July is Dirt Month

The lowly rock bar does its job. We later used rocks to lift the boulder for better leverage.

Shenandoah National Park, July 2023 — It’s been a typical July in the Mid-Atlantic region featuring scorching heat, dripping humidity, gads of gnats, and clouds of dust where the daily pop-up T-storms failed to drip. The rain may have missed a spot or two, but enthusiastic Hoodlums came to dig, push and pound, come what may. By the way, the gnats are a feature not a bug. ūüôā

HOODLUMS MONTHLY TRIP
Both the Hoodlums’ third-Saturday-of-the-month work trip and crew week pack the calendar. Caroline and I camped at the Indian Run maintenance hut on Saturday night and weed-whacked our AT section on Sunday, hustling for an early start to avoid the heat.

While some folks breakfast at the hut, Caroline, the ridgerunners and I slipped into Front Royal for a bite at the Knotty Pine.

This is a one-meal-a-day, greasy-spoon, stick-to-your-ribs, and clog-your-arteries breakfast. These hole-in-a-wall, mom-and-pop eat shops are where it’s at in every tiny community across our nation. It’s where locals gather and a part of American culture that I love.

Our project was to work on the AT near the spring on Compton Peak. The tread on about 250 yards of the trail had drifted down hill. Our job was to restore the tread to its original location using a technique called side-hilling.

Reminds me of railroad building.

The raindrops didn’t miss the area around the hut Saturday night. The slow, steady patter on my tent fly served as white noise for sound sleeping. That meant hanging my kit out to dry once home. Cleaning and storing equipment is part of the game. Speaking of games, the ballgame was unremarkable other than the hapless Nats won one for a change, but the spectacular shot of the capitol on the drive home reminds me of why I like living here.

NOW FOR CREW WEEK

Crew week runs Sunday – Friday. We reside at the Pinnacles Research Station. It is equipped with ten bunks, a lab area, kitchen, livingroom, shower and laundry. It is surrounded by apron of flat ground for tenting and trees to hang hammocks.

We tend to work side-by-side with members of the park trail crews and various members come and go as available. I had to be home on Tuesday to chair a PATC Executive Committee meeting but rejoined Wednesday bringing Sabine Pelton, 2019’s Ridgerunner One, who was in town all the way from Maine while her husband attended a conference at the University of Maryland.

We did a lot of rock work this year. This happened while I was away. Crew colleague Cindy Ardecki shared her video of this rock’s journey. There is more than one way to move a BFR as you will see.

The previous day we used a different technique while working on the Overall Run trail just above the falls.

Crush and blunt force injuries are possible, so safety is a big deal. The park doesn’t require hard hats, but the club will consider adopting them as standard PPE this fall.

We ran into a young bear on the hike back to our transportation. He was curious but conditioned to having people nearby. He only moved 10 ft. off the trail as we hiked past.

You might ask if we were nervous. Not really. As a rule, bears are shy and fearful of humans except when food is involved. This bear showed no sighs of aggression or being concerned about our presence. Besides, he was realistically overmatched by eight guys equipped with trail tools.

We also repaired steps on Compton Peak leading to the park’s best columnar basalt formation. We built the original steps 10 years ago. They are in a difficult spot in which to build and were in need of attention.

We’re trying a new technique using logs as retaining walls to create steps filled with rubble.

We worked on the Indian Run access road on the final day. Sabine and I also slipped up to the spring on Compton to improve the flow. We also found new artifacts near the CCC trash midden located on the section. I wrote about it last winter. This trip we found a plate shard and part of a terracotta pipe section.

Sisu

Busy. Busy. Busy.

Here, there and everywhere, June to July Fourth, July 6, 2023 — We’ll start with the good news/bad news. My dear friend Mary Thurman is now the park manager at Flagg Mountain, Alabama.

This is stellar news for Mary. She’s been searching for “big girl” work for a long time. She’s uniquely qualified and so far, she’s loving it.

Mary’s mission: Bring a long dormant park back to life. Who could be better for that? Her degree from Florida State is finally paying off.

Unfortunately, with Mary’s fortune, we lost our ridgerunner in the Michaux State Forest, Pennsylvania.

Before she hit the road, we visited the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center where the large aircraft are on display. Obviously, this is the Space Shuttle Discovery.

We also shared a fire and some beer.¬† Can’t wait to visit Flagg Mountain after the weather cools off.

Got to welcome four new AT Communities into the fold.¬† AT communities welcome hikers, support the trail and are a vital source of volunteers.¬† I kept my speeches mercifully short.¬† Some of the politicians didn’t.

Along the way things happened. This is the readout on a gas pump. Usually I get gas in Front Royal, VA when I go to the park. It’s often 50 cents less expensive than in the D.C. area.

Guess who left home without his wallet? In addition to not having my drivers license, I didn’t have a credit card. How close was it? My tank holds 15 gallons.

Nice blowdown on Pass Mountain. Tina is my go to swamper because she’s usually available during the week. Pole saws don’t require credentials or PPE. Secret: The car is parked on a fire road less than 100 yards away.

For the first time ever, the PATC was in charge of chainsaw training for a class composed solely of park service employees.

We had several park instructor/trainers working with us and carrying a substantial teaching and evaluating load for the four-day course.

Wayne Limberg is teaching chain sharpening in this photo.

A young fox caught a small black snake for dinner as viewed from the bedroom window.

Our friend Martha Kumar is a professorial scholar of the American presidency. I first met her when I served on the National Security Council staff at the White House. Of course, she was born on the Fourth of July. Our tradition is to attend the Nationals game followed by Martha’s birthday party where we sing Happy Birthday.

Let’s close with the bullseye rash found on my elbow after the chainsaw classes. We spend a lot of time in the woods. It’s doxycycline for two weeks.

Sisu

Walkabout

IMG_4905

Obligatory selfie at the columnar basalt formation.

Shenandoah National Park, May 13, 2023 — About a month ago we planned to take a hike up and over Compton Peak to see the wild azalea and mountain laurel which historically are in full bloom.¬† It was also a chance to check up on weed growth and talk about the work we’d do over the summer.

As the days counted down, the weather prognosis worsened.  The precip probability in the 10-day forecast climbed from 39 to 58 percent.  Digging deeper the day prior, we learned that the Weather Channel app was predicting less than a half inch accumulation with scattered showers.  Those are excellent odds and conditions so we green-lighted the trek to great success.  So what if we had to wear a rain jacket for 10 minutes.

Maintenance issues constantly crop up whether a waterbar rots, a spring undermines some stone steps, or some knucklehead scratches graffiti on a rock.  The steps will fall to the Hoodlums for repair.

Along the way ya gotta check out the rocks.  We also found a couple of thru hikers enjoying out bench.

Ultimately we found a few flowers.¬† The azalea were waning and the mountain laurel are just budding out.¬† The dreaded weeds are ahead of schedule.¬† It’s going to be an interesting year.

Sisu

Where Ya Been?

IMG_0127

Ice-downed pine on a Pass Mountain tent pad.

Shenandoah National Park, January and February 2023 —¬† Ice storm pick up sticks continues.¬† We’re now on the trails.¬† The AT in the North District is clear and mostly clear elsewhere.¬† We’re teaming with the Park Service crews and the Appalachian Conservation Corps (an AmeriCorps group) to get after the approximately 400 miles of blue blaze (side) trails in the park.¬† Many of them are steep in tight canyons that funnel and speed up the wind.¬† The Venturi effect dramatically increases wind speed and consequently the number of downed trees and branches.

Don’t hold your breath for this job to get done.¬† It’s going to be awhile as the video, photos and narrative will illustrate.

My new duties as club president also eat time like an addict finding their next fix.  The PATC is a complex organization and perhaps the largest volunteer service organization in the region.  We have nearly 9,000 members,  maintain most of the hiking trails in the National Capitol Region, operate soon to be 48 rental cabins, 45 camping shelters, several trail centers and the Bears Den Hostel.

So far, it’s a job for a one-armed paper hanger.¬† You’re going to be busy with planning, reports, relationships, Zoom calls, and the politics associated with the large number of people needed to manage this much complexity.¬† That doesn’t leave nearly as much time to put your boots in the mud or to write blogs.

Since the December ice storm, the weather has been generally good.¬† We’ve had individual maintainers and small crews out almost continually, weather dependent.¬† My batting average is down, but I’m still in the game.

Clearing tree crowns and large branches is like cutting hair and can be tedious work.¬† Pole saws help, but we don’t have that many of them.¬† Loppers are the tool of choice.¬† All you need is time and patience.

Sometimes you find a real honker.  Naturally, it blocked the AT near Thornton Gap.  This one was partially hollow, a condition that presented its own challenges for the sawyer, Wayne Limberg, the AT district manager of the North District.

IMG_0100

Sometimes the pick up sticks land in odd ways.  Some of these were driven into the ground like stakes.  All of them had unusual binds, making it easy to trap the saw.

IMG_0109

My friend Josh Fuchs is a blue blaze district manager in the Central District.  He also owns a moon bounce business.  Ever clever, he invented way of attaching a chainsaw to any pack using spare moon bounce materials.  This makes it much easier to schlepp awkward Old Betsy up the mountain.

It’s not just Old Betsy.¬† That pack also has a liter of fuel, extra bar oil, Kevlar chainsaw chaps, trauma kit, Silky folding saw. wedges, hatchet. radio, spare clothing, lunch and so much more.¬† Not sure what it weighs, but it’s a respectable number.

IMG_0079

On one trip, the pin that holds the starter pawls broke and and I might as well been hiking a dumbbell back to the car. I’ll be honest.¬† I didn’t even know what a pawl was, but thanks to professor YouTube and Amazon Prime, I made the repair the next day.

Had to leave one tree that Dan Hippe clipped with his Mattel-like battery saw.

IMG_4041

Yesterday we organized a crew to work on Compton Peak and Piney Branch.

We taught Caroline to use the pole saw.  No certification or chaps needed.

IMG_0136

The bench we built this fall got some use.

She put her new found knowledge to work on a large tree we found blocking Keyser Run Fire Road on our way to demolish a nasty tangle on Piney Branch.

IMG_0143

Keyser Run fire road was an absolute mud hole.  Type II fun.  It was an all-battery power event!

This beauty was yesterday’s final objective.¬† Several complex binds.¬† One large branch with side bind moved 15 inches.¬† In some cases, knowing how the tree will behave when cut can save life or limb.

The pole saw reach and stand off made many of the cuts much safer.¬† I’m a believer.

IMG_0147

Lots of debris to clear.

One of the trees was a hard maple and the sap was running.

IMG_0151

End product.

IMG_0153

After all that, we stopped at “lunch rock” before heading home.

Sisu

Shenandoah Ice Storm Clean up

Photo Dec 20 2022, 2 47 10 PM

Shenandoah National Park, End of December, 2022 — The ice storm from a week ago made Skyline Drive look like a combat zone. Hundreds and hundreds of trees and branches are down along all 105 miles of road that meanders along the ridgeline that forms the backbone of the park’s geography.

Damage reports suggest that the north district from Front Royal to Swift Run Gap seems to have been hit the hardest.

The park leadership assessed the damage and asked qualified volunteers to join the clean up effort.  That request is a testament to the integration of PATC volunteers into park operations and the faith the park has in our ability to deliver value when we are asked to help.

It’s obvious from the photo that the clean up is a labor intensive effort.¬† Each one of those branches and tree trunks has to be removed from the roadway.¬† The roadsides also have to be cleared to the treeline so that mowers can operate in the growing season.¬† That is a lot of stoop labor.

Those of us who normally work on trails learned a lot about the process of cleaning up the “drive” after a storm.¬† Here’s a hint:¬† They use a lot of “big boy” toys – bucket trucks, graspers, chippers, and loaders in addition to chainsaws, loppers, pruning saws, and rakes.

The larger debris gets piled up to be loaded into large dump trucks and hauled to the park boneyard.

IMG_9980

The lesser debris is fed into a chipper, thereby speeding up the circle of life by feeding the forest back to itself as mulch.  We learned a lot thanks to our park service partners.

Although there always seems to be a chipper operating in my urban-forested neighborhood, I never gave them much thought.¬† Now I know they’re driven by a giant flywheel and grinders capable of crunching 15-inch logs with ease!¬† We even learned how to clear jams and reset them.¬† Hearing protection is mandatory.¬† Them suckers is loud!!!

While PATC volunteers were helping in other areas of the park, the North District Hoodlums answered the call in their home territory.  I think the park expected that we would have only enough to help feed the chipper.

IMG_9989

We beat that expectation and divided ourselves up into two groups, one to stuff the chipper and the other to clear the area around the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center followed by work on the drive.

IMG_9982

By lunch time, the chipping was nearly done.  We decided to finish chipping and then join forces for the remainder of the day.

As you can see, it’s tedious work.

Photo Dec 20 2022, 2 44 10 PM

As the day ended, your enthusiastic volunteers dragged their tired butts back to the rendezvous point.  We finished chipping the first four miles of Skyline from Front Royal to Dickey Ridge.  We cleared the drive four more miles beyond, nearly to mile post 9.

This blog is written to offer insight into what goes on behind the scenes.¬† This was another peek.¬† Judging by what’s left and the potential damage of today’s bomb cyclone storm, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Thanks to Wayne Limberg, Cindy Ardecki, Justin Corddry, Dan Hippe, Tom Moran and our National Park Service colleagues.  They supplied good company, shared some of these photos and and cared enough to volunteer their time and expertise.

Sisu

I love PEOPLE!

IMG_8687

You think we were tired!

The AT and My House, April 12 – 17, 2022 — It’s been people time recently – lots of interesting people and even more fun.

The week opened with a visit from a German public radio producer, her lovely children, and her colleague.

It ended with a day spent with Caroline and her dad.

In between the Hoodlums April work trip brought out 31 people, a record for this time of year.

The time of year is important.¬† The weather went from sunshine Sunday to snow on Monday.¬† Weather this time of year is a crap shoot.¬† We got lucky.¬† It’s going to be in the high 60s again later this week.¬† Go figure…

IMG_8606

Susi Weichselbaumer and her children were lovely.¬† We haven’t had little kids in the house since we bought it.¬† Fortunately we found some of our daughter Liisa’s old Duplo Lego toys.¬† Susi works for Bayerisher Rundfunk, Bavarian Public Radio in Munich. She and her kids travel the world having adventures for the radio.¬† The name of their program (radioReisen) translates to Radio Travels.¬† What a gig!¬† Mom, you’re amazing!!!

Susi contacted the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club in search of an AT adventure.  As we corresponded, I thought it might be fun to host them, get to know them and fit the hike to the family.

IMG_8607

I invited them over and pitched a tent in the yard.  The girls packed one of my packs with two schlaufsacks and had a short camp out after which we made SMORES around the fire pit.  If stickiness is any measure, they were happy.

IMG_8609

Susi’s colleague Arthur gave the crosscut a go.¬† The girls sawed off a couple of pieces as souvenirs.

A couple of days later we trekked up to Annapolis Rock for a picnic.  Adventure complete.

IMG_8613

Meanwhile, my wife and a bunch of Lashley Lounge/Gang of Four friends popped in to see the newly renovated Mormon Temple which towers over our neighborhood.¬† It will be open to the public for a short time before its rededication.¬† Secrets inside?¬† We won’t tell.

That was the week.  Now for the weekend.

IMG_8638

Dawn cracked on the Hoodlums meet-up with a breeze that chomped at us with a seasonal reminder.  We were delighted to see some pre-COVID stalwarts return to the fold.

This group broke into work parties that cleared blowdowns on several north district hiking trails. Another group continued tread work on North Marshall.

IMG_8639

Sporting my new prescription Z 87+ prescription but dorky safety glasses, I led a group of seven down a side trail called Jeremy’s Run.¬† That’s creek to most folks.¬† It’s in a designated wilderness so only muscle powered tools are allowed.

It was like a war story.

There we were.¬† Armed with my grandfather’s crosscut, a bow saw and a couple of Silky Big Boy 2000 folding saws.¬† Yes that’s a Japanese brand of professional pruning saw, not a Harry Potter Quiddich broom.¬† We launched what the military calls a movement to contact.

Movement to contact:  Cross the line of departure into the backcountry.  Search for the enemy.  Find the enemy.  Maneuver and destroy the enemy.

What’s the enemy?¬† The enemy is blowdowns.¬† Here’s our after action report:

IMG_8641

We made contact almost immediately after entering the backcountry.  This little one must have been an enemy scout.  We needed to demonstrate practice and teamwork.  Rachael dispatched it without fanfare.

IMG_8643

Must be getting closer to the main body.¬† We unlimbered the big saw.¬† With the team taking turns, Jim Grant’s crosscut dispatched this enemy outpost posthaste.

I wish my grandfather could see and hear this.¬† This saw was the best you could buy at the time.¬† I hope he would be proud that it’s still productive.

IMG_8644

The secret to success it taking turns.  That way nobody gets tired.  This crew had a seven limber arms in the bullpen.  We used all of them.

Missed you Sam Keener.  Sam is the only Hoodlum with a good excuse.  She was running the Boston Marathon.  BTW, she smoked it.

We didn’t always use the heavy artillery.¬† The lighter silky saws did their share.¬† Slo mo on the replay.

Ana clears an obstacle!

The outer defenses are defeated.

IMG_8647

Lunch prior to the main objective.  These are grad students from the Johns Hopkins school of public health taking a needed break from thesis season.

IMG_8663

Happiness is…

All told, we made four stream crossings and hiked down to the fifth.¬† The water is about 12 inches deep.¬† Don’t fall in.

The wedges keep the kerf open so that it doesn’t close and pinch the saw.

IMG_8677

The objective.  In total, we defeated nine blowdowns.

IMG_8682

Clearing the battlefield.

IMG_8685

Victory party at the Elk Wallow picnic area.  First in two years.  You go Hoodlums!

R&R at the Hoodlum’s home base, the Indian Run Maintenance Hut.

IMG_8693

This is better than the sunrise at Campobello.¬† Eat your heart out Teddy.¬† That’s my morning coffee on the reflector fire wall.

A little drama in the morning breeze as Steve’s tent decided to take itself for a walk.

IMG_8696

Turn the page to Sunday.¬† Marching in, we found a benchmark for the original AT which was moved away from Skyline Drive a long time ago.¬† It’s amazing what you can find without the summer vegetation choking the view.

Let’s switch gears from trail crew to the AT section that Caroline Egli and I maintain.

If you recall, last month we cut logs to replace rotting drainage structures.

IMG_8700

We were joined by Caroline’s father.¬† The first thing we did was camouflage an illegal campsite by spreading dead fall and leaves over the bare spot.

We replaced rotted logs.

Sometimes twenty-somethings vent a little.¬† It’s about a couple of good guys who downplayed how tough busting rocks was for the North Marshall crew with whom Caroline worked the day before.¬† You tell ’em lady!

She said she was strong!  She drove the pick clean through the log.

IMG_8718

Good time had by all!¬† That’s why I love this life and these people.

Sisu

Breaking News.

IMG_8516

Appalachian Trail and Annapolis Rock, Maryland, April 1 – 7, 2022 — This just in:¬† The end is near if seven months away counts.¬† This will be my final season as the PATC ridgerunner lead.¬† After that, Dan Hippe will take responsibility.¬† We want to get it right, so Dan will shadow me until November 1.¬† Then it’s his show.

Dan is a recently retired geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey.¬† He has extensive backpacking and outdoor leadership experience.¬† As I told one of my friends, “He will take good care of the troops.”¬† Of that I am certain.

I originally promised five years.¬† We’re now in year eight and new blood is due.¬† It’s also best to get off the horse before you fall off.¬† Not sure that would be anytime soon, but to be fair, it’s time.

IMG_8537

Meanwhile Dan has been out there helping as we prepare Kasey Kohlmeier for her season.  Here we broke up an illegal fire ring at Black Rock.

IMG_8518

If the last is the saddest day of the ridgerunner calendar, then the first is the most promising.  The new season is fresh and the possibilities are endless.

We gathered at the recently renovated “barn” to haul the caretaker tent and other gear up to Annapolis Rock.¬† There we spent a couple of days learning the ins and outs of the caretaker’s responsibilities.

The site is up.  The sunset spectacular.  My new tent is sturdy.  The REI-donated tent and the rain tarp survived the strong winds over the next several days.  Count success where you find it.

The usual mess at Black Rock.  It is a popular spot, mostly with locals.

Hiking back from Black Rock we found an unfortunate man who face-planted, suffering a bloody nose and some ugly wrist abrasions.  He passed concussion protocol, so we encouraged him to stop by AR where we patched him up.  We also found a heart rock someone had propped against a tree and fresh bear sign.  Of course the view of Green Briar Lake never disappoints.

On the way out we destroyed an illegal fire ring at group site 3, locked the tool box, noted damage caused by the ATVs belonging to the first responders and held up our trash collection as a trophy.

IMG_8566

After a couple of days off, we were at it again.   This time from Penn-Mar/ Mason-Dixon line to the Raven Rock Shelter. The forecast was ominous Рtwo inches in less than 24 hours.  But, we got a dry start up the rocky approach to the shelter.

Along¬† the way we cleared six blowdowns, some small like this one.¬† Others in the six-inch class.¬† We stopped at the hot mess known as High rock.¬† It’s county property, not the AT.¬† Someone said it’s a rock with Tammy Faye Bakker make up, a generational reference to a TV preacher couple only a Boomer would appreciate.¬† Of course privy maintenance was front and center.

Stopped at the Raven Rock overlook.¬† Yes, there was a fire ring.¬† Found another spirit tree.¬† Someday I’ll do a blog on those.¬† I have dozens of photos in a folder.¬† Paid homage to a fallen soldier.

The rain pounded the area overnight and as we hiked.  In total two inches worth made a river out of the tread.

The stream crossing at Raven Rock Rd. was a bit iffy.

When we stopped at the Pogo camping area we discovered the South Mountaineer trail crew had delivered the prize of prizes.¬† The old pit latrine is GONE!¬† Earlier this week I sent these photos to the 13 people who have previously been ridgerunners in Maryland during my tenure.¬† Nobody cried over this stinking portal to hell.¬† It’s been replaced by a composting privy up hill.¬† Privy photos by Dave House.

IMG_8601

Have to own up.¬† I slipped on a wet rock and smacked my hand.¬† It’s all good now, but it hurt like hell at the time.

Sisu

Treemegedon!

IMG_8317

Prince William Forest National Park, VA, January 2022 — The mid-Atlantic experiences a wide range of weather.¬† The the spring flowers are spectacular, summers are hot and humid, the autumns colorful, and the winters – well let me tell you.

The National Capitol Region winters are really mild until they aren’t.¬† Remember those icy presidential inaugurations?

About every fifth year or so the snow gods like to play around with us.  They want to find out how much heavy, wet snow we can take.  As I remind them, nobody is actually from around here.  We come from cold hard places named Buffalo, Missoula, Bangor, Fairbanks, Leadville, Minneapolis and the grand daddy of them all, International Falls.  We know how to sharpen our snow shovels and win the fight.

Sadly the trees are from around here.¬† They’re not so tough.¬† Wind, ice and heavy wet snow play hell with the soft and brittle ones.¬† The rocky soil and shallow roots don’t help the cause.

Recently we experienced a classic nor’ easter, a storm fed by tropical waters that rolls up the Blue Ridge¬† carpet bombing havoc all along the trace of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine.¬† In this case, it slid a little to the east missing the AT for the most part.¬† It did clobber a neat little gem of a park just outside the Marine base at Quantico, VA.

Info on Prince William Forest Park

Thousands of trees are down or broken.  Large limbs have been ripped from trunks.  The hiking trails, which for trail runners are the best in the region, are impassable.

Cue Task Force Snowmegedon, an ad hoc collection of PATC chain sawyers who gathered from near and far to turn blowdowns into sawdust.¬† We’ve been at it for the better part of two weeks with at least another week to go.

The ratio of tree crowns, sometimes called “rats nests” blocking the path, to the number of large tree trunks is rather large.¬† Regardless, there are plenty of large trees blocking the trail.

IMG_8324

These are live trees.¬† They bind in ways unlike the dried out dead ones do.¬† We’ve learned that pole saws are much safer to use as we wade into these rats nests.¬† The stand off distance from branches that sometimes whip when their energy is released is a godsend.

This was the Mother of all Blowdowns for last week.  It was complex and full of stored energy as the branches flexed in different directions when they fell.

Bind, or the way a tree is compressed, is sometimes difficult to read, even for the most experienced sawyers.  The large branch that pinched and trapped this saw moved horizontally away from the sawyer.  We unbolted the powerhead and made a vertical cut on the opposite side which released the pressure and the bar.

This video is worth watching to the end.¬† It’s approximately three minutes long.¬† The sawyer is National Park Service Ranger Mike Custodio, who is responsible for roads and trails in the park. He’s tackling this one because his saw is the only one long enough to take on the mammoth trunk.¬† His objective is to get the trunk on the ground where it will be easier and safer to clear.

Mike knows how this tree is going to behave based on the size of the root ball and its angle.  This is his plan of attack:

First Mike clears two saplings on the far side of the trunk to ensure the nose of his saw doesn’t hit them and dangerously kick back.

Second he makes a large pie cut on top of the trunk to allow room for the tree’s eventual behavior.

Third Mike makes an undercut to prevent a “barber chair” split when the trunk is cut through.

Fourth, Mike is very cautious as he makes his reverse keystone cut to allow the tree to behave without binding.  This tree is going to release a lot of energy and he wants to live to tell the tale.

Fifth, watch all of the video.  There is a surprise ending.  No spoiler alerts.

Lunchtime planning session.

Lunch on various days.

Another one bites the dust.

Our newest sawyer scores a KO!

IMG_8305

Part of the park visitors don’t see.

IMG_8384

Instructor/evaluator sawyer, Robert Fina’s master class.

We’ll be back again next week.

Sisu

Last of the old year. First of the new.

IMG_8256

Shenandoah National Park, December 28,¬† 2021 and January 1, 2022 — PATC’s newest certified sawyer had a brand new Stihl electric chainsaw that was burning a hole in the bed of his pick’em up truck.¬† The park had blowdowns to give.¬† What a coincidence.¬†

The rain stopped right on time for a First Day Hike a couple of days later.¬† Shenandoah is truly the magical “The daughter of the stars.”

Dan Hippe is a recently retired geologist who spent the summer banging around with the Hoodlums and taking on trail maintenance projects.¬† His energy and enthusiasm¬† earned him a seat in the park’s newest chainsaw certification course we just finished.

Last Wednesday we met at the Thornton Gap entrance to pick up a park radio and chase a few blowdowns that had been languishing on the AT and side trails.  His electric Stihl was up to snuff.  I scratched together a short video using an iMovie template rather than post 50 photos of our escapade.

This year’s First Day Hike was the Gang of 4 minus three plus Jessica Say, one of our newest maintainers.¬† We originally planned to start at 10 a.m., but the rain gods forced a two-hour delay.¬† We quickly scrambled up North Marshall for what turned out to be a much better view than the expected fog.

IMG_8248Along the way we camouflaged some non-compliant campsites and broke up an illegal fire ring.  Campsites must be 60 ft. from the trail.  Most are within 10 ft.

IMG_8254

Eventually the sun poked its head through the cotton candy clouds.

IMG_8251

We had a relaxing walk before the long drive back to reality.

Happy New Year everyone!

Sisu

Hoodlums 2021 Finale

IMG_7997

The trailing edge of early morning sunlight. The reds have dulled leaving the last of the copper and gold to color the ridgelines standing sentry over the Shenandoah Valley.

Shenandoah National Park, November 20, 2021 — As mother nature turns down the color temperature of the fall foliage, the Hoodlums trail crew gathered for its last work trip of the season.

The Hoodlums organized into three work parties.¬† Two were assigned crosscut duties on north district blue blaze trails while the remaining group worked hard to put the finishing touches on the Compton Peak project to restore the tread to the original CCC trail.¬† Compton was yours truly’s duty station.

259387962_10223876272788402_325706452831470637_n

Photo by Mike Gergely from Facebook

Piney Ridge crosscut crew.

259426295_10223876276588497_4527300039390976633_n

Photo by Mike Gergely from Facebook

It’s sad when a grand old oak falls.

I showed up early to check on the work Caroline Egli and did two weeks ago.¬† It was in good shape.¬† We weren’t certain because we were building with wet soil that is mostly sand.

Best of all, the leaves have hit the dirt meaning that our plan to rake them out of the waterbars on Black Friday is a go assuming cooperative weather.

IMG_8039

Your Compton crew minus the cell phone camera operator.

IMG_8008

Our first concern was whether the ground was frozen.   If frozen, picks tend to bounce off the dirt like bullets smacking armor.  We were fortunate.  The tread was hard packed from decades of pounding boots, but not particularly difficult for a pick to penetrate.

IMG_8010

We set about building and replacing waterbars and check dams, chopping roots, and leveling rocky sections.

IMG_8038

We dig trenches about half as deep as the log and crib them with small rocks to set and lock them in place.

IMG_8028

We ran out of previously cut logs so we had to make more using a vintage crosscut saw.

I asked Nikki why she volunteers.

Crosscut in slo mo.  Turn up the sound. 

IMG_8017

Once you cut the log, you have to schlep it up the hill.

IMG_8031

Hoodlums:¬† Where all the women are strong and the men think they’re good lookin’!

The buckets are for hauling dirt to places where we need it.

IMG_8036

No problem!

After digging “excavaciones profundo” and humping logs and rocks all over the place, the restoration of the original CCC work on Compton is 99 percent complete.¬† Hope everyone enjoys the improvements.

It’s worth mentioning that drumming the ground with a pick, toting logs, crosscut sawing, and all the rest of the exercise associated with trail work is better and much cheaper than therapy.¬† When the Hoodlums are working, the doctor IS in!

Sisu