If you were just walking along on the Appalachian Trail and saw this rock among the millions you might not pay any attention. It’s not just another stone, it’s an original mile marker. Back in the beginning days they placed mile markers along the trail as they measured it here in Maryland in April 1932. This one is at mile 8 north of the Potomac River crossing and is about 1/2 mile south of Gathland State Park.
I highlighted the numerals in the picture on the below so you can see the ‘8 M’ carved into the stone. I think I’ve found a second one of these stones about 15 miles north of here. Over the years the trail’s been maintained by many different folks and it’s been moved to protected ground in places so I’m not sure how many are left. Here the ridge top is tight, so the trail lays in it’s originally path from this era.
A history link for those the are interested: http://www.patc.net/…/Library/PATC_-…/Trail_Development.aspx
This section of the Appalachian Trail is near a popular State Park and has a sign hanging on this bridge announcing it’s presence so it’s a very busy place to walk. Because of all of those boots and feet, the trail tread takes a beating.
It’s almost a continual process to keep the drainage waterbars from filling up with loose sediment and failing. Because of the slope of the trail here, lots of water gets directed toward that footbridge and without proper management the surface will get covered with dirt and when wet become a sloppy mess.
I’ve been working on keeping the systems functional and this week laid a 15mm layer of gravel on the AT as it approaches the bridge to harden the surface and prevent the dirt from migrating down and onto the bridge. The last picture below is from this summer when I built a waterbar to prevent water from flowing down the AT and onto the bridge. Surprisingly, there is still a bit of water gathering up on that 20 meter long section of the trail after the waterbar thus the need for the gravel.
I have volunteered doing trail maintenance along a busy stretch of the Appalachian Trail in Maryland at Pine Knob (US-40 aka Annapolis Rocks). The AT crosses over the I-70 Freeway here on a foot bridge. Last spring I removed about 9 inches of mud from the bridge that had settled back about 50 feet. It was a major task and took about 5 hours. Yes, mud is part of regular life on the AT but it seemed to me that a long stretching sloppy muddy mess on a 6 foot wide fenced in cement foot bridge with no other place to walk ought to be avoided for safety reasons.
Since then I’ve implemented a number of measures to prevent the water and mud from flowing down there in the first place including waterbars on the Blue Blazed access trail from the parking area and on the AT along the safety fence next to the freeway. I’ve effectively stopped the water from the access trail yet even with a water bar about 75 feet uphill from the bridge on the AT, water and mud are still making it there.
I put a little bit of gravel down on this section last June to harden up the surface. The stone sorta just sat there since we really didn’t have any soaking rains. Once it got wet this fall though, the little bit of stone laughed at my effort and vanished into the tread with no trace at all.
Garbology? Where is that in this Article?
So I brought up a little more stone to fix this problem and each time I walked back for another sack of stone, I picked up some of the litter around the trail. This is just some of the trash I picked up. I took out about 3 times that much just from this short 600 foot section of Blue Access trail. Please take your trash with you. Leave No Trace. It may seems sometimes that you are all alone yet, someone is nearby and will see where you’ve been very soon. Thanks.
The heavily used, yet short section of the blue trail from the US-40 Pine Knob Parking area is stabilizing now after I dug a few water bars last summer to direct rain water off of the trail. Over time, the trail tread becomes lower then the surrounding land, and water becomes trapped in the trail tread. Then the water continues downhill and builds with more water. The end result is a deep rut that is hard to walk on.
I prefer these soil style waterbars over the log style. I used to maintain a section of the AT in Shenandoah National Park and these waterbars were built by previous maintenance folks and held up very well. Plus, when built properly, they are gentle to walk over. A nice rock facing on front would add some permanence to the waterbars but they’re pretty sturdy on their own right.
While it’s a fairly simple task to stop the erosion by digging a few ditches and piling the soil on the trail to direct the water off, it does become a long term maintenance item. In fairly short order on this heavily used section, these water bars will fill with soil and clog up, thus becoming non-functional.
Below are pictures from this summer of the freshly built water bars. They’ve really made a difference and no water from the blue trail is making it to the AT and ending up of the I-70 Pine Knob Footbridge. Water is still making it to the bridge though, coming downhill a short distance on the AT from a waterbar I built there last summer as well. Work to come to stop that flow of water.