A Fine Backcountry Day!

SNP South District PATC district managers conducted the district Trails Management Workshop within the 200-acre Firestone Tract owned by PATC on Saturday, April 27, 2013.

Six members registered and participated in a very full, and rewarding, program.

Mary and Tom Jorgensen opened the J. Frank Schairer Trail Center on Friday evening for the three-person “staff.” Mark Gatewood, Steve Bair, and I joined them later that evening—Don brought most of the tools in his vehicle up the long “drive way” off of Beldor Road.

Steve is the PATC district manager for blue-blazed side trails; he recently retired from over 20 years of service with the National Park Service (most of that at Shenandoah National Park).

Mark is the assistant district manager for the Appalachian Trail; he formed and leads the Flying McLeods trail crew and organizes trail activities conducted by the Southern Shenandoah Valley Chapter of the PATC.

Briana L. Taylor, Andy Wilgruber, John Shannon, Gene Locke, John Conover, Joe Murray, Marie Restrepo, and Mark Restrepo checked in by 9:30 A.M. on Saturday morning. Of these…

  • John Shannon, Joe Murray, Marie Restreppo, and Andy Wilgruber are A.T. section overseers
  • John Conover and Gene Locke wanted to learn more about trail maintenance
  • Mark helps his mother, Marie, with her trail section
  • Briana works with the Charlottesville Chapter and Andy on their sections

The ratio of staff to participants worked very well: no one got lost in the crowd.

I greeted and welcomed the participants and introducted them to Steve and Mark. First off, we identified safety concerns and procedures so that all of us would keep focused on personal and group safety.

Next, we reviewed the organization of the PATC and our trails program and discussed the supportive relationship between overseers and district managers. We also emphasized the necessity for reporting work accomplished.

Steve spoke about the history of the PATC and our role in Shenandoah National Park. Then, he identified and described the standards PATC and the SNP have established for trail maintenance. Of particular interest was his discussion of the requirements for trails and trail sections in designated wilderness areas within the Park.

Enough of (outdoor) classroom activity! We moved out to the Schairer and Argow Cabins access trails for the practical side of things. Everyone worked on the layout, construction, and maintenance of erosion control devices—check dams, waterbars, and Coweta dips.

At each phase, we reviewed the safe use of the tools for each type of work we perform.

After lunch, the group worked with brushing & clipping to keep a trail section clear for hikers as well as treadway maintenance to further help control erosion.

We especially thank Betty Gatewood for her superb design of the certificates provided all participants. Thanks!

We reviewed blazing and the techniques and tools used to keep a trail properly marked. (No, we did not actually paint any blazes. Heather Warren, the overseer for the Firestone Tract access trail, does her job so well that we had no opportunity to practice.)

We finished the day back at the Schairer Trail Center, where John Shannon and Steve Bair led us in a discussion of invasive as well as rare & endangered plant species.


  • Mary Jorgensen prepared our meals—no one went away hungry. Thanks, Mary!
  • John Conover and Gene Locke, who volunteered for overseer and co-overseer assignments, respectively.