September 22, 2022 — Today is the autumnal equinox, the day Mother Nature begins disrobing. Ultimately she’ll bare it all. To my delight, she showed a little ankle on my neighborhood walk today, a bright splash teasing what she has on offer.
So it goes in the world of hiking trails and life in general. Events happen more or less in order and on schedule – the circle of life’s rhythms and flow.
If it’s the third weekend in September, it must be the Hoodlums’ annual trail maintenance instructional workshop in Shenandoah National Park. Thirty folks ranging from raw beginners to the well-experience gather to live an learn. Picks are swung, fires are made and beer, shall we say, is swallowed.
This crew repaired part of the Appalachian Trail Caroline and I maintain on the south side of Compton Peak, about 11 miles south of the park’s northern boundary.
Heavy use and heavy weather was taking its toll on a steep traverse. Eight waterbars (erosion control drainage structures) were torn out and reconstructed. Rocks were dug out of the tread to smooth it out and make it a bit safer. It’s good for at least 15 more years.
Caretaker area at Annapolis Rock – Caroline, Sara and Sierra.
This also is the time when the ridgerunner program shrinks to Maryland only. We lost Kasey to a family matter, so Sara Leibold shifted from Shenandoah to Maryland to help us out. She and Sierra will complete the season – my last. I will miss the interviewing, hiring and hiking with the amazing people – nearly 60 all told – who have graced us with their selfless service to the hiking community.
Caroline let me know that she was thinking of taking a Saturday hike on our section. Knowing I would be there Monday, I suggested she hike up to Annapolis Rock with me. Since she and Sara are friends, I thought a two fer would be fun – see Sara and a new place.
While inspecting the area, eagle-eye Sara spied a spotted lantern fly. It’s an invasive insect that is wrecking havoc on the region’s fruit orchards. Did you know that if the jar says Smuckers or Mussleman’s, it probably came from this orchard-rich area? We made the required report.
Unfortunately, on the way to the car I noticed this graffiti and the axe blaze on the tree not far from the upper trail to the Pine Knob shelter. We’ll use Elephant Snot to get ride of it, but why people think vandalizing nature is ok is beyond me. The rock is sedimentary, the remnant of an ancient sea bed.
Tina, aka “Bulldog”, my friend of nearly 30 years, dating back to our days at the White House, has been my swamper on several trips. She pitched in again this month.
The rhythmic drumbeat of blowdowns crashing to the forest floor is quickening. The supply is nearly infinite. Invasive insects have recently killed the red oaks, ash, and hemlocks. The chestnuts and elms are long gone. A native blight is currently attacking white oaks. Have chainsaw. Will travel.
I’ll close on a sad note. We lost Mittens to brain seizures. He was 15 1/2. As the alpha cat, he could be a pain. But, a Formula 1 Ferrari could not compete with the throb of his rhythmic purr. Frank Sinatra’s eyes could not have been bluer. In fact, I wanted to name him “Frank,” but was overruled by my daughter. RIP Big Guy!