This session of Rocky Top consisted of mostly volunteers who were returning crew members – three, Logan, Constantin, and Jan, had been on crew the prior week and another, Shane, an alum who was back at Rocky Top for his third season. Randy, a Smoky Mountain Hiking Club member and former S.W.E.A.T. crew volunteer, joined Rocky Top for the first time, but rounded out the crew with his prior years of trail maintenance experience.
Good weather and speedy hiking saw the crew reach their campsite right around lunchtime. Climbing up Snake Den Ridge trail to the A.T. – around six miles and 3,500 feet of elevation gain – all in one morning was quite the feat! The crew had plenty of time to get camp ready and to do a tool and safety demonstration before the day was done.
On the crew’s second day, they worked on log steps and replaced an old softwood waterbar with a locust log. Christine Hoyer, the park’s backcountry specialist, came out today to work with the crew. All together, the crew was able to finish eight log steps, putting them on track for an impressive amount of completed work for the week.
Two volunteers with the Backcountry Horsemen of North Carolina brought up the resupply of food for the week today as well. A third of the crew went back to help unload and pack away the goodies in camp. Thanks BHNC for the resupply!
With the rain barrels almost empty, the crew hoped for rain to come over the next several days. The rain surely would come – more so than the crew could have expected.
The crew’s third day was a complete rain-out. With high winds, low temps, and constant rain, the crew avoided potential hypothermia and stayed in camp, making sure their rain barrels were in the best position to catch as much water as possible.
The group told stories, read, and filtered water. The rain never seemed to let up.
Thankfully, the crew’s water reserves were overflowing, allowing that concern to finally be laid to rest. The crew went to sleep anxious to get back to work on the trail. Hopefully the morning would bring better weather and a chance to get active again.
The next day the crew got back to business. While it was still quite windy, the rain had seemed to let up. The crew continued to install log steps southward back to Old Black. The group put in seven steps and made crush and fill to harden a wet area of the trail being held up by old CCC crib wall.
Day five the crew worked on another turnpike – the fourth of the season! This structure was needed near Deer Creek Gap where session one’s turnpike had been installed. A new muddy spot had developed since early September and it was time to help lift the trail up out of the muck with logs and rock.
The view from the gap was sporadically sunny, with clouds whipping overhead and bouts of mist coming and going. Still, the weather held up and it was another successful day of work. Towards the end of the day, turnpike finished, the crew continued south and began work on three more log steps before heading back to camp.
Seven more log steps were completed the next day, even with some rainfall coming and going. The crew worked quickly with skill and determination. By this point all of its individual members were old hands at installing steps, but they also knew that the next two days were expected to be heavy with rainfall.
The second-to-last day, the crew decided to come out early. Amidst the cold rain, the only work the crew was able to accomplish was cleaning a few drainages north of Deer Creek Gap. The rain was good for one thing – seeing how water traveled down the trail and where drainages were working or not working. By mid-morning, the rainfall was so bad that the crew was already heading down Snake Den Ridge Trail, done for the week.
Thanks session three for a great week of work, despite the wet and cold weather! Special thanks to Jan and Constantin for their two weeks of crew work and thank you Christine Hoyer as well for coming out to lend a hand!