Exotic Plants Management day August 17 2013

On a pleasantly cool day, Pete and Bev Fink, Brad Young and I participated in a Shenandoah National Park Exotic Plants Management day at Big Meadows. Four other people, who had experience with controlling invasive plants joined ranger Cindy Blugerman.
We walked past the area where some of us removing oriental lady’s thumb last year and saw that it was pleasingly free of invasive plants, but a bittersweet vine cut last year had regrown. Further along the Story of the Forest trail, in the swamp area, we started pulling lady’s thumb, and some stilt grass and occasional garlic mustard. The plants were unevenly distributed so people roamed far to find some of the plants. Although we are well into summer, many of the lady’s thumb were not flowering which made identification more difficult.
After lunch, which included cranberry oatmeal loaf, we moved to an area where lady’s thumb were not merely weeds growing amongst other plants, but ground cover. We worked on this area until it was close to finish time, then headed back, with a couple of stops to pull trail side weeds. During the day, we explained to several groups what we were doing.
It was a good day for invasive plant control; we saw areas free of invasive plants, we cleared an area of lady’s thumb and saw an area where invasive plant removal was successful. The Park Service was, as usual, grateful for our assistance in keeping SNP natural.


White Oak Canyon August 10, 2013

Reported by Marian Styles
Rain greeted the 7 hikers who arrived at Whiteoak Canyon for what was planned to be an 8.2-mile loop encompassing the Cedar Run Trail: Brad Young, Pete & Bev Fink, Karen Ramsey, Debra Fisher, Marian Styles, and hike leader John Shannon.

We walked in a light rain for about an hour. But no matter; Whiteoak Canyon is gorgeous in any kind of weather. In fact, lots of hikers were out despite the less-than-ideal conditions. Soon enough, the rain skedaddled, leaving humidity and partly cloudy skies.

We stopped at the upper falls for lunch, where John came through with cake from BreadWorks.

Before packing up, we decided to hike back the way we came to avoid the slippery, wet rocks of the Cedar Run Trail. Brad and I were in the lead, and we spotted a long, black snake in the trail before arriving at the big swimhole that is between the upper and lower falls. Everyone except Bev and Karen took a refreshing dip before finishing the hike and heading back to Charlottesville, where we paused for refreshments.


July 27: A Trail Maintenance Dream Comes True

Reported by John Shannon

It was time, or past time, to cut summer growth along the AT between Rockfish and McCormick Gaps. A few weeks earlier, I had cut some growth at the ends of the trail, but miles of summer growth had remained in the middle.

Cutting light summer growth
Lindsay Brown and Clai Lang set up a car shuttle while I picked up a weedeater and supplies from the PATC toolbox. Lindsay carried a toolbox and cutterhead with blades; he went ahead of me cutting small branches with loppers. Clai followed with fuel for the weedeater and used loppers to cut things too large or too high for the weedeater. She also used her weedeater experience to help me cope with the left-handed thread when changing the head.

At Rockfish Gap, I (carefully) cut some poison ivy again and tried to shave some stilt grass, hoping to reduce next year’s growth. In a few spots, I stopped to damage some bittersweet easily observed from the trail, leaving many plants for another day.

Not long after starting, light rain began falling, which was earlier than forecasts had suggested. Lindsay and Clai were happy to continue working, and because I noticed the rain only when I stopped the weedeater, I was not bothered. A few backpackers passed and thanked us for our work.

Years ago Lois Mansfield decided that the number of rocks on this section of trail made use of a weedeater so difficult that it was no better than swingblades. My support crew and the weedeater’s self-feeding stringhead may be why it proved successful for me.

At lunch, plenty of lemon and berry cake was available—an advantage of a small crew.

In the northern half of this trail section, we saw a few trees down—but easily stepped over—and a leaning tree from a winter storm, which has moved closer to the ground but was still too tricky for us to cut.

Reloading string for the next user
We used the weedeater and loppers the full distance to McCormick Gap, which was as much as I hoped for. Although the trail had been passable, it looked much neater after our work. Plus, we slowed growth of some plants into the trail corridor.

Clai was happy to transport people and tools covered with wet grass back to Rockfish Gap to complete a productive day. Despite cutting poison ivy, no rashes resulted from the day’s work.