The Crew came into the second Hitch rested and relaxed from time well spent in La Grande, OR mostly. It’s the nearest town with all your off-time needs (motel, showers, food, laundry, and a movie theater). After three days, however, you’ve seen all you can see and have done all you can do in La Grande, so each member was ready to get back out into the field, a very familiar field at that.
On Monday morning, we drove the same drive on the Forest Service 52 Road, towards Granite. This time we stopped a little short of a two mile hike in and just camped at a lower access trail head, right next to out Truck and Trailer. Hence, “The Secret Life of Luxury.”
First, we started with 44 liters of potable water, so no filtering for a while, and we had plenty of food storage at our disposal and believe you me, we took full advantage of that. Pan-seared Salmon the first two nights for dinner. Eggs in the morning for breakfast. We brought the Coleman 2-burner stove which attaches to a propane tank, so no more pumping and filling fuel bottles for us, no way. Along with the stove came the oven, yes an oven that sits on top of the stove. We tried it for the first time and had Apple Cake which was delicious, and the girls made Daniel brownies for his birthday. Yeah! Okay, let’s get back to the site. We had Granit Creek all to ourselves and it was running cool and clear ever since the water level has gone down with the coming dryer weather. The Beach was the place to be after the long hot days brushing on top of the ridge or finishing the re-routes. And it wasn’t a beach at all. Piles upon piles of river rock left by the pioneers dredging techniques searching for gold in the late 1800’s. But it was our beach and it was great.
We also tried a new schedule this hitch, nine, nine hour days to give us an extra day off between hitches. So we were getting up earlier to get out of work around 4. That was real nice to have the evening to eat, read, swim, eat, slackline, and watch a movie. Yes, a movie. Remember, Luxury.
So we had a celebrities stop by and entertain us. They really appreciated the work we were doing here in the North Fork John Day Wilderness. Jim Gaffigan, Zooey Deschanel (twice), and Philip Seymour –Hoffman to name a few. We figured it a nice treat to watch an actual movie rather than just quote and talk about them all day.
OH YEAH, the work we did. I almost forgot it was work we were having so much fun. Dan Neff was our Hitch Leader and he had the crew in tip-top shape. Unfortunately we lost Jake due to health and timing. He is doing well and we wish him the best in Portland. The crew logged out a 180 year-old Ponderosa Pine that had fallen across the trail, ‘Big Benjamin’ as he was named by Chip. Big Ben measured 46 inches in diameter and is the biggest tree we’ve encountered on the trail so far. Well, biggest we’ve had to cut through. He was a 5 hour project with cross-cutting, disconnecting, chopping, moving and clean-up. With that, we finished up more tread work and completed brushing the Granite Creek Trail. This hitch we finished two re-routes of trails that had been washed out by the river or over grown and gullied out by high water. Those re-routed totaled 320 ft, and the new tread we grubbed in was over 250 ft. We brushed 5 ¼ miles over the 9 day hitch. Overall it was a great hitch with plenty of dessert.
The crew is planning on camping locally in the Eagle Caps Wilderness and then head near Portland for the Fourth of July. Celebration of Independence. America!
The Trail Town Outreach Corps oversees installation, maintenance, and record-keeping for the Trafx infrared counters located along the Great Allegheny Passage bike trail, from McKeesport to Meyersdale.
These counters keep tabs on the number of trail users passing through, in order to collect data for end-of-year reports and economic impact studies like the one accessible from the Trail Town website.
By collecting quantitative measurements of trail usage, the Trail Town program can estimate the amount of revenue coming through on the trail each season, to educate businesses about their market.
In addition, TTOC goes out into the field during peak use days (based on data from previous years) to compare the Trafx counts with a manual count. Certain discrepancies must be accounted for, such as repeat bikers (those traveling out and back during the survey) who will be counted twice by the counter when in actuality they must only be counted once. A manual count also allows TTOC to collect zip code data from users, user-type data (biker, walker, runner, etc.), and weather/trail conditions.
Additional counters in Maryland will be installed this year and managed by a separate Maryland corps, to broaden the scope of the data and define trail usage more analytically.
Funding for counters and related equipment provided by
Program Name: Pisgah Corps Mt. Mitchell Hitch 3
MDA Code: 10_NCAROL1_UFS
Max ID: 10116
Project Leader: Jonathan Kravitz
Turnpikes Installed 1. 25’x3’
Rock Steps Installed 2
Water bars with Drainage Dips 3
Rolling Dips 26
Revegetation and corridor restoration 750 feet
The mental preparation for this hitch began at birth, like most sagas of epic proportions. The journey into the backcountry began on the right foot, albeit a tardy foot. As two tons of fury, the Pisgah crew reared its mighty head to charge into Deep Gap only to be met with super thunderstorms of x-men proportions forcing us to cache our bear vaults and set up camp halfway up the mountain. Come morning, our departure was harkened by singing bluebirds and prancing black bears. Some high points of this hitch were the views from the Black Mountain Crest trail, an encounter with the sweetest couple you will ever meet ( throw it up for Paula, Greg, and Baxter from Brevard), and completing serious brushing and maintenance on a whopping 750’ of trail. Our fears about the proximity of water to our camp site were quelled by our own brute strength as we collectively hauled 150 lbs of water up a ridiculous ½ mile section of trail. During the morning of our second day we were met by Fred Lashley who just so happens to be the “Mightiest Woman in the East!” She greeted us with delicious sweets and a full 5-gallon jug of water that she brought in kindly. She also worked closely with Jay on a beautiful section of turnpike sharing her wealth of knowledge with him as they worked. We pulaskied a plenty, hand sawed even more, and finished the hitch out with a toe blistering 15hr day so we could go home a wee bit early for the fourth of July.
Program Name: Pisgah Corps Mt. Mitchell Hitch 2
MDA Code: 10_NCAROL1_UFS
Max ID: 10116
Project Leader: Jonathan Kravitz
Rock Steps Installed 10
Wood steps installed 14
Trail Restored: 524’
Water bars with Drainage Dips 7
Rolling Dips 6
Revegetation and corridor restoration 3 miles
Hitch #2 for the Pisgah crew accomplished a lot but still not enough to satiate our appetite for perfection. We managed to do some serious trail restoration projects on about 600` of tread. The larger projects included building a Jacob’s ladder, a pretty sweet bog bridge, and an extremely cool rock bridge built with a lot of charisma and an excruciatingly long grip-hoist session. Smaller projects included sections of nifty check-steps throughout the mile of trail, lots of drainage dips, water bars, and absurd amounts of rock crush. Sadly we lost our strongest (and suavest) member this hitch due to unforeseen circumstances. Towards the end of the hitch a few overly dedicated team members committed themselves to brushing and extreme corridor clean up through heavy black bear country and severe thunderstorms. Other obstacles faced this hitch included an extreme 4WD trek in the truck over an equestrian trail to aid our tool hike out, three mangled fingers (J got his hand shut in the door, an event he only acknowledged with a solemn “ouch, please open the door…please”), ants in our food cache, and bouts of raging hormones from all members. Next hitch we move into the backcountry of Northern Pisgah to start work on the Black Mountain Crest Trail, and event anxiously awaited by all.
Program Name: Finger Lakes National Forest
Planted Tree at Hector Ranger’s Office (1 Dutch Elm’s Disease resistant Elm Tree)
Ravine Trail Drain Dips (4)
Re-established Ravine Trail Outslope and benching (260 feet)
Interloken Trail Drainage Structures (5)
Ravine Trail corridor (¾ mile)
Ravine Trail Retention Wall (30 square feet)
Brushed/Cleared/ removed multi flora rose Burnt Hill Trail (½ mile)
Interloken Trail reroutes (216 feet)
We started hitch 2 by planting a Dutch Elm’s Disease Elm tree at the USFS Ranger’s Office. Planting this tree gave us hope that the American Elm could possibly make a recovery in the future.
After planting the tree we got back to doing what we do best; trail work. We headed over to the Ravine Trail to take a look at a retaining wall Rebecca told us was falling over. When we got there we could not believe what we found. The wall was completely toppled over, and most of the rocks used to make it had slid more than 20 feet down the slope the hill was sitting on. We knew immediately we had our work cut out for us. The original was constructed by standing a few flat rocks vertically and pounding rebar in behind them to hold them up. The wall was built on a slope approaching 45 degrees. It was no wonder that the wall fell over backwards.
We started by benching the hill to construct a solid, flat platform to build the wall on. We then dry-stacked the local shale so as to create a much more solid wall than the original. We quarried stone from the creek bed at the bottom of the ravine trail. Resources were plentiful, but moving them up the tall, steep hill was a challenge. It took four days to finish the wall, but we left with an incredible sense of accomplishment.
We could only have three people working on the wall at a time because there was simply no room on the steep slope for any more than that. So when the two extras were not quarrying for materials we worked on some improvements on the Ravine trail. We brushed and cleared the entire ¾ mile loop, installed 4 drain dips, re-established 210 feet of out-slope, and benched 50 feet of trail.
After finishing up the Ravine trail we headed over the to Burnt Hill trail to clear out some multi flora rose that has been giving horse riders a problem. In addition to the rose thorns we had to work around the barbed wire fence they were growing along. This section of the Burnt Hill trail runs along one of the many cow pastures in Finger Lakes National Forest. While the crew cleared the multi flora rose, Scott went to the lumber yard with Marv to pick up materials for the privy we will begin constructing next hitch. The crew has cutting multi flora rose down to a science and finished nearly a half a mile of fence by the time Scott returned from the lumber yard. We quickly finished up the rest and packed it in for the day.
The next morning we went to headquarters and unloaded the privy materials from the trailer and put them inside the shed where they will be protected from the elements until we can build the privy. Afterwards we headed to the Interloken trail and finished the drainage structures we started last hitch. We could not complete them at the time because it rained for several days straight making the soil too muddy to dig in. The trail was still very muddy but we were able to make due. After finishing up the drainages we headed further up the Interloken and started the first of four re-routes on the trail. We cut the re-route corridor and finished 90 feet of tread before heading home.
On Sunday the 20th we took a break from trail work to volunteer at an archaeological dig in the forest. We spent the morning getting a tour of the site and learning a little bit about the history of the area. After the tour the archaeology students taught us how to dig a unit. Both Scott and Ellen had previous experience in archaeology and the rest of the crew picked it up quickly. Turns out trail workers are great diggers, who would of thunk it. Unfortunately we did not make any discoveries on this day. Around 2 o’clock the archaeologists headed over to the office to was and categorize artifacts so we went back to the Interloken trail to finish our re-route. We were just able to finish the last 60 feet of trail before thunder and lightning forced us to pack it up around 4:30.
On the last day of our second hitch we went back to the Ravine trail to finish up a small section that needed corridor work. Afterwards we headed back to the Interloken trail and cut the second re-route. We finished the 66 foot re-route just in time for lunch. After lunch we spent the rest of the day cleaning and sharpening our tools and reporting our hours to AmeriCorps.