Our First Trails Workshop

Dundo Overlook

When Benton MacKaye first put out his idea for an Appalachian Trail back in 1921, he already had in mind the mechanism for building and maintaining the trail. He called it “an undeveloped power—our spare time.”

In that volunteer spirit, fourteen disciples of the visionary Mr. MacKaye gathered at the Dundo Picnic Ground on a cool, lovely weekend in August to develop the power of their spare time at the first annual South District Trail Maintenance Workshop.

In addition to the fourteen PATC volunteers, we were privileged to have Roger Dovel and his NPS trail crew members, Joey and Justin. Roger and his crew demonstrated and then guided us through some projects to rehabilitate two “social trails” linking the Dundo Picnic Ground to the AT. Roger dispensed the wit and wisdom of his thirty-year career at SNP—a career soon to end as he approaches retirement. We greatly appreciated his crew’s presence at the workshop and presented the men with the coveted Flying McLeods trail crew t-shirts as a token of thanks.

Don White gave a seminar on care and maintenance of the Stihl brushcutter, including a demonstration of the difference between right- and left-hand screw threads. District co-manager (and Trail Angel) Bill Gallagher brought the District’s DR Field & Brush self-propelled mower and demonstrated its use for the group.

In the afternoon, we split up. The “brothers of the brush” went south on the A.T. to repaint blazes and cut back vegetation. The less fortunate went with Mark Gatewood to regrade a moderately cupped section of A.T. going north from Dundo.

For dinner, the group gathered at the Ivy Creek Maintenance Hut. Don and Acme Treadway Company member George Blalack served up an elaborate spread of pasta and sauce, salad, bread, and home-made cookies pre-prepared by George’s spousal unit, Melody (who was unable to be in the Park while also participating in a craft fair), accompanied by whatever beverages we wished to carry in. There was quite a volume of food, so we were happy to see two hikers coming down the hut trail from the AT. They were “the Aarons”—Aaron and Aaron, two young men just graduated from Ball State in Indiana and hiking from Rockfish Gap to somewhere in PA. We fed them up to capacity and they went groaning on their way to Pinefield Hut.

Some of our group overnighted at Doyles River Cabin, some at Ivy Creek Hut and the “day students” went home. We greeted Sunday morning with another sumptuous spread by George and Don—scrambled eggs with crab meat, bacon, coffee, and fruit.

And so to work. We formed up at the Loft Mountain Camp Store; most of the group went south, rebuilding waterbars in the new, less obtrusive drainage model that Don has been teaching. Larry and George went north, to cut back brambles and brush on the A.T. going over Loft Mountain overlook, while Al and Andre cut back brush through a tough area south of the Camp Store side trail.

We reconvened about 3:00 P.M. just as a thunderstorm was building over the Blue Ridge and ushered us into our cars for the return to reality land.

Thanks to all who came to develop the power of their spare time: Al and Andre Dahler, Richard Klotz, Jeffrey Landis, John Shannon (Flying McLeods), Betty Dzemba, David Sellers, Paul Costin, Mike Frankiewicz, Stephen Capotosta, Larry Skalak. And especially thanks to Don White and George Blalack, who fed, housed, and directed us with precision and efficiency. We look forward to continuing and growing this event in the years ahead.