On June 26, Appalachian Trail (A.T.) volunteers were given the green light to resume Trail maintenance following guidelines offered by the National Park Service and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.
Appalachian Trail Maintenance work was put on pause in late March this year as safety guidelines and procedures were developed to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 among volunteers, hikers, and Trailside communities. COVID-19 continues to display varied impact throughout the country. It is possible that some states and public lands might shut down if there are spikes in new cases, and volunteers will abide by all closure orders should they occur.
There are a few issues that volunteers were advised to be aware of as we begin assessing and repairing any damage to the Trail:
- Many sections of the footpath have not been monitored or maintained for several months, including obstacles such as bushy/overgrown areas, downed trees across the footpath, or erosion damage from rainstorms.
- Overgrown sections are also high-risk areas for ticks, so be sure to follow tick bite prevention techniques and perform tick checks frequently.
- Overnight campers and visitors in parking areas should pay careful attention to potential hazard trees and dead branches overhead.
- All campers are advised to avoid using shelters and privies along the Trail. Over 200 shelters and privies are still closed by their respective land management agencies, and maintainers have been asked to postpone cleaning these structures until further notice to help keep them safe from potential COVID-19 infection.
- If you encounter a downed tree or any other significant maintenance needs on the Trail, please send an email to email@example.com describing the exact location and the type of maintenance needed.
The day included 200 miles of round trip driving. I left the house at 7:15 AM and was home by 5 PM. My goal was to be off the mountain by 3 pm when rain was predicted to fall.
I packed rain gear. I left my chainsaw at home, as my certification has expired. I filled my biggest external frame pack with hand shears, a lopper, an axe, two hand saws, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. water, compass, first aid kit, bug repellant, and a hoe.
My day pack now includes a Garmin Inreach+ GPS/ satellite communication device in case of an emergency. I am out and about in the woods so much that I pay $12/a month for a service plan.
I was alone all day except for a couple of hikers coming down from spending the night at the Avery Col.
So, even though Dark Sky predicted the 3 pm rain, it started early- as soon as I exited the car ! Despite wearing my rain jacket, I was soaked by the end of the day, due to rain and me sweating inside the jacket.
All in all, the trail held up well over the winter.
I registered one broken plank on a bridge, cleared four blown-down trees from the trail with my axe and saws, opened up five plugged water bars, and inspected any needs at the campsite.
We were advised to refrain from cleaning the outhouse or picking up any trash, due to Covid-19 policies.
I plan to come back within the next month and bring along my weed whacker to dispatch overgrown grasses and brush from first half-mile of the Safford Brook Trailhead. I’ll probably make an overnight of it, camping at the Safford Notch Campsite after taking in a day hike up to the top of Bigelow.
Did you know that In May 2005, Backpacker Magazine named the Bigelow Range Traverse the tenth most difficult day hike in America in an article entitled America’s Hardest Dayhikes? Backpacker cited the 17 miles of black flies with attitude and 10,000 feet of elevation gain as reasons for inclusion on the list.- from Summitpost.org