Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Checking on Section 10.3 of the Appalachian Trail

Susan maintains a 1.4 mile section of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia- she’s officially a volunteer “overseer” for the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club (GATC).  She scouts her section ("10.3") at least 4 times a year, clearing brush and logs, reporting blowdowns, and maintaining waterbars.
Susan at 'her' section of the Appalachian Trail between Cowart Gap and Bull Gap.
Susan let me tag along while she went up to check on her section.  Even though it snowed last week and much of her section was still covered in snow, we decided to go up there anyway for an overnight backpacking trip.  We moved smaller blowdowns off the trail, and she reported a few fallen trees that will require a chainsaw.
On previous work trips, Susan helped a GATC crew repair a huge blowout at this site, including making those rock steps.
As a trail maintainer, Susan "sees" details of the trail that can be easily overlooked by a regular hiker.  She showed me how her section has a lot of 'fall line trail'- that's the type of trail that shoots strait up the mountain. Water bars are used to divert water from the trail, and check steps keep the dirt from washing away on this type of steep trail.
Erosion is a problem for "fall line" trail when water funnels directly down the slope.
I've always wondered why reroutes aren't built to add switchbacks and more sideslope trails in places where there is this old type of fall line trail.  Susan explained about the long process that is required to get reroutes approved and balancing the costs of new trail construction (including damage to new plant and animal habitat) plus the long time it takes for old trail to recuperate (i.e. the soil is all compacted and "dead").   What was also cool about hiking with Susan through her section was the amount of ownership and pride she has for this stretch of trail— showing me particularly well-designed waterbars, boasting about the salamander diversity, listing off the rare plants found here.
We didn't see any of the rare plants, but the ferns and lichen were lovely in the snow.
Another highlight of this trip was meeting Julie, an AT thru hiker from Connecticut.  The three of us women shared the evening and morning with laughter and great conversation at Plumorchard Shelter.  She is a mountaineer (totally cool and bad-ass!) and was obviously loving all the snow.  While Susan and I are in the process of agonizing over our gear and plan for our thru hike (we are both hiking the PCT in April), Julie told us how she set out with hardly any planning and will figure it out as she goes- it was neat hearing about her approach to her hike.  Best wishes for your hike, Julie!
Out for a night hike to watch the sunset reflect off the snow from a ridgetop.
First time hanging my hammock above snow.  I loved how the moonlight lit up the snow at night.
Check out Susan's Blog here

For more information about volunteering for trail maintenance:
      Check out Appalachian Trail Conservancy's website.
      Check out the Pacific Crest Trail Association's website.

No comments:

Post a Comment