Appalachian Trail in Northern Virginia, November 9 -12, 2016 — While it is self evident that the Appalachian Trail itself requires frequent maintenance. After all, an estimated three million hikers tread on some part of it annually. That’s a lot of wear and tear.
What few hikers may realize is that the trail itself is one thing. The land through which it flows is another. That land can be federal, state, or local. In some cases it belongs to private conservation groups or other entities. All of those land parcels have borders, borders that are surveyed and marked. They must be checked from time to time to ensure the markers are still there and no encroachment or other illegal activity is underway.
Checking the AT corridor boundary is what I’ve been doing in northern Virginia for the past several days. I was on a corridor monitoring trip organized by the Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association (ALDHA). Over time 30 some folks dove in, some for the whole time; others for a day or two. Together we were able to check and remark several miles of boundary.
The boundary has no trail. Crews edge their way along the border, bushwhacking through thickets and briars.
Once a monument is found, it is recorded and the brush is lopped away.
The threats to trail lands and by extension to hikers are real. People dump trash, extend their fences, or hunt illegally on these lands.
Who knows what led to this tragic scene.
One thing for certain. The former residents were unhappy with the government as other graffiti attested.
Later we decided to bushwhack our way to the AT for an easier hike out. I found an illegal trail built by a hunter the previous year as noted in this blog post about my hike with ridgerunner Hal Evans. Vegetable Territory The hunter had put up an illegal deer stand which was supposed to have been removed. Of special interest, it faced the hiking trail which was less than 100 yards away. This was an intolerable situation regardless of other circumstances.
Our intrepid crew cut the bicycle lock with bolt cutters and carried out the offending tree stand. Some disassembly was required before it would fit into the ATC’s van for disposal. The Appalachian Trail is a national park and a note and business card from the park’s chief ranger was substituted on the tree to account for the missing stand. In a sign of the times, monitors were concerned that face recognition software might identify them to a revengeful hunter, so faces are not visible.
We stayed at the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club’s Blackburn Trail Center. It features three bunk rooms and a large commercial kitchen. It is rentable for group events and weddings. Otherwise it is used by trail crews, ridgerunners and others working on the trail.
Blackburn features a hiker cabin, tent pads and a covered eating area.
Gorgeous stone work at Blackburn.