Shenandoah National Park, October 15 – 16, 2022 — Mother Nature’s autumn soiree is in full swing. She’s dressed in loud colors that evoke AC/DC cranked to the max. She will keep the party rocking until the pumpkin lattes run dry.
The colors truly are spectacular. These are from the Big Devil’s Stairs canyon and the south side of Compton Peak.
So what were we doing there? It’s the third Saturday of the month – Hoodlums work trip day. As always, we organized into several work groups.
Our group was assigned to hike deep into the Big Devil’s Stairs (BDS) gorge to clear a cluster of massive live tulip poplars recently blown down by a possible microburst.
The lower half of BDS hasn’t been maintained in awhile because there is no access from the park boundary. Most people hike to the second canyon overlook and then double back. Few wonder down to the bottom where the views are nil and the trail is steep.
Before we get down to muscle business, let’s celebrate an encore appearance from a special Hoodlum.
Sam Keener became a Hoodlums regular just before the pandemic. During lockdown we met twice weekly over Zoom for personal training sessions. Later she joined the FBI, graduated from their academy at Quantico and is now a Special Agent. Fortunately we’re fake hoodlums. Besides, she’s one of us! You can’t bust yourself.
Sam gave me a FBI Pittsburgh Field Office challenge coin which is now front and center in my trophy case along with a chunk of the Berlin Wall and a piece of the foundation from Check Point Charlie – made famous by a Berlin Crisis standoff between Russian and American tanks.
Back to business.
The going on this one was rough. The bind on each of them was such that these trees wanted to move like Superman, up and away.
We hacked at this cut for more than an hour without being able to muscle through. Sam is a power lifter, so she makes the friction seem far less than it was.
Nearby, the other crew was slogging too. The binds were unusual – side and bottom.
Ultimately we walked down to the other crew. The clock had run out. We’ll be back with many more bodies to finish the job. This was much bigger than five people.
As we licked out wounds, Mother Nature flashed her jewelry in the form of this young timber rattlesnake.
Ole Jake No-shoulders was nonplussed by our presence.
On Friday I sneaked up early to pick up six chainsaw chains I’d left with the Stihl dealer for sharpening.
I spent the night in solitude at the Indian Run maintenance hut, aka Hoodlums clubhouse. I had to hack my way in for the sixth time this year! If only Mother Nature would stop throwing her party favors on the access road! The hut does look like it would be fun to spend an evening there during the Christmas season.
Tom Moran kindly contributed photos and videos to this post.