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.