Work Trip on the AT – 8-11-2016

Every year around late June or early August I gather up anyone crazy enough to volunteer to help me on my trail section of the Appalachian Trail that I have been maintaining now for over 26 years as a member of the Carolina Mountain Club. This year those lucky volunteers were my son Tyler ‘Little RAT’ Tarpley and my dear friend Tommy ‘Bol’Dar’ Warden. Some major changes have taken place since last year that made things much different for me in that the club decided to shorten all their sections if possible, in an attempt to have them not exceed 2.5 miles in length. Since mine was over 5 miles I was given a choice of taking the upper half from Whistling Gap to the top of Little Bald or the lower half from Spivey Gap to Whistling Gap. I was not in favor of this and I am having a hard time letting go of any of my section to someone else after putting in so much blood sweat and tears not to mention a few years of building new relos on both halves with the Konnarock crews and personally building the rock steps up the backside of High Rocks etc., so it was a very hard decision for me. Being forced to choose I chose the upper half which although is harder, it would give me a key to access through the USFS gate that I have been trying to get for all these years. This allows me to drive in via a 4WD forest road behind an always locked gate all the way to Whistling Gap. The other major change was my good friend and former co-maintainer Doug Corkhill would no longer be able to pick me up at Spivey Gap to ride with him to the summit of Big Bald which has enabled me to walk one way (down hill mostly) to do my section for the past few years,  as he no longer has the section above mine due to being relocated as a result of a job promotion.

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Upper Relo on the lower realm of Little Bald

We have hiked out the old forest road many times over the past 30 years and I have also taken Forest Service vans in and out it a few times while working with Konnarock crews that base camped at Whistling Gap but, this would be our first time using it with our own key and my own vehicle. I did not have a 4WD roadworthy at this time so I took my old Chevy van instead. I quickly realized that the old road had grown up a lot in recent years and it was no longer the gravel treadway I remembered it to be. It was also very wet and I knew the hills were steep and that we would end up stuck so I stopped at the top of the first hill and managed to get turned around where we unloaded my 4WD four wheeler (yes I was prepared for this !) that I knew would go anywhere. Of course it would require a couple trips up and back the 2+ mile long road to haul the tools and all three of us but, it was sure better than any of the alternatives !

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Top of first hill with place wide enough to turn van around and unload 4 wheeler

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Four wheeler unloaded and ready to be packed up.

After getting all of us and the tools to the destination and hiding the machine, we began our ascent up the mountain. It was a nice morning with mountain fog shrouding the higher elevations so we began slinging the swing blades as we slowly made our way up Little Bald.

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Fog hanging on the mountain

It wasn’t long before we met up with a family of deer who stayed nearby for quite awhile as we cut the weeds and moved what blow downs we could as we continued the steep climb.

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Curious deer

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There is nothing prettier in the forest. There were two others that i did not get good pics of.

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Tyler skipping ahead of me as we cut the annual growth off the high side.

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Looking back at Bol’Dar while he examines the ‘widowmaker’ blow down from its most vulnerable position ! (this was taken out the following week by the saw crews)

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The upper parts of Little Bald are steep and very rough going. Cutting weeds here with a sling blade (some calls it a kaiser lol) is difficult to say the least.

There was lots of fungus visible which I always love trying to photograph. It took a few hours to reach the top and complete all the cutting and clearing. There were a couple of trees that the saw crews would end up coming in the following week to take out but, overall it was not too bad. Cutting this late in the year also eliminates the need for a second cut in the Fall which is less work for me.

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Some nice fungi along the way

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A different perspective from below

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Close up of the gills of the fungi

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View from the TN side overlook on the summit of Little Bald (aka Big Hairy)

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Another view from the TN side overlook on the summit of Little Bald

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Tyler clearing the trail on the highest part of Little Bald

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A freshly cut trail !

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More fungus

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Another blow down we left for the saw crews to get. Bol’Dar doing some more cutting as we continue down the mountain.

After a long lunch on the summit of Little Bald at the NC side overlook, we enjoyed walking back down the mountain on the freshly cleared trail admiring all our hard work. Once back to Whistling Gap and the four wheeler I cleverly devised a way to transport all three of us AND the tools back to the van in one trip ! Thanks for having that much faith in my driving skills guys ! Another wonderful and productive day spent with Mother Nature and huge thanks to my excellent helpers. Until next time,,,,,

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The overgrown forest road on our way back out

Posted on 28 September '17 by , under RATtreks.

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