Oh Boy! Fire Hose!

Discarded Fire Hose

Fire Hose CARE Package.

Shenandoah National Park, VA, June 20 – 26, 2015 — I’ve got 15 feet of surplus fire hose. That makes me rich in a special sort of way.  In some ways, that’s better than having a gold bar from Fort Knox.

Most people wouldn’t find old fire hose exciting or practical, I mean you can’t use it for water fights or to water your lawn for that matter.  It’s just canvas with a rubber lining.  How useful could it be?  Besides, I’m too old to play fireman anymore (not really).

To people who use sharp tools, old fire hose is pure gold.  It’s so durable that it’s nearly bullet proof.  A little glue and a rivet gun help craft this magic material into all kinds of sheaths, holsters, and protective coverings for all things sharp such as axes, hatchets, cross cut saws, chain saws, pruning saws, swing blades, clippers, loppers, heavy fire fighting hoes, and machetes. These are among the tools I need to maintain my section of the Appalachian Trail and for work maintaining trails in the park.

I own them all, and I’ll use every bit of this hose before I’m done.  Thanks to Dick Batiste for sending it.

That's Dick in the blue PATC volunteer shirt.

That’s Dick in the blue PATC volunteer shirt.

Dick is one of the great guys I met volunteering in Shenandoah’s Central District last week. He’s a retired FBI agent/lawyer who’s nearly 80 years old.  That’s 80 Arnold Schwarzenegger years.  This guy can lift giant rocks and swing a pick with the best of them!  If he’s found the fountain of youth, he ain’t tellin’ and I don’t blame him.  Actually I think that his being a New Hampshire native is his real secret.  Tough country and rough weather produces tough cookies.  I should know, I’m married to one.

The week was productive.  It opened with the North District Hoodlum’s monthly work day.  I was assigned to work rehabbing a side trail where we rebuilt several erosion control structures, pruned back vegetation and cut a few blowdowns.

We were working in a designated wilderness area, so no motorized saws or tools are allowed.  Hence the cross cut.

We were working in a designated wilderness area, so no motorized saws or tools are allowed. Hence the cross cut.

Unfortunately our planned hiker feed got rained out.  That was a bummer.  It’s been a soggy year so far.

The Shenandoah skies have looked like this all summer.

The Shenandoah skies have looked like this all summer.

I spent Sunday chopping weeds and brush on the section of the Appalachian Trail which I oversee.  Found this ugly blowdown  in the area that was burned over in 2011.  The dead tree is resting on a live pine creating what sawyers call a spring pole.  Spring poles are potentially very dangers to cut because of the amount of energy stored within and their unpredictable behavior.  This one's coming down with a pole saw which will allow a health stand-off distance.

I spent Sunday chopping weeds and brush on the section of the Appalachian Trail which I oversee. Found this ugly blowdown in the area that was burned over in 2011. The dead tree is resting on a live pine creating what sawyers call a spring pole. Spring poles are potentially very dangerous to cut because of the amount of energy stored within and their unpredictable behavior. This one’s coming down with a pole saw which will allow a healthy stand-off distance.  Once everything is on the ground, it can be easily cut up (bucked in sawyer parlance).

It poured Sunday evening.  I elected to stay at the Pinnacles Research Station rather than camp.  It was a good decision.

It poured Sunday evening. I elected to stay at the Pinnacles Research Station rather than camp. It was a good decision.

IMG_2826 Our  crew week time was spent on three projects – completely rebuilding the Spring Meadow trail, installing some stepping stones at a messy spot on the Corbin Hollow trail and doing basic maintenance on the lower half of the Old Rag trail.

Digging the seat for a stepping stone on the Corbin Hollow trail.

Digging the seat for a stepping stone on the Corbin Hollow trail.

Hi ho, hi ho... Testing the finished project.

Hi ho, hi ho… Testing the finished project.

Old Rag is the most challenging hike in Shenandoah and one of the most popular.  The trail is bumper to bumper on summer weekends.

Old Rag is the most challenging hike in Shenandoah and one of the most popular. The trail is bumper to bumper on summer weekends.

We had one small adventure.  We needed to install a waterbar on the Meadow Spring project.  Waterbars are drains set at a 30 to 45 degree angle to the trail.  We picked a spot where we could tie into some existing rocks.  The only problem one little rock that blocked the way.  The rest is history.

At first we thought we could reduce it with a rock maul.  Hammer as we might - and we hammered mightily - nothing happened.  Zip!

At first we thought we could reduce that little ole boulder with a rock maul. Hammer as we might – and we hammered mightily – nothing happened. Zip!

We eventually learned that some rocks speak Mandarin.

We eventually learned that some rocks speak Mandarin.

So, we used a tool called a grip hoist to winch it out.

So, we used a tool called a grip hoist to winch it out.  BTW, that’s 1 billion-year-old “green stone” basalt.

Trail tester.

Trail tester.

An old marker on the grounds of a former CCC encampment.

An old marker on the grounds of a former CCC encampment.

Turned over a rock to find this little guy - Slimy Salamander plethodon glutinosus

Turned over a rock to find this little guy – Slimy Salamander plethodon glutinosus

Nature creates art everywhere.

Nature creates art everywhere.

10 thoughts on “Oh Boy! Fire Hose!

    • The best thing about the AT is that it was built by volunteers with the exception of the sections in the Smokies and Shenandoah which were built by the CCC. For 90 years it has been maintained by volunteers with few exception. There are paid crews including AmeriCorps programs in a few places, but not many. The challenge is that in some of the more rural maintaining clubs, the membership is aging out. Young people move away and retirees aren’t moving in. Fortunately, the club to which I belong has a nice demographic mix of young/old, men/women, gay/straight and white/blue collar. What we don’t have is racial diversity, but then again neither does the trail. Lots of folks are working hard to remedy that disparity.

  1. The work you and the crew are doing is valuable. It sure looks like some is difficult grunt work. I noticed the people bent over to lift and move big rocks. My lower back could never take that any more. Use those crowbars and leverage wisely. Physics is your friend.

    • You bet physics is our friend. We seek mechanical advantage whenever possible. The grip hoist us an incredible machine. Add some block and tackle and Mt. Everest doesn’t stand a chance. We use picks and crow bars to great advantage as well. As for our backs, proper lifting techniques ( and in my case a personal trainer ) make a huge difference. Here’s what it means: I can easily lift my body weight.

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