The Rocky Top crew works exclusively on 70 miles of the A.T. through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park following the ridge crest from Davenport Gap to Fontana Dam. The crew is sponsored jointly by the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club, the National Park Service, and ATC.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Session One Underway

Session One of Rocky Top Trail Crew kicked off on September 1. The crew met the evening before at base camp for orientation and dinner.

Before dawn, the crew's camp coordinator awoke to prep breakfast - a french toast-inspired dish and sausage meatballs. Well fed and fueled, the crew packed up their lunches, then loaded their packs in the van that took them to Cosby Campground. (Here is John's praise of his Rocky Top Crew base camp breakfast...)

At Cosby the crew met the teams of horse packers who volunteer with Rocky Top to take up essential supplies, like tents, an electric fence to keep bears away from the crew's mountain-top kitchen, food, tools, and a few comforts - like foldable camp chairs (the closest thing to car-camping our crew volunteers will experience during their week on crew. Otherwise, it's rugged.)
David & Noland Richards
Packin' Front and Center
The team of horse packers started up the Snake Den Ridge Trail at 10:00 a.m. The crew, laden with their backpacks and a few tools, followed behind. Snake Den Ridge Trail is a tough trail for our volunteers and the horses. Horsemen condition their horses for the ride. Volunteers also have to come ready for the challenge of climbing more than 3,400 feet in about 5.5 miles (although the distance from the parking lot makes the hike closer to 6 miles). The morning was muggy and the temperatures were warming.The crew got spread out over the first two miles but took the opportunity to regroup at the Inadu Creek crossing where everyone got the chance to dip fingers in the cold, refreshing water, and eat a snack.

At Inadu Creek

The crew continued on their climb. Steadily making progress. Putting one foot in front of the other. Simultaneously halting and persevering, they willed themselves up the mountain. Then, the thunderstorm arrived. With the rain came the wind. The torrent blew over in about a half hour, but left the crew soaked. Luckily their spirits hadn't been drenched.

Keith admiring the cribbing at Inadu Creek
Onward they climbed. They took a break at a wide switchback, designed by nature with large sitting rocks for resting. While there, a set of horse packers returned from unloading at the campsite. After they continued on, the crew gathered up and pressed on toward the A.T. The most difficult part of Rocky Top Crew can be just getting to the work site. It is not an easy climb. The crew soldiered on, eventually making it to camp just before night fall.

The real work would start the next day: rehabilitating the Appalachian Trail, one stone or rock step at a time.

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