Priority 1 = Clearing Trail

Trail maintenance has many facets but only one priority: Keeping the trail clear for hikers.

The Constant is Change

All things change. I had planned to continue a major treadway reconstruction project on the Appalachian Trail south of Sawmill Run Overlook on Saturday, September 10, 2016. On Friday, September 9th, Heather Warren and I went out to help an overseer by finishing the work of brushing (or weeding) part of the A.T. south of the junction with the Loft Mountain Amphitheater trail. We succeeded in clearing approximately 0.4m but realized that the heavy rainfall experienced in July through mid-August had caused the Japanese stilt grass and pokeweed to explode along the entire length of the 1.8 miles from the Loft Mountain Amphitheater trail to the intersection of the A.T. with the Doyles River Trail and that was too much for the two of us to complete.

What To Do?

We needed to redirect our work. Emails to those who had signed up to work on the treadway project advising them to meet at Loft Mountain Wayside instead of Sawmill Run Overlook went out very late on Friday night. This regrettable delay was caused, of course, by the fact that I could not send any email until I returned home from the Park.

Doing The Extraordinary Routinely

Who or what are members of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club? Ordinary People Who Do Extraordinary Things Routinely. Despite the lateness of the change and the personal inconvenience it caused, everyone who had signed up to work by Sawmill Run to rebuild treadway arrived at Loft Mountain Wayside ready to work an entirely different project. This included eight members of the PATC Charlottesville Chapter (Marit Anderson, Iva Gillette, Bill Holman, John Shannon, David Abdallah, Jeanne Siler, Jodi Frederiksen, & Mark), two members of the Acme Treadway Company/Flying McLeods (Karen Reinauer & John Huennekens), two Boy Scouts (Jack & Decker Speer led by John Speer), and Heather Warren.

Jack and Decker Speer had just returned from Philmont Scout Reservation and wanted to work on the A.T. to complete service requirements for the 50 Miler award. All PATCers on this project agreed that the Speer brothers and their father, John, did outstanding work with the sling blade tools provided. Thanks!

Our ad-hoc crew kept six Stihl brushcutters working from south-to-north and north-to-south. Members exchanged roles to prevent over-tiredness as they worked; those without a brushcutter at any given time used clippers and loppers to cut back over-hanging vine and encroaching branches as needed and moved packs and fuel forward as the groups progressed. Heather and Mark ensured that the workers took breaks for water and to rest as needed. Fortunately, the heat and humidity were not as bad as we experienced in August, but they remained factors with which to deal.


The crew completed all work by 3:00 P.M. and gathered at a large rock outcrop for water, tall tales, and photos before heading to the Doyles River Parking Area for cold beer. Iva shuttled drivers to the Loft Mountain Amphitheater Parking Area to retrieve their vehicles and return to Doyles River Parking Area to pickup their passengers and return to Charlottesville. Heather and I returned tools to the caches at Simmons and Rockfish Gaps (I was assisted by John, David, and Bill while John Huennekens and Karen Reinauer helped Heather).

All things considered, the crew enjoyed a great day in the backcountry doing great work!