Shenandoah National Park, November 14, 2015 — The trail rehab project at Blackrock is done! It took a proverbial village to do it. A number of different crews worked in this project all summer long and into the fall. Thanks to a few grad students from UVA and three PATC members, you can put it in the books for another 10 – 20 years.
See: http://jfetig.com/2015/05/22/crew-week/ for more on the Blackrock project.
Why the do over in a decade or so? Blackrock is actually a talus pile made of quartzite that once was ancient seabed long before the Appalachian mountains formed. Now, the millennia and the freeze thaw cycle have turned it into a boulder field that is slowly inching its way down hill.
Being a boulder field, there’s a lot of empty space in between the stones. It’s that empty space that swallows up the gravel with which we pave the treadway. Over time, about 10 years or so, it simply disappears down the train. Then we get to do it over again.
If you’re wondering how we got the gravel to the work site, check this out. it’s a “motorized wheelborrow.” It moved gravel the National Park Service had stashed for us on tracks from a near by fire road.
Why was I available for this project, and not hiking the Long Trail as hoped? I was careful not to build any expectations for this reason.
I have a condition known as “Viking’s Disease,” medical name Dupeytren’s Contracture. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dupuytren’s_contracture It’s a recessive gene that causes collagen to form around tendons in the hands causing the fingers to contract. Unattended, a person’s hand would ball into a fist.
The ring finger on my right had is bent to the degree that I cannot get a warm glove or mitten on it. The collagen also restricts blood flow. Both of these symptoms put me at risk for frostbite.
Every four or five years surgery, now replaced in many cases by a drug therapy that dissolves the collagen and allows the affected finger to return to near normal. Medical insurance SNAFUs made it impossible to receive treatment on time to go to Vermont.
This is where I’d rather be right now – with Max Mishkin and his dad tramping southward on the Long trail. Have fun guys. I’m jealous.