This session of Rocky Top Trail Crew had a definitive British flavor, as members of the Essex Boys and Girls Club came to volunteer in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, in part to help develop their own young leaders. Two chaperones and five young men and women from the U.K., after having hiked through the Smokies the week prior, learned about sustainable structure building for trails and how to install such structures. Robert, a member of the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club and our lone volunteer from stateside, rounded out the crew for the week.
A tough section of trail that the previous week’s crew began to repair with log cribbing was finished this week, including some pinning of rocks to hold crush – man-made gravel used as a tread surfacing in order to encourage water percolation and erosion control. This bit of work required the use of rock drills and hammering in rebar to help lock the rocks in place. Later on in the week, the crew worked to lay crush over an area above old Civilian Conservation Corps crib wall, where a lack of sunlight and proper drainage over almost a century had left the trail quite soggy. Finally, the crew finished their week by completing 45 feet of locust log turnpike, a structure which raises the tread of a trail up out of a poor drainage area with the help of lots of crush and fill.
During time at camp, the crew played a variety of group games, including charades, and one night, the boys and girls from Essex successfully guessed all 50 U.S. states. The Americans on crew had a much harder time with guessing all 52 counties in the U.K. (they only got four or five). In the mornings, the crew enjoyed sunrises before leaving camp for the workday and, at the end of the day admired the orange glow of the sunsets upon the trees in camp.
Overall, the crew put in eleven log steps, one rock waterbar, one grade dip, the aforementioned turnpike, and over 128 cubic feet of crush and fill – an astounding amount of hand-made gravel for a single week. In the end the young leaders of the Essex Boys and Girls club, some of which are studying to be outdoor educators and guides, learned how to build sustainable trail and repair badly eroded aspects of the trail.
We here at Rocky Top Trail Crew hope to see our friends from across the pond make their volunteerism an annual venture and so look forward to their return next year!