Rockfish Valley Hike- June 28, 2014

Fourteen hikers enjoyed the Rockfish Valley on Saturday, June 28.  Overcast skies helped to keep the hike cool on these exposed trails including the Rockfish Valley Trail System and Spruce Creek Trails. We began at the Rockfish Valley Natural History Center on the Spruce Creek trail and walked along the model farm and Reids Creek.  We continued on the Glenthorne Loop which included a road walk.  Chicory, pearly everlasting, and day lilies lined our walkway.  This is also a Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail with twenty five bluebird boxes on the edges of the trail.
Front: Karen Ramsey, John Brandt, Lee Wenzler, Katharine Maus, Marian Styles, Marit Gay (leader), Briana Taylor, Andy Willgruber, Claire Cline, Leon Gorman and sitting on the fence - Norman Best, Karen Rockwell and Gus (her dog), with  Brian Muszynski on the end --not pictured: Mark Perschel (photographer)

We stopped for a snack of homemade cookies at the Rockfish River trailhead.  The kiosk supplied an interesting assortment of brochures, natural history information, and trail map.  The river provided soothing sounds as we walked to the final fence line. If it had been a little warmer we would have waded in the river, but instead we made our way back to the Spruce Creek Park to end the 5.5 mile hike.  Everyone decided to have lunch at the Bold Rock Cidery, which was celebrating its second anniversary.  Music, food vendors, and tents with tables made for a festive afternoon.


Mine Bank- St. Mary's River Trail- Bald Mt. Loop - June 17, 2014

Since hike leader, Marit Anderson Gay, works on Saturdays she is offering a monthly mid-week hike.  The first one took place, Tuesday, June 17 with a 10 mile hike from the Blue Ridge Parkway/Fork Mountain  Overlook MP 23. We trekked the Mine Bank-St. Mary's River Trail-Bald Mt. Loop.  She was joined by Mark Trail.  Grace from Lynchburg inquired about the hike, but was interested in a walk with waterfalls, so we will try to plan that for her in the near future.

The hike began with a descent on the Mine Bank Trail.  After an hour we turned onto the St. Mary's River Trail with multiple stream crossings.  Rhododendrons were still in bloom and the George Washington National Forest kept us cool on a day when the temperatures were rising in the valley. We climbed up to Green Pond and walked along Forest Service Road #162 picking up trash as we went for a little trail maintenance. We then took the Bald Mountain Trail on a strenuous down and up section to return back to the Fork Mountain Overlook.  The 10 mile hike was quite enjoyable, but we were tired after the 5 hour route.  Much of the trail was overgrown, so we plan to bring some clippers next time!

Some of the interesting things we saw on the trail

Chicken of the Woods mushrooms
Polyphemus moth


Appalachian Trail Spring Cleaning June 7, 2014

Reported by John Shannon
The previous week's trip and the calendar both said that it was time to cut grass and shrub growth on the Chapter’s section of the AT between Rockfish and McCormick Gaps. I hoped to make a one-way trip with a string trimmer so the trail would stay clear for a while. Debra Fisher and Marian Styles offered to help with setting up a car shuttle, lugging gas and supplies for the string trimmer, and clipping things too large or high for the trimmer.

Along the first section of trail at McCormick Gap where we had pulled garlic mustard the previous week, a few plants had come out of hiding; then a little beyond that, where Emily Berry had pulled the invasive plant, only a few garlic mustard were visible.

One of the most rewarding aspects of working on trails is the sincere thanks we get from hikers who are out using them. We met several grateful hikers who commented on what great shape the trail is in. Some of the hikers we met today were through-hikers who had been on the trail 2 months. One hiker found Debra’s glasses along the trail and left them on her car accompanied by a nice thank-you note.

Early in the afternoon the trimmer and workers all stopped for fuel. My coworkers said they were willing to keep going when I mentioned a route to Skyline Drive halfway along the trail that would have allowed us to quit for the day.

Toward late afternoon, even though I was looking through a face guard and sunglasses, I recognized areas on the trail and knew we were approaching Rockfish Gap. Then came cleanup chores in hopes of avoiding contact with poison ivy residue. On our way back to retrieve the car parked at McCormick Gap, the entrance ranger remembered me from last week when he thought we were illegally taking native park vegetation instead of doing the park's working of slowing invasives.
 Today was one of the longest trail work days that Marian and Debra have experienced—not the longest for me, but probably the hardest because of carrying my normal pack and wrestling a noisy, vibrating string trimmer.

Editor’s note: The club’s section of the AT is 3.5 miles, and John single-handedly weed-whacked both sides. The trail had some weed-free zones that didn’t need attention, but still, that was a whole lotta’ real estate! I had trouble just carrying the gas can (which seemed to get heavier rather than lighter each time John emptied some into the weed-eater).


Doyles River – Jones Run Loop, May 31, 2014 - reported by Iva Gillet

     How could we have yet another weekend with perfect weather? Pete Fink, and his lovely assistant Bev, who is Vanna White's body double, produced a great day and led a group of 12 past 3 waterfalls and along the AT to celebrate the beauty of nature. Today's crowd included CJ Woodburn, Susanna Williams, Kelly O'Rourke, John Brandt, Iva Gillet, Rita Kieffer, Lindsay Brown, Sunny Choi, Brian Muszynski, and Katherine Maus. This hike proceeded clockwise from the Doyles River Overlook, descending down the Doyles Falls to the confluence of Jones Run and the Doyle River where sat a leopard frog.

    On the descent some admired some ghastly snake (supposedly not poisonous) that I did not see, as I tried to crawl into Lindsay's backpack to avoid it. I was glad it was scared away from us before any pictures were taken.

     Then we began our ascent with the promise of lunch. The stream crossing was not difficult, and along the way Pete pointed out some huge tulip poplar trees to Kelly, who has a tree fetish.

      At the base of Jones Falls we stopped for lunch, and enjoyed the cold water, shade, and visits from other hikers' dogs.

      After lunch, a small group preparing for trekking in the Alps in July, peeled off to add another 4.5 miles and some climb along Big Run to the day. The hike leader returned with his charges, making a stop for ice cream- IS THAT RIGHT??


Appalachian Trail maintenance May 31, 2014

reported by John Shannon
     Aided by previous year's work, it seems feasible to have a couple of islands of Appalachian Trail relatively free of garlic mustard, so I was pleased to have Emerald Young and Emily Berry join me to remove garlic mustard. At Mc Cormick Gap, we pulled and bagged garlic mustard on the first uphill section. There seemed less than on some other areas of trail where we have not attempted repeated clearing, but it still took us till noon to reach the top of the first uphill section. Some through hikers knew what we were doing, others learned a little of the invasive plant problem. Perhaps because there were three of us, we saw more plants than on other trips, and perhaps expanded the clear corridor over previous years, and Emily went a little beyond my planned stopping point, so perhaps next year we can expand the control zone. On the way down, I found a few plants we missed earlier amidst the other plants. Emily took away three bags of garlic mustard so it cannot germinate and infest the trail again. Emerald suggested that an open container would be more convenient collection container than bags which do not stay open.
     At Rockfish Gap, our first patch of garlic mustard was right where the trail left the road. While we thinned this out, a ranger thought we were harvesting native plants, but was relieved to hear we were removing exotic invasives, helping the park's mission. Then there were very few plants close to the trail, which was not a total surprise based on previous years, but several weeks earlier, John Brandt and I removed a number of plants earlier in their life cycle, so it was a pleasant surprise not to see more. However I then found a large patch which had grown close to the trail, and Emerald started into a heavily infested area. After lunch, I removed a handful close to where we sat before we declared mission accomplished.

South District Trail Workshop, May 17, 2014

reported by John Shannon
       District Managers Don White (Appalachian Trail) and Steve Bair (side trails) held a workshop for current and future trail maintainers May 17 and 18.
Brown Mountain overlook, after lunch,
before trail repair
Weed eater experience at Simmons Gap
Ranger Station
After the usual descriptions of how what PATC does to maintain trails, we went to the Simmons Gap tool cache, a shed that the National Park Service has allowed PATC to use for storage and maintenance of trail tools, where an experienced trail maintainer described how a weed eater should work, and what to do when it does not. During the tool viewing, we saw how different maintainers have different tastes in tools. One person rarely uses loppers, but was impressed with my long handled loppers when we wanted to cut a tall briar without getting close to it. One person also does not like the Pulaski which others find an excellent tool.
A locust log for a new waterbar
Setting a locust log to make a new waterbar
After lunch, we started on the project for the workshop of repairing an eroded section of trail. Sub-optimal design made erosion more difficult to control than on some sections. Some people carried logs down the trail while others dug trenches for new log waterbars. Others regraded trail so that it was flat rather than a canyon, and also outsloped the trail to slow erosion in the future. Side trail District Manager Steve Bair was impressed by the length of trail that the group repaired. During this work, Howard Davis, who remembered me from ODATC over twenty years ago, agreed that the ProHoe Rogue Hoe used by Mark Gatewood of the Flying McLeods is often superior to a McLeod. Or as one veteran said, ask three trail maintainers about the best tools, and you will get four opinions.  Fourteen people attended, Jeff Monroe  Charlottesville Chapter attended this ideal trail day and took the pictures seen here.

Mauhar Trail to Campbell Falls, May 24, 2014 - reported by Iva Gillet

Another beautiful day for a hike, and despite all other distractions of Memorial Day, 9 hikers headed for the Mauhar Trail with Pete Fink.. Hiking today with hike leader Pete Fink was his lovely wife Bev, who led us most of the way, Brian Muszynski, Leon Gorman, Ashley Brill, Vince Lewis, Anne Colgate, Iva Gillet, and Barbara Martin. We were able to enjoy a range of wildflowers, which Anne helped us identify including Jack in the Pulpit, Indian Cucumber, fading trillium, rhododendron, wild azalea, Solomon's Seal (both true and false), and cinquefoil. Pete took us on a side trip to Campbell Falls which was steep and slippery, but lovely. It allowed Brian the chance to walk a mossy log and then jump into a deep pool of freezing water! We lunched in and on the banks of the Campbell Creek and then hauled back up to Maupin Field. There were surprisingly few campers for Memorial Day and with such amazing weather. IN order to continue the fun, several of us headed to Devil's Backbone for some food and drink (mostly water) and enjoyed talking with a through hiker from Denmark who was taking a rest to read "Into the Void." He was enjoying a month holiday, and chose the Virginia AT as the spot to vacation. He was looking forward to canoeing the Shenandoah River from Waynesboro to Harper's Ferry (where it helps form the Potomac) if he were able to rent a canoe. He assured us he was a canoe instructor, as well as plane mechanic, so we wished him well as we returned home after an exhilarating walk in the woods.