Cavaliers on The Appalachian Trail
The calendar said “Spring.” The wind and freezing temperatures said, “Not yet!” Despite these conditions, seven hardy souls showed up at Albemarle High School to assist A.T. overseers Lindsay Brown and Andy Willgruber.
They included Hunter Cloud and six shivering members of the Virginia Environmental Law Forum (the environmental law student group at UVA Law School):
- Brandy Allen
- Olivia Glasscock
- Matt Schneider
- Meredith Westerlund
- Will Grossenbacher
- Jacob Aronson (Jacob is a PATC member and former trail overseer of a one-mile section of the Western Ridge Trail of Rock Creek Park)
The decision was quickly made for Hunter to join Lindsay in doing some vegetation cutback on Lindsay’s A.T. section at Riprap (Lindsay reported a chilly but successful day of lopping). The UVa group would go back for more layers of clothing and meet Andy at Rockfish Gap.
Although Andy had called the Shenandoah National Park road closure hotline that morning, he became a little concerned while driving through a snow squall on his way west on I-64. He became more concerned when he saw the Blue Ridge Parkway was closed at Rockfish Gap. However, he was relieved to find the friendly face of Ranger Mooney at the Rockfish Gap entrance station, albeit with a winter road hazard sign placed next to her booth. She cheerfully waved the three-car caravan through and we arrived at Beagle Gap shortly thereafter.
Andy sent his group north on the A.T. with tools to clear any minor trail obstructions on their way up to the summit of Little Calf Mountain. He drove up an access road and met them on the summit with the tools and other needed items. After rendezvousing within seconds of each other and admiring the grand view at the summit, the crew commenced the primary work of the day. Their task was to install four remaining 6x6' blaze signposts north of the Little Calf Mountain summit in open grassy areas to complete the signage of the relocated section of A.T. over the mountain.
The group grabbed the various tools that had been cached a few days before and received instructions. They took turns and excavated with pick, shovels, digging bar and post-hole digger. Truthfully, it was the only way to stay warm! Andy had advertised the day as a combined work day and hike, but the six wanted to remain on task. They safely and steadily dug, installed, and plumbed the posts and re-packed dirt and rock around them. After completing three post installations, we stopped for a quick lunch in a sunny spot in the old apple orchard section of the trail.
After lunch, we installed the final double-blaze post where the relocated trail rejoins the original A.T. at the south end of the old orchard. Painting the posts will have to wait for a warmer day.
With the job completed, this group of Cavaliers was ready to return home. They all expressed an interest in continuing their partnership with PATC, possibly twice a year. Andy handed each member of this intrepid group a souvenir map of the Stony Man/Skyland section of SNP and sent them back down the trail to Beagle Gap. Andy remained for tool collection and cleaning.
Many thanks to the Virginia Environmental Law School Forum for this day. The Charlottesville Chapter was lucky to have them!