Over the last year that I’ve been working here on the AT between Pine Knob and Annapolis Rock, there have been lots of folks have been inquiring about how to help out. In the past I’ve handed out cards with contact information for the South Mountaineers Trail Crew (which can be found on the PATC Website – see link below). Yesterday though, I decided to set up a volunteer organization website to build up a group of interested folks and have a way to communicate work events and schedules. So wander over there if you want to help out and Volunteer on the Appalachian Trail at Annapolis Rock.
The site is named atpineknob.com, and I choose that because Annapolis Rock is a little ambiguous. The official name is ‘Annapolis Rock’ without an S as seen on the cropped map image below. Yet the name is written all of the time as Annapolis Rocks, so I choose Pine Knob instead since the name is pretty straight forward. Pine Knob is the name of the hill you climb as you walk from the trail head toward Annapolis Rock and is where a lot of effort is required because of the slope there.
Some folks don’t think about the effects of their actions. Perhaps they’re visiting a place and think, it’s only me, what can it hurt.
Well, on the Appalachian Trail, there are effects by everyone and you are not alone.
What I’m talking about is the “Leave No Trace” ethic. You are never really alone anywhere on the Appalachian Trail. And at Pine Knob, this is especially true. Because of the sign on the footbridge over the I-70 Freeway, the easy access from the freeway and the close proximity of popular Greenbrier State Park, this section of the AT gets a workout. Often the parking area is full and folks scramble to park. For some reason though, they’re in a hurry to get to the trail and take short cuts to save 30 seconds.
Please don’t take short cuts. The trail is maintained by us volunteers, the damage done by folks taking short cuts just leads to more work for us, and keeps us from taking care of the AT itself.
So recently I’ve done a little work to give incentive to stay on the AT from/to the blue marked access path from the parking. I laid a path of gravel on the dirt section of the AT along the fence next to the I-70 freeway. That’s a ton (2000 lbs) of gravel carried in 400 meters to the trail by manual labor. About 4 hours work shuttling in the stone. The picture shows the gravel loose but in no time after a rain it will get pushed into the ground and disappear to the eyes but not the feet. The result will be a hard surface that won’t get muddy and will give an added reason to stay on the trail for the extra 100 feet. Please do.
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.
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.