Friends Indeed


Cleaning tools at the cache located just inside the SNP Front Royal entrance.

Shenandoah National Park, January 15, 16, 17, 2016 — I love my friends.  This weekend two of them stepped up to help me fix a problem on my Appalachian Trail section that was bigger than me.


A forest fire burned the bulk of my section in 2011.  The fire left dead trees and mountain laurel that is harder than the meanest drill sergeant’s attitude. These ghosts frequently fall across the trail and otherwise impede maintenance.

In the fire’s aftermath, certain plants always invade first.  Raspberry, green brier, tulip poplar and black birch are most notable.  They grow prolifically and faster than a teenager wolfing hamburgers and milkshakes.  They have choked both sides of the trail and the drain fields of most of my waterbars.


The look on my face last summer when it came time to weed the trail.

Summer vegetation grows like crazy.  The sticker bushes can grow a foot per week when it’s wet and warm.  The trees up to six feet in a season.

We have professional grade string trimmers to keep the vegetation in check.  The challenge arises when saplings grow in amongst the ferns, flowers and weeds.  These saplings and the briers impede the weed whackers as well as bollards are designed to impede vehicle traffic.  Than you’re left swinging a blade, whacking down the rough stuff with  muscle power.  That is a hard row to hoe, especially as you stew in our mid-summer tropical climate.


Here’s the problem.  All the vegetation you see in this photo is perfect tick habitat – ticks spread Lyme disease.  Therefore it’s imperative to keep the leafy vegetation cut back – weeded in trail parlance.

The sentence of this court:  You gotta go.

So a couple of my intrepid friends made plans to help me attack all those saplings, blow down overhangs and stumps.  The objective:  Clear a string trimmer-friendly corridor on either side of the treadway as well as the waterbar drain fields.


We set up camp at the Indian Run maintenance hut where we camp during summer work weekends.


Many thanks to fellow Hoodlum Dave Sylvester and to Kelly Izydorczak Gueli, the PATC’s Jill of all trades and official swamper for this escapade.

Weapon choice:  Stihl (brand) brush cutter.  Couldn’t find one in any of the several tool caches we checked, so we woke our chainsaws from winter hibernation for one last encore.  Overkill, maybe.  But as you might imagine, nothin’ stood a chance against heavy artillery like that.

Chainsaws aren’t designed for cutting saplings and sticker bushes close to the ground.  Try as we might, we nipped a rock or two and ground up a few dirt clods too.


Lunch was spent repairing the damage.

All told we cleared 90 percent of the troubled areas.  Sunday was marked to finish the last bits and build a replacement waterbar until old man winter showed up.

Only idiots chainsaw when the ground was slick, so we took our time packing up Sunday morning and will finish the job another time.

The timing of this was intentional.  Many Americans dedicate a day or more to service over MLK weekend.  We were delighted to honor Dr. King’s memory.

Editors note.  Finger procedure number one healed enough to allow this work weekend.  Thumb surgery on Thursday will preclude blogging for awhile.  See you on the other side.


19 thoughts on “Friends Indeed

  1. Thanks for clearing back the brush. Keeping those ticks at bay is very important. They can do such great harm for their small size.

    I hope all goes according to plan on Thursday with the thumb. Are the house works coming along ok?

      • I just looked at the forecast maps and read the forecaster discussion. Get that machine ready. Who will run it. You will have a sore thumb?


      • We’re close enough to the coast that we could get from 1 to 40 inches! We’ve seen 40 twice before, so we need to be ready. If I can’t operate the machine, we’ll pay the high school boys next door. Good kids. They regularly shovel out the elderly on our block.

      • Good for them. I’d better warn my daughter in Bowie to plan her weekend accordingly. We might get an inch of snow tonight from this storm. We could use it to brighten up the grey icy crunch on the ground. It looks bad.

      • The problem with snow … the white clothes of winter soon spoil. Sort of like putting lipstick on a pig.

        Sometimes we benefit from our ocean proximity and others we suffer. Time will tell.

      • If the plan survives life, sometime in summer 2017. Too much kerfluffel this spring and the need for some serious training has set the start for next year. Gear is almost complete and several shorter hikes (Susquehannock Trail and Laurel Highlands Trail) this summer will go a long way to prepare me and The Child Bride (she is staying home to mow the lawn) for the “big one.”

  2. Again, big thank you to you and your bushwackers for all the work you do! Shenandoah…….count down….I’ll be there in 5 months!!!! Thanks for sprucing the place up!
    Glad to hear your finger is better. Here’s giving you a thumbs up on your next surgery! Hope you don’t get buried in snow!

Leave a Reply