Storm Clean Up II


The Appalachian Trail is in there somewhere.

Shenandoah National Park, South District, March 19, 2019 — If readers recall, last November we tried to clean up massive ice storm damage caused by a storm that hit the park’s south district especially hard.  I wrote about it at this link:  Storm Clean Up I

Over the winter we tried several times to get back in to finish the job.  We were thwarted time and again by more winter storms, that is until now.

Yesterday sawyers and swampers gathered at the Swift Run Gap entrance and the entrance at Rockfish Gap.  We worked from the gaps toward the center.  We had 27 miles to clear.

Meanwhile the park was hit by several more storms.  Eventually the entirety of Skyline Drive, the road through the center of the park, was closed.  Today only the central district is open, though the north district, where the North District Hoodlums trail crew worked Saturday, should be open soon.

Did I mention we encountered a thru hiker who said he was with two others?  Gotta hurry.  Park tourist facilities are scheduled to begin opening March 31 and the thru hiker vanguard is here.

The crew at Swift Run divided the territory into discrete chunks. Each was relatively small not knowing how much damage we might find.  We split into sawyer/swamper teams to have at it.  The damage reports varied from tediously whacking through downed limbs and tree crowns to bucking large 30-inch trunks.  Some work parties were done in four hours, one encountered so much that it was unable to finish all of it’s work.


A lot of the south district looks like it has been topped by a giant weed whacker.  Here we are looking at Powell Gap.


Another view at Powell Gap.


My partner Jane and I got after it.  We were responsible for 3.1 miles from the Doyle’s River overlook to Dundo campground and picnic area.


It took two hours to cover the first half mile.  Dozens of tangles blocked the trail.  They are a pain to clear with much of the work best done with a pruning saw.






The first mile was the most difficult and featured about 80 percent of the work.  After Brown Gap (middle) we found little to do.  It was literally a walk in the park albeit sharing a hunk of dead-weight metal we traded as we schlepped along.


Just before we turned up the trail that connects the AT to Dundo, we found this poor fallen white blaze*.  It stood its ground and fought the good fight, but in the end our brave trail marker just couldn’t overcome the odds. The storm had taken its final casualty.  RIP.

*As with all artifacts found in the park, we left this one where we found it.



New Ridgerunning Season Coming Soon.


Kensington, MD, March 12, 2019 — The snow drops are up!  As sure as daylight savings time, snow drops are a natural alarm clock announcing it’s time to get ready for a new season on the Appalachian Trail.

Here’s the starting line up.  Our first Shenandoah National Park Hoodlums trail crew work trip is this weekend.  As reported here, there’s still plenty of storm damage to clear.

No fooling, our first ridgerunner starts in Maryland April first.  The second ridgerunner begins patrolling in Shenandoah on April 8.  The remaining four are scheduled for mid-May.  Project ahead two weeks and we’re there. So, let’s get ready to rock and roll!

We’ve been getting ready for awhile.  The budget was submitted last year.  The application deadline was January 31.  Hiring occurred in February.  The last of the supplies and equipment arrived last week.


First to arrive was six Bear Vault BV 450 bear canisters.  These are the half-size canisters with a four-day capacity.  They are very difficult for a bear to open or break.  I’m certain Yogi and Boo Boo hate them, but I can all but guarantee that Mr. Ranger loves them.

Why bear canisters?  The number of human-bear encounters is increasing each year.  The 2018 reported incidents are at this link:  ATC 2018 Bear Incident List


Some of these incidents included stolen food bags and damaged tents.  Fortunately there were no injuries though there have been nasty injuries and even a death in previous years.

Bears become food conditioned because careless backpackers, day hikers and others leave food or food trash at or near shelter areas and campsites.  Ultimately bears learn to identify shelters, tents and backpacks with food.


Camera studies by the National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service show the first place bears go in camp is the fire pit because people toss food trash thinking it will burn.  It does not burn completely so the residue continues to attract bears long after the fire is out.

Once bears associate humans or places where human’s congregate with food, the potential for trouble compounds when bears lose their natural fear of people.

Bear canisters make it difficult for a bear to get a food reward.  Ridgerunners uniformed presence on the trail affords them visibility.  The weight of the example they set by carrying bear canisters complements the educational component of their mission.


We experimented last season by having some of our ridgerunners carry BV 500 canisters loaned to us by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.  They voted unanimously for the smaller version.  Comparison of a BV 450 and the larger BV 500 on the right.  The stickers help tell them apart.  The reflective tape helps find them of an animal decides to bat one around.


Additional equipment includes 12-inch folding saws, clippers, SAM splints, and work gloves.  The rope and tarps help cover the caretaker area at Annapolis Rock.


Meanwhile I have recovered from off-season Dupuytren’s release surgery.  I have two more impacted fingers on my other hand and hope they can wait until September.


Next stop.  Setting up the caretaker area at Annapolis Rock.  Can’t wait.