Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Week 4: May 31-June 4

Crew 1: Big Butt Rehab with Nantahala Hiking Club


(Scroll down to read about Crew 2's week on the Rocky Fork Relocation!)


Week 4, Crew 1 headed down to North Carolina for the season's most hilariously-named project: Big Butt Rehab!

The name might make you chuckle, but Big Butt is no joke. Big Butt is a landform just north of Albert Mountain near the GA/NC border--an area famous among A.T. hikers for beautiful scenery and strenuous hiking.

Among the dedicated trail maintainers of the Nantahala Hiking Club, this section is famous for something else: challenging trail maintenance. The combination of thin soil, extremely steep terrain, and high traffic during wet spring weather brings about serious erosion and drainage problems.

Preparing the site for a turnpike.
Crew 1 built a number of stone and log steps and crib walls to support the tread, but the week's Big Project is pictured at right: a wet area where the bedrock is too close to the surface to dig a stable tread, and a constant seep of water prevents the trail from draining.

Konnarock to the Rescue! This project called for one of the most elaborate structures in the trail-builder's arsenal: a turnpike. Turnpikes elevate the hiker above a muddy area, but they are labor intensive.

So Crew Leaders Jerry Kyle and Davis Wax packed some serious power equipment: chainsaws to cut down timbers, and a rock drill so the crew could pin the logs to the bedrock. The crew also had to pack in a small generator to power the drill.

Drilling through a log to pin it to the bedrock with rebar
They built log frames for 32 feet of turnpike, with breaks for drains--then filled the frames with crushed rock. Where did they get all that gravel? Scavenged rocks, sledgehammers, and lots of sweat and muscle!

The Nantahala Hiking Club showed their appreciation by working alongside the crew and treating them to a special dinner. Konnarock volunteers enjoyed the opportunity to meet some of the heroes who maintain this beloved portion of the  A.T. year-round. 

Work stops to let hikers and their canine companion pass through.
Crew 1 did great work and had a lot of fun despite the muddy conditions. Many thanks to the awesome Konnarock volunteers who made this technical, challenging project a big success, and thanks to NHC and the Nantahala National Forest for their support!

For more photos from Konnarock Week 4, Crew 1, visit the photo album on ATC's flickr page.

Scroll past the group photo to read about Crew 2's awesome week at Rocky Fork!


Stretching out those tired muscles in camp.

No one goes hungry at Konnarock!

P.P.E.--Personal Protective Equipment

Multiweek volunteer Jason Clements packing the 50-lb generator...AND his day pack!

Way to go Crew 1!

Crew 2: Rocky Fork Relocation


Crew 2 also headed south to improve a seriously remote portion of the A.T.: the first of 5 crew weeks this year on the Rocky Fork Relocation!

Roughing in new trail
This roughly 3.1 mile relocation of the A.T. is located between Flint Gap and Shelton Graves near the ridgeline border of TN and NC. By Trail, it's about 40 miles south of Erwin, TN.

The relocation will move the Trail off of a steep old roadbed where the current Trail is extremely wide, eroded down to bedrock in places, and frequently misused by ATVs.

The relocation is made possible by a recent land acquisition that was a monumental triumph for natural resource conservation. The Rocky Fork acquisition preserves 10,000 acres adjacent to the Pisgah and Cherokee National Forests. It creates an unfragmented haven for wildlife, protects water quality in neighboring communities, and protects the viewshed of the A.T. from development. 
Finishing behind the dozer
You can read more about the Rocky Fork land acquisition here:

The Konnarock Crew has been building this relocation for several weeks each summer starting in 2010. The local volunteer club which maintains this section, Carolina Mountain Club, has not been able to organize many work days on this project because of its remote location. However, they have come out to work with the Konnarock Crew each summer and warmly shown their appreciation to the Crew by providing hot meals. 
CMC provided a great picnic for the Crew at the end of the week, and have another picnic planned for every week that the crew works on Rocky Fork in 2014! That's a lot of burgers and hot dogs--thank you CMC!

Loading up for the hike in
The project is taking a huge leap forward this year. ATC was able to hire a contractor with a miniature trail dozer to do the bulk of the earth-moving with heavy machinery.

This means the crew can move a lot faster, finishing the trail behind the dozer by clipping roots, raking the downslope to improve drainage, and installing structures where necessary.

Just because we're completing more trail then ever doesn't mean this project is easy, though! The hike in is the longest by far of any Konnarock project in recent memory.

Valiant, victorious volunteers!
Crew campsites for most Konnarock projects are right near the vehicles--but the old logging road to the crew's field camp at Rocky Fork is too rough. The Cherokee National Forest helped  by hauling in the crew's camp gear and equipment with a UTV. Crew members hiked about 2.5 miles uphill with their personal gear at the beginning of the week, and back out at the end of the week. Thank you CNF!

Veteran Konnarock volunteer Cool Breeze adds ambiance with his penny whistle.
The crew built about 1,000 feet of flat ridgetop trail from scratch, then moved on to finish over 4,000 feet of machine-built trail. In all, Crew 2 completed OVER A MILE of new trail Week 4! That accomplishment is particularly staggering when compared to previous years! Back when the crew had to hike over 2 miles to the worksite each morning and build trail from scratch, a good-weather week might yield 500 feet of new trail.

Congratulations Crew 2! Check out more photos from the week here, and stay tuned to the Konnarock blog to see the progress the crew is sure to make on this project later in the season!
The trail-building champions of Crew 2 (they clean up nice).

Monday, August 11, 2014

Weeks 2 & 3: May 15-19, & May 23-27

Weeks 2 & 3: May 15-19, & May 23-27, 2014

Crew 1: Grassy Gap Relocation in Georgia

Impressive log cribbing with the team that built it.
A two-week Konnarock project in Georgia in the spring has become something of a tradition for the Konnarock Crew in recent years--and like any great tradition it gets more popular as the years go by!

Because the crew has to travel so far from Base Camp for this project, we need volunteers who are willing to work two weeks back-to back. Despite this major time commitment, many alumni crew members requested the Georgia project and signed up early.
Why is the Georgia project a perennial favorite? Here's a countdown of the top 3 reasons!

#3: North Georgia is a wild wonderland!
The inviting Georgia A.T...
As A.T. hikers know, the Georgia mountains are gorgeous--especially in the spring, when the waterfalls are gushing and the forest is festooned with wildflowers. To avoid a long drive back to Base Camp, the crew stayed in Georgia for the three days off between weeks 2 and 3--which gave them plenty of time to rest up and explore! They used their days off to visit Amicalola Falls near the A.T.'s southern terminus on Springer Mountain, Neel Gap, and Brasstown Bald--the high point of Georgia!

Building a rock crib wall around a tricky hunk of bedrock.
 #2 Work To Be Proud Of
The rugged Georgia A.T. gets hit hard each spring by crowds of aspiring thru-hikers, so it needs a lot of T.L.C. Fortunately, the volunteers of the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club (GATC) work hard year-round to keep the Trail in great shape, and they rally each spring to help Konnarock accomplish the major Trail improvements they have planned.

This year's Georgia project was the Grassy Gap Relocation. Due to new development within view of the Trail, about half a mile of the A.T. near Suches, GA is being relocated. GATC volunteers came out in great numbers to work alongside the Konnarock Crew each day, digging new sidehill trail out of a steep slope and building impressive stone and log structures around obstacles like bedrock and giant tree roots.

The satisfied crib wall crew with their finished tread!
With two work weeks and lots of help from GATC members, the Konnarock Crew made truly satisfying progress on this relocation: they built all but 600 feet of the relocation! The new trail includes about 60 cubic feet of crib walls, 11 steps and 4 waterbars for drainage. GATC continues to work on this project and expects to open the new trail soon!

Chowing down at the end-of-week party!
And the #1 reason Konnarock alumni keep coming back to Georgia...

Southern Hospitality!

Not only does the GATC come out to work with the Konnarock Crew, they really show their appreciation for the crew's hard work. For the fourth year in a row, Tom and Vivian Lamb hosted the crew for an end-of week party complete with great food, a campfire, and live local bluegrass music (extremely local--the Lambs have some talented neighbors!). GATC member Tom Ottinger opened his doors to the crew and let them clean up, rest, and recover at his home on their days off. It takes a special kind of person to open his doors to 12 strangers after they've spent 5 days digging in the mud and camping!

Thank you, GATC, for making Crew 1's two weeks in Georgia so festive and memorable!

And many thanks to the great crew of Konnarock volunteers who found 2 weeks to give back to the A.T.!
Drying out all the tents in Tom Ottinger's yard.

Scroll down for a few more Georgia photos, and to find out what Crew 2 was up to.

And to see all of Crew 1's photos from Weeks 2 & 3 in Georgia, visit the album on ATC's flickr page.

Yanking out a stump with the griphoist!
Dinnertime in camp.


Two weeks together can make the crew silly...
Improvised trash-bag rain poncho.

The whole Georgia crew!

Meanwhile, in Virginia, Crew 2 was making A.T. history!


Crew 2: New River Relocation

Digging in Week 2.
Crew 2 also spent Weeks 2 & 3 building an A.T. relocation, but they had an ambitious deadline to strive for.

For the past 8 summers, Konnarock has been working on one of the largest, most critical relocation projects on the Trail: the New River Relocation. The purpose of this 5.7 mile relocation between the New River and Rice Field Shelter north of Pearisburg, VA, is to move 1.2 miles of the Trail off of privately owned land and on to a scenic corridor where it will remain protected from development.
Week 2: Log steps to stabilize a steep spot.

This year the project took a huge leap forward thanks to a donated easement from the Celanese Corporation, help from the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, a generous donation from Columbia Natural Gas, and a massive effort from local A.T. volunteers over the winter and spring. Thanks to those partners and the many work days of volunteers from the Outdoor Club at Virginia Tech (OCVT), Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club (RATC), Natural Bridge Appalachian Trail Club (NBATC), and the A.T. Communities™ of Pearisburg and Narrows, the relocation was almost ready to be opened to hikers this spring!

Crew Leader Bobby Berry pounds in a wooden stake!

Why all the hurry? To convert the Celanese plant in Pearisburg to cleaner-burning natural gas, a pipeline is being built that will cross the A.T.'s former location on Celanese property. In order to get the northbound thru-hikers out of the construction zone, the relocation had to be opened June 1.

All that remained to be built was about 1,000 feet of EXTREMELY steep sidehill trail. This was tough digging, with huge stumps to pull, lots of steps to install to stabilize the steeper sections, and massive amounts of earth to move with primitive tools. 


Giles County local John Appelquist attacks a stump.

Fortunately, the Week 2 and 3 crews were EXTREMELY tough, and ready for the challenge! Through rain and shine and roots and rocks, they pushed on and built the final connector of the whole relocation, the culmination of over 30 years of efforts to locate the Trail in a protected corridor near the New River!

The New River Relocation opened to hikers right on time: June 1, 2014. Less than 1% of the whole A.T. is now located on unprotected private land. For more background on this historic triumph of A.T. conservation, click here to view the latest issue of A.T. Journeys magazine.

This is now the Appalachian Trail!
Crew 2's weeks at New River weren't all mud-slinging and stump-pulling, though. The A.T. Communities of Pearisburg and Narrows gave the crews an extremely warm welcome to beautiful Giles County. 

Week 2, the Town of Pearisburg sponsored a cookout for the crew at Whitt Riverbend Park alongside the New River. The Crew enjoyed meeting locals from this official A.T. Community who had helped build the relocation, relaxing alongside the river, and feasting on hot dogs and hamburgers!

Ralph Robertson from Narrows came out to work with the crew!
Week 3, the Narrows Now Trail Club from the A.T. Community™ of Narrows, VA hosted the Crew at a picnic alongside Wolf Creek in downtown Narrows. The crew had a great time jumping in Wolf Creek to clean up and cool off, and meeting members of an enthusiastic new trail club in this picturesque small town.

Many thanks to all the volunteers who lent their sweat and muscle to get the relocation opened, and much thanks to the communities of Giles County for their support!
Please scroll down for photos from Week 3.

To see all of the photos from Crew 2 Week 2, click here.

And for the whole photo album from Crew 2 Week 3, click here.

Week 2's Crew 2 at the New River Relocation!

Week 3's cozy field camp.
Crumbsnatcher the A.T. Shelter Mouse has a new tent!

All smiles digging into a steep slope.

Solid new trail, built to last.
Break time!

Game of PELT at the Narrows picnic.

Ribbon cutting for the new trail Week 3! GREAT WORK, CREW 2!!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Week 1: May 5-11, 2014

Grayson Highlands Supercrew!

Ready to hike in the first day!

The Konnarock Crew kicked off its 2014 season in one of the most beloved areas of the southern A.T.: the Grayson Highlands!

This area is famous for open balds, sweeping views, the highest peak in Virginia, and herds of feral ponies.

Building rock steps to check erosion, before this trail becomes a ditch.
Thin soils and heavy foot traffic, however, make the Trail in  the Highlands prone to erosion and drainage problems. The Konnarock Crew was tasked with heavy rehab work to prevent further damage and support the year-round efforts of the local volunteer trail maintaining club, Mount Rogers Appalachian Trail Club (MRATC).

This durable rock waterbar may outlive these crew members!
For this special project, Crews 1 and 2 combined forces into a SUPERCREW! Although the two crews split up to work in different areas each day, they camped together and worked within a few miles of each other all week.

Special thanks to Grayson Highlands State Park for providing space in their campground for the Supercrew! The crew enjoyed luxuries like toilets that aren't available every week.

Ponies wandering through the work site. One has a white blaze on its side!
You can see some of the Supercrew's impressive handiwork below! They installed rock steps to check erosion, stepping stones in flat muddy spots, and waterbars to channel water away from the tread.

Enjoying some local color at Phipps Store.
Even after all that work, some crew members had the energy to catch a bit of authentic mountain music at Phipps Store one evening.

Crew 1!

At the end of the week, MRATC provided a great potluck for the Crew to show their appreciation for the help on the section they maintain. Many thanks to all the volunteers, staff, and agency partners who helped make the first week of the 2014 Konnarock season such a success!

Crew 2 with one of the Highlands' many boulders.
The crew got an impressive amount of work done thanks to mostly-cooperative weather and a full roster of volunteers! Volunteer turnout has been great for the beginning of the season--but we have lots of spaces to fill in some of the later weeks. We need help weeks 6, 8, 10, and 11 in particular. Tell all your friends to sign up today, so we can keep this productive streak going and make sure the projects later in the season get the attention they deserve!


Click here to view the 2014 Konnarock season schedule, and look for the "Volunteer Today" button to get started with registration.

And for more pictures from Week 1, click here to visit the album on ATC's flickr page.

Stepping stones for a spot that turns into a mudhole in the rain.
Crumbsnatcher the A.T. Shelter Mouse is back for another season!
Trail Crew with a view!