We’re back at Annapolis Rock!

D4EAF1C1-6D78-4FCB-AEBF-8BB75848C9E7

Annapolis Rock, Maryland, Saturday, May 20, 2020 — We’re back!  Today we set up the caretaker camp – pitched the tent and strung the tarps – at Annapolis Rock.  In a normal year, this is the first ritual of the season. Obviously this year is different.

The long-season Maryland ridgreunner is the first to start on April Fools Day and the last to finish on Halloween.  Aptly chosen dates once one experiences what happens in between, from naivete to the spirits of the dark side.  It’s a long season with all that the full range of human behavior has to offer.

69DB90CC-D2E2-4A82-8530-F598FDC58106_1_201_a

Putting together this camp is one of my favorite ways to bond with a ridgerunner.  Most years I spend up to four days there working on OJT and otherwise coaching them on how to manage the site.  Stringing ropes and setting up tents isn’t fun wearing a mask.

99C38B7B-C255-414C-84C2-309BB51160FE

We start with the tent, an REI Big House generously donated by the co-op.

E5FA9591-245A-4677-A812-FF42B4A8DA23

It’s always somewhat of a mystery.  We read and reread the directions for each step.

CC01EB61-F473-44E6-8707-D48E703D60E1

We put a sun tarp over the tent and fly so shade it from the UV so it will last a little longer.  We average four years/tent.

DC951E45-11D0-4723-A075-22A3E92DE0E2

“Ok.  How do I organize all the stuff in this tool box?

53E43536-C8EA-4EF7-8CD8-922EA4CBA034

Done.  Tarp strung over the picnic table.  We’re an all weather operation now.

258A87AD-84B8-486C-B765-3A770D16AC69

Some noobs left us a present at the picnic table.  Really.  You can’t put it in your pocket and carry it out?

4262F1F9-D06E-48F3-AEE5-181FF4F2D8E8

Social distancing at the overlook was “iffy” at best.  We’re not in the public health business.  Hiking is an “at risk” activity.  It’s also a pass/fail IQ test.  Have at it.

312B8C70-9086-45E4-89C0-869E19536B6A_1_201_a

I love irony.  The Annapolis Rock trailhead parking on Rt. 40 was recently expanded.  In return, the busy highway’s shoulders became no parking zones.  The Maryland State Trooper in the circle had more than 30 tickets to write.  Yes!

Tomorrow my grandfather’s crosscut saw sees action for the first time since the 1940s.  We’ll be tackling some large blowdowns in Shenandoah National Park with this priceless, to me, artifact that has been passed down by my personal hero.  Stay tuned.

Sisu

 

Shenandoah. At last!

EB7C116A-5F61-4993-81DA-12FBD2287102

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia. May 27, 2020 — The park is open, sort of.  Skyline Drive, the 105-mile-long ribbon of a road that curls along the crest of the Blue Ridge, is open for traffic.

With the exception of a small number of public restrooms, all other facilities are closed including campgrounds.   The trails, except the most popular trails where social distance can’t be maintained, are welcoming footprints.  The huts/shelters remain off limits for use.

This limited opening makes sense.  Reports say the primary means of COVID-19 is respiratory droplets inhaled when people congregate in small spaces.

Imagine up to a dozen people sleeping in an AT shelter with one of them who arrives late in the evening, asymptomatic with corona virus, infecting those sleeping nearby.   The same logic applies to crowded communal picnic tables and for visitor centers.

The good news is this. After nearly three months, volunteers may now return.  For awhile I thought the most useless card in my wallet was my dormant Shenandoah volunteer pass.

73B002C0-FFCA-493B-8CEC-C09E7B8F9885_1_201_a

On Saturday the entry stations opened and we were turned on again.  Fearing a Black Friday-like run on the park, most of us opted to pass on the weekend.  I chose Wednesday to return because I was committed Monday and Tuesday, and heavy rains are forecast for Thursday, Friday and early Saturday, a day on which I am unavailable.

Saturday the Maryland ridgerunner and I will be pitching the caretaker tent and stringing the rain tarps at Annapolis Rock.  It is always a more sane exercise in better weather.  This annual ritual is two months late, delayed by the pandemic.

Back to the park.

F96D8DF8-77C7-4EBA-B530-44F3665C5751_1_201_a

Ready to crank on a foggy day.  The aggressive weeding of previous years has retarded the growth of jewel weed which is the bane of string trimmers.  The width of the corridor is needed because certain briars can grow a foot per week and the width buys me time to return before the trail is impeded.

EBB5E860-C897-4A9B-9A24-B2EF5C28ACA8_1_201_a

Eight hours later.

92C809E3-6E3C-4537-BEF0-7692556CBC38_1_201_a

Just around the corner.  When you’re running a string trimmer, your head is usually down.  You’re wearing a helmet with face shield which further impedes vision.  Then you look up.

7E759D66-ED8C-4D2E-8231-A0BA2E3C65EF_1_201_a

Black birch is easily dispatched with a folding saw.

11FCF823-CC68-49B9-A515-ABB9379645A3

The aesthetics were amazing.  Wild azalea blooming.  The laurel will start soon.

9ADA6E45-CC87-40FC-9574-04F1B6B8A4DA_1_201_a

The tall grasses grow quickly.  People often ask why we remove the weeds and make such a racket in the process.  The answer is simple, Lyme Disease.

Animals use the hiking trails to get around just like people do.  The mammals such as deer, bear, coyotes, squirrels, and rabbits pick up ticks which drop when engorged.  Their babies instinctively crawl up on the vegetation to seek a host of their own.

972C895C-BB1B-4D20-A265-B1D9F2A4ED28_1_201_a

Remove the vector.  Reduce Lyme disease risk.  Mowing tall grass reminded me of harvesting wheat.  Weeding is arguably the least enjoyable, but probably the most important task trail maintainers do.

0F64C3E3-D43C-4287-8BC6-D7009734B3BB_1_201_a

75CDA5DB-064A-4DA1-92F5-A8EE7194E100_1_201_a

Just over the hill from the last photo.

98812510-EBD9-42EC-85A2-ECCD341A57EE_1_201_a

Trusty Silky Big Boy 2000 saw to the rescue.  I thought about coming back dragging a chainsaw for this one, but for one, it would be a long carry for two minutes work – literally a long climb for a short slide.

Secondly, we’re going to attack a large blowdown at the bottom of Little Devils Stairs Sunday using a crosscut saw that is special because it once belonged to my grandfather.  Not sure there would be enough time or energy left over when we’re done to climb half way up Compton Peak to make, honestly, thirty seconds worth of noise.

679AF7AB-A74E-4878-9758-DDCD90675B97_1_201_a

I always check the campsite above the spring on Compton.  It’s now official.  The park trail crews have been defining its perimeter with logs to help contain the site and limit spreading.

People are inherently predictable.  Anyone who has been a ridgerunner can tell you where you’re going to find the TP.

Speaking of ridgerunners, they were defunded in the park this year because thru hiking was discouraged and park gate receipts were dramatically down.  Tuesday and Wednesday a fellow maintainer and I counted 14 thru hikers.  The noobs are making a mess.  Help!

7B35763A-33DD-4983-995A-C6B89FFC4C48_1_201_a

There’s a reason I always carry potty trowel.  All told I buried two deposits this trip.  As previously reported, there are more noobs in the woods now and it shows.

08F74B84-AAC5-4866-8B02-EBEB22C5ECDA

Long day.  Sweaty and tired.  The COVID beard is coming along.  String trimmers turn the weeds, which include poison ivy, into pesto.  I’m coated with it.  Time to get a shower.

DFC3CBC3-7C82-4A72-BE9C-92499AB44728_1_201_a

Spring in the park is awesome!  Did I say I love this job?

Sisu

 

 

 

Sheltering at home.

ACAD9E2D-C879-4971-A6C6-D3CF16B4E729

Good ole Zoom.

Sheltering at Home, May 9, 2020 – We are under a freeze watch from the National Weather Service.  Believe it or not, I’d rather be sleeping in my tent.  Why not?  There’s no baseball to watch, no WNBA, and the news is not optimistic from a pandemic perspective.  Better to be backpacking somewhere far away from it all.

Mostly sheltering at home is just that, staying home.  Going to the grocery and drug stores are about all there is in an age of gas mileage measured in weeks per gallon. The exception is when I can spend a day with the ridgerunner.  Otherwise committee work, staying fit, and the honey do list fight for attention.  Some days you drag your feet in fear of running out of things to do.

The trails will open as soon as we can figure out how to help hikers and maintainers stay safe.  That is the mission of the Adaptive Recovery Task Force.  We won’t be back tomorrow, but it won’t be forever either.

The three ridgerunners we planned to hire this year were going to be my salvation.  They could keep me busy and on the trail.

Unfortunately Shenandoah National Park is $millions short on its gate receipts and the ridgerunner and other seasonal employees have become casualties in the war to make up for the shortfall.  The park will eventually open, but without a full complement of seasonal workers.

We also did not receive the full grant we’d hoped would fund the ridgerunner in Northern Virginia.   Sadly, Witt will not grace our ranks this season.  That leaves Wes as the sole survivor.  He’ll be patrolling Maryland through October.

60E02AE0-B022-4D43-ABEF-DE496E1F077A

Trail Patrol Executive Committee Meeting.

Sometimes Zoom is fun.

45486ECC-D150-476A-B615-2957D048141B

Sam and I have started virtual training sessions.  This is my view.

C20CB8F3-54AF-4DC4-AE4B-5444FD0CE6B9_1_201_a

This is Sam’s view of the gym I made in the corner in the basement where I store my camping gear.  She can coach my form and push me on workouts.  Most importantly, she gets paid.

I decided to move my office out of a spare bedroom that doubles as a sewing room.

35D57BB4-96FF-48AC-BA0D-7C401EFB7501

At this point, disassembly was well underway.  The desk and bookshelves look better than they really are.  This installation was really designed for a school kid.  Too narrow and not nearly enough room for an adult to spread out.

Assembling the new desk and attaching it to the wall wasn’t difficult.

 

E5A8F219-E42A-4C04-B0B8-460DE209839BThe Ikea drawer set appeared to be something else.

AE8A58F1-13AE-495F-8E20-6704ED527F31

Thank you Ikea.

88F6EDCB-5A7B-4A75-805D-52F029DE0C6E

Coffee and Girl Scout cookies are stress reducers.  I was planning to eat the full sleeve.  After all, that’s a single serving.

0712E669-2F96-4E73-B70C-78D5131AD33E

Turns out it wasn’t a big deal.  A half of a cookie sleeve was left over for the next project.  The ring light is for Zoom calls.

Meanwhile I’m looking for another reason to hike with our ridgerunner.

Sisu