bill Parlett, the PATC trail manager for the North Shenandoah District, Chris Bruton, and several members of PATC staying over for the weekend. After helping ourselves to the already opened bottle of wine, we chattered with folks on the patio for a while before turning in for the night.

Saturday morning, we got up early ready for a hard day’s work and a good post-work party, in the best tradition of the PATC. Jesse made french toast and bacon for all, as well as sandwich makings, fruit, and juice boxes and water for a packed lunch. Once all fed and ready to go, Chris led our team to the work site at the southern end of the Roller Coaster: a 27 mile section of the Appalachian Trail (AT) in Northern Virginia where hikers have to crest 17 peaks because the trail is offset from the ridgeline. Our work site was at the bottom of the first climb, where a small stream runs through a relatively flat section of the trail just north of Rod Hollow Shelter. In wet weather, particularly in spring, the stream tends to turn into a wide sheet of water over the area, and it does not drain well, so the trail is often rather muddy unless the weather has been dry for quite some time. Eager not to get their $200 Goretex boots wet or dirty (Hello? This is exactly what Goretex is for!), hikers try to walk around the muddy spots, succeeding in widening the trail, expanding the erosion, and of course just making an even larger mudpit of it all.

Our task: build a bog bridge over the entire trail section so hikers will walk over the mud and not churn it up. To do this, we placed short log sections across the trail, placed pairs of wooden planks between them, and nailed them down to stay in place.

Sounds easy? Obviously if you think that, you were not there! The small log sections had to be partially buried to keep them in place, packed in carefully to stay in place and stay level, and the planks put in and nail down securely. It was high quality lumber being nailed into thick logs, which requires beefy nails and a good arm to hammer them home. Alas, the nails were not always quite up to the task and many a plank got three or four nails driven in halfway and then hammered in sidewise when they bent. Chris had managed to almost single handedly carry the lumber planks partway in to the trail, but there was still a good quarter mile to carry perhaps a half ton or more of lumber. And the more bog bridge we built, the further the next pieces had to be carried!

Together with a PATC crew of about 15 people including us, we put in quite a full day, covering the entire section with bog bridge for a good 100 metres or so, as well as staging some additional lumber another half mile up the trail to build another bridge on another day on the feeder trail between the AT and Rod Hollow Shelter. Chris was suitably impressed with our handiwork. We even built a fairly basic bridge over the stream after fussing for some time with stepping stone arrangements and ultimately rejecting them all.

Back at the cabin, Erin and Veronique used their feminine wiles to get to the solar hot water shower first. Which is to say they were faster than ever

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