Session Four of Rocky Top consisted of mostly first-time volunteers, including a trail corps group with the Friends of the Forest Preserve. Based out of the Chicago area, the corps came to the Great Smoky Mountains to learn more about trail work through the Rocky Top program. Others in the group included long-time Konnarock and Rocky Top volunteer, Sandy, our multi-week volunteer this season, Logan, and two other new crew members, Barbara and Thomas.
After another successful climb up Snake Den Ridge Trail – along the way, the autumn colors now starting to appear in full – the crew set up tents, unpackaged gear and food carried up by the horse packers, and opened camp up for the fourth session of the season.
The Southern Appalachian Backcountry Horsemen volunteered their time to pack up the resupply for the crew this week. Many thanks go out to the two riders who offered their time to help make Rocky Top possible this session!
This week the crew continued to work towards Old Black, their 1.5-mile goal south of camp. Putting in log steps was the first priority, but more log waterbars were put in as they were needed to buffer those put in during the first session. The crew was lucky to have good weather for most of the week, which made the work go easily for the first half of the session.
On day three Sandy was able to hike up and join the crew for the remainder of the week. Flooding down in South Carolina had made it impossible for him to arrive any earlier, but we’re glad he was able to come for the majority of the work as he’s always a knowledgeable asset to any trail crew.
When the crew wasn’t working, they played the card game Werewolf and caught the sunrise near Inadu Knob. A few also went to Deer Creek Gap after dark in order to take in a clear night sky. The volunteers saw spectacular views of Jupiter and the Milky Way thanks to the absence of light pollution.
The second half of the week was a bit tougher, weather-wise. The temperatures dropped and the rain came. The crew worked through a constant sprinkle on day five and then had to work only a half day on day six due heavier rain and cooler temps. Throughout the bad weather, however, the crew was able to push past Old Black and begin working beyond the goal for the year. Mostly the crew prepared log material for the next week’s work, as there was so much excess water that holes dug for steps and waterbars began filling up.
On day seven, the crew had a visitor come into camp. A lost hunting dog wandered into the group’s site, looking like it had not eaten in days. Thankfully one on the crew, Barbara, was a veterinarian, and she helped nurse the dog back to health by dislodging a stick from its mouth and feeding it in slow intervals.
Since the crew was hiking out the next day, they radioed the park dispatch and set up a meeting time for the dog’s owner at Cosby Campground. The next morning the crew hiked down, finishing off another successful session of Rocky Top.
Good luck everyone with the Friends of the Forest Preserve – Zach, Clare, Ebony, Abel, Princen, Maryam, and Devon – with the rest of your crew season and thanks for choosing Rocky Top as a training destination!