Shenandoah National Park, Black Friday, November 23, 2018 — Everybody needs a ginormous boob tube to watch foooball and swill cheap beer, right? When’s the best time to score one? Black Friday, of course.
Everybody who needs more stuff, raise your hand. Mall warriors betting they won’t lose yardage tackling a foreign-made discount TV at the local running of the fools, please do the same.
Guess what? There are alternatives. Turn off your phone. Go outside. Volunteer. Make a change. Be productive. That’s what two of my friends and I did and what a day we had.
The curtain rose on a leaden sky, accompanied by a biting wind. We linked up at the Jenkins Gap trailhead parking at a leisurely 9:30 to avoid suffering Washington’s mad dog, crack-of-dawn, Black Friday shopping traffic.
Bright sunbeams were piercing the cloud deck like metaphorical knitting needles as we pulled our gear out of our SUVs. The day ended in warming sunshine.
There were three of us. Kelly, me and her husband Phil. We were armed with a shovel, a McLoed fire hoe, and a pick-mattox respectively.
The plan, march 2.3 miles to the top of Compton Peak and work our way back to the cars. In between we’d clear waterbars (drains) of debris, improve those needing work, replace at least one, and clear blown-down trees and branches blocking the trail.
The first order of business was to test the frozen ground to see if we could actually dig. If we not, plan B was to take a long hike.
Ice formed a crust about an inch thick. It was easily cracked by our tools.
Some waterbars needed only to have the leaves raked out. Others, like this one, had silted up and needed extensive rebuilding.
My resident bear sow ripped this waterbar apart discarding the rotting log off to the right. The park’s policy is be more environmentally gentle and avoid, where possible, using wood and rock in building trail structures. This swale, sometimes called a “grade dip” replaced the log. Grade dips actually require less long-term maintenance, so what’s not to like?
We also cleared the path of several large branches knocked down by a recent storm. After three hours, we were done, with enough time remaining to take a little stroll.
We drove one car south to the Hogback overlook trailhead, leaving one at Jenkins to which we could return.
What we’d hoped would be a pleasant walk turned into another three-hour maintenance trip. In all, we found 10 trees blocking the trail. We removed three with the small folding saw we had, trimmed a couple like this one making it easier for hikers to pass. The rest we reported.
We finished up having turned Black Friday into a green one; also knowing the overseer for this section would soon be in need of elbow grease aplenty.
Happy Green Friday!