ameShenandoah National Park and Antietam National Battlefield, first week of April, 2016 — It’s about time I complained about the weather. It’s been totally schizoid for the past several days – hot then cold with a dash of sun, rain and wind, frosted on occasion with powdered snow. There’s snow dusting in this weekend’s forecast.
Why weather? Last Saturday Shenandoah was ripped by strong winds. A sleeping hiker was pinned under a tree that blew over about two days hike south of the park at a place called Spy Rock. Trees and branches were down everywhere in our region.
I was supposed to spend Sat. night at Indian Run with a friend I was going to help Sunday clear blown down trees on one of Shenandoah’s 400 miles of side trail called Jeremy’s Run.
After spending a cold night at Annapolis Rock, I chickened out. The wind and cold were distinctly unwelcoming. Instead I showed up bright and early Sunday morning to a greeting by an icy windchill with teeth and a dusting of snow still on the ground.
Jeremy’s Run is located in a designated wilderness area. That means all work must be done with hand tools. No motors allowed.
So off we marched with a junior sized version of the famous crosscut saw you see in antique logging photos. It sports a traditional carpenter saw handle on one end and a moveable vertical handle on the other. If the vertical handle is on the far end, it’s a two person saw. If it’s just forward of the fixed handle, it’s a one person saw. Very versatile.
Blowdowns are a pain in the butt for hikers. Step-overs like this one are not so bad.
It’s the chest high or ones with a ton of protruding branches that are a real pain. You can’t go up or down.
We whacked six and 1/4 blowdowns. One quarter?
This big fella came at the end of the day. It requires two cuts to get it on the ground and two more to cut out the section obstructing the trail. Its height and the adjacent slope make cutting out the center section too difficult and dangerous. Better to lay it down.
Lots of work here, especially coming as it did at the end of the day. At least we were out of the wind. The wedges keep the cut open as the tree’s weight and gravity wants to close the top of the cut and bind the saw.
This guy was too large for our little saw to be fully efficient. It took 45 minutes for two tired sawyers to make this slice. Hence one quarter. A crew with a longer crosscut will finish the job next weekend during the Hoodlums regularly scheduled monthly work trip. At least hikers have a relatively passable step over until then.
Wednesday I joined a group of nine PATC members at the Antietam National Battlefield to disassemble a section of worm row fencing. We got ‘er done in three hours! In the process we dubbed ourselves the Hole-in-the-Ground crew because of the dozens of ground hog dens we occasionally stepped in.
We celebrated a local ice cream parlor in Sharpsburg – no work without play is our motto.
The National Park Service is working on a multi-year project to restore civil war battlefields to the sight lines and condition they were in when the battles actually happened. This fence was not present on Sept. 17, 1862 when 23,000 soldiers became casualties on this ground. It was and remains the bloodiest day in U.S. military history.
The week ended with a short trip to Shenandoah so our ridgerunners could meet with the back country office before Lauralee’s first patrol starting today. Both Lauralee and Hal are returning from last year and need no introduction. Chris Zigler is the new back country manager and we wanted to make sure we were all on the same page.
Of note, the park’s trail crews will be beefed up. Better yet, up to six back country rangers will be on the trail and at the huts this year – helping people do the right thing and coaching Leave No Trace outdoor ethics.
On the way home this little guy on my AT section got chopped up with a pruning saw. Did I ever mention that I love retirement. The work is not work. It’s fun!