Shenandoah National Park, Hoodlums Work Trip, Saturday, July 17, 2021 — If variety is the spice of life, any break from the drudgery of policing up trash, cleaning privies, camouflage noncomplient campsites, breaking up fire rings, and taking notes adds to the flavor of the ridgerunner experience.
We always invite our ridgerunners to join trail maintenance activity. It breaks up their routine and helps them learn more about what it takes to keep our hiking trails open and serviceable.
It was early on Saturday morning when I waved to Sara at the Gravel Spring parking lot where we were to rendezvous and join some Hoodlums to work on the two-and-a-half-mile Pass Mountain Trail. The trail spans the distance between the Pass Mountain Hut and the park boundary at Hwy. 211. We would be joined by ridgerunner Chris Bowley and fellow Hoodlum Greg Foster.
Our job was to clear 16 reported blowdowns while another group of four would chop weeds overgrowing the trail. Since the trail is located in a designated wilderness area, only muscle powered tools are allowed.
On the way to meet the others at the Panorama parking lot, we chainsawed this blowdown which we had left in this condition two weeks earlier.
From Panorama we spotted a car at the bottom of the trail at Hwy. 211; then shuttled up the Pass Mountain Hut access road so we could work down hill thereby saving energy with a gravity assist.
From time to time, team ridgerunner took on team Hoodlum in the crosscut classic. Let me tell you a secret, the old guys have much better technique. This wasn’t our first rodeo. The ridgerunners got to do something that you don’t see or do every day and they got pretty good at it.
Crosscut saws are incredibly efficient. That efficiency helped build this country. This particular saw was purchased by my grandfather in 1945. It works as well as the day it left the Simonds factory in Fitchburg, Mass. Simonds has been in the cutting tool business since 1832.
This 14-inch ash was the last large blowdown we found. After this one, there were a couple of smaller ones. By the time we got this far, lightning was cracking all around us as we hurried to get off the mountain.
Most sawyers really don’t like clearing the smaller logs. They live for the big honkers that present a challenge and bragging rights. When I saw this tree, my morale shot sky high. This would make us sweat, but it would be fun. Instead it was more than a match. The yellow arrow is the reason why.
This was a huge tree. The main trunk was more than 36 inches in diameter before it split into four large trunks. At some point before the tree fell, a combination of ice and wind probably bent over the trunk designated by the arrow. As nature would have it, the bent over trunk was now vertical. At 12 inches, it was big and heavy enough to behave in unpredictable ways once we started bucking the blowdown.
It took a lot of force to bend this live tree.
We pondered what to do before deciding to lop away the poison ivy and leave the tree for the park service professionals. The upright trunk put this blowdown well beyond my experience and expertise. Better safe than sorry was top of mind.
Yesterday the park service professional trail crew managed to cut the higher trunk blocking the trail. The other, featuring the upright, was left in place as too dangerous under the circumstances. At least now it will be easier to climb over.
By the way, the count for the day was a little off. We cleared 19 blowdowns and left the one. That may be a record.
We finished around 2:30 p.m. With deep hunger and time to spare we drove to the Rappahannock Pizza Kitchen in Sperryville. Their wood fired pizza oven makes tasty pizza.
For Sara and me, the day’s total was 20 blowdowns, but wait! There was one more waiting for us at the Indian Run Maintenance Hut where we spent the night.
We ate snacks, sipped beer and listened to the rain patter on our tents. The reflector fire kept the bugs away while we reminisced about the days events.
The three of us went to Sara’s favorite restaurant for breakfast. Shall I say the apple doughnuts are yummy? They are.
After dropping Sara off at Beahms Gap to contiunue her patrol, Chris and I schlepped a chainsaw and a string trimmer up to AT section I maintain on Compton Peak. I weeded and cut logs. Chris camouflaged a new noncompliant campsite that is, ironically, 200 yards from a legal one.
With that, the weekend work was done. Blowdown total: Twenty one. The sense of accomplishment: Priceless. That why I Iove this job.