Work Trip on the Appalachian Trail – March 28, 2019

Approaching the summit of Little Bald

Another Spring season is upon us ! This means that it is time to do a walk through of my trail section to see how it has fared through the harsh Winter months. My son Tyler would be accompanying me on this work trip as we use the old abandoned gated forest road to access Whistling Gap where my section now begins / ends. This time we would end up doing a lot of work removing downed trees from the road just to be able to get to the trail before any work could be done there ! Luckily they were all small in size but, time consuming nonetheless.

There were not any significant blow downs on the section due to the CMC Monday work crew having already been on my section to take care of that. We would be moving limbs and debris and cutting back some trouble spots and spending our time mostly digging out the many water bars along the entire section as we climbed up to the summit of Little Bald aka Big Hairy. It was a warm, sunny day so we enjoyed the views and our time on the mountain. We made it to the lunch spot on the summit by 1pm where a long and well deserved rest was had.

Gaining elevation quickly on the steep trail
View of Big Bald in the distance. There used to be an unobstructed view of it when I first started working this section some 30+ yrs ago !
Looking back at the summit of Little Bald where my section begins / ends.
I take great pride in painting my white blazes. I do them free handed and have been told they are some of the best on the entire AT.
View from the TN side of Little Bald
View from the TN side of Little Bald
View from the TN side of Little Bald

From there we took the old AT down the ridge line to once again search for the old Clyde Smith memorial sign that we had been unsuccessful at finding on previous trips. Recently my friend Bol’Dar had finally located it and we had directions as to where to look. We ended up going right to it ! I knew instantly why I had not been able to find it on our previous tries as it was not where my memory of it was at all although, in my defense it has been over 20 years since we found it the first time ! Unfortunately the top half is now completely gone.

Lots of old, gnarly trees along the old ridge route
Tyler leans against a large ‘burl’ growth !
And just like that, I saw it !!
Only the bottom half remains.

What remains of the sign reads:


The best my memory can recall the top half read something like this:


I have plans to replace this sign with a new one (that will be worded better) to honor the legendary trail maintainer and famous signmaker who died on that spot while chopping a large tree off the trail back in 1976. I will provide a complete history of the man and the progress of that project when that time comes.

We finished up digging out the water bars on our way back down the mountain. This is hard, back breaking work that is required to keep the trail from eroding away. It is harder when the Fall leaves are not raked out ahead of time as was the case this time. It took the rest of our time taking care of this and it was late evening before we would get back to the Jeep.

This tree was mashed down by a HUGE widow maker a few years ago. Once the huge tree was removed this one continued to grow in this manner.
Freshly dug out water bar
Another cleaned out water bar
Digging these out is a lot of hard work but has to be done. I have many on my section due to the steepness.
Another freshly dug water bar
In this image there is not only a freshly dug out water bar but also some dead trees I used to block off an old ridge trail (old AT) that was also being used by a local horse rider several years ago. This is a left handed turn and it was too easy to keep going straight on the old trail so it needed t be blocked.
Almost the last water bar !! (as we come down into the gap)
An area that always has blow downs ! We use them to make resting benches !
The last water bar to dig out before reaching our exit at Whistling Gap.

We always keep a cooler with Mountain Dews on ice in the Jeep as our reward for the hard days work which we enjoyed immensely as we drove out the old forest service road to the end where Tyler would perform his usual magic on the ornery old gate lock before making the 45 minute drive home.

There is an old homestead site along the old forest service road we use to access the trail. it has lots of hand stacked rock fences and piles such as this one.
Tyler working with the old lock to get the gate open for us to get out.

The trail is now in great shape and ready for the rest of horde of Northbound thru-hikers that are already coming through and we are already contemplating the dreaded weed whacking work that will have to be done in a few short months to come. It had been another productive and enjoyable day in Nature. Until next time,,,,

Posted on 11 December '19 by , under RATtreks.

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