GPS Class and Trail Maintenance on the AT fromTurk Gap to Crimora Lake Overlook - September 28 and September 29, 2019

National Public Lands Day was September 28...and Charlottesville PATC had two offerings for serving the public and for helping our public lands over the whole weekend. Trail maintenance was in full swing on Sunday, September 29 when eleven participants met up in Shenandoah National Park to work on the Appalachian Trail from Turk Gap to Crimora Lake Overlook.  Marit Anderson and Mark Perschel led up the trail maintenance project which focused on repainting the blazes, clearing the waterbars, making berm waterbars, clipping vegetation, moving branches and a blowdown on the trail, and picking up trash at the parking lot.  Volunteers included SNP Ranger Bobbi Ann Pease, Mike Hammer, Joe Simaid, Anna Castle, Jeanne Bono, CJ Woodburn, David Crowe, Tony Alimenti, and Nancy Handley. After the work was completed at 1:30 pm, nine of the participants hiked up to Turk Mt. Summit to admire the Shenandoah Valley and use their muscles in a different way.  Many thanks to the volunteers for taking time to give back to the trails and to our public lands!

The day before, September 28, Mark Perschel offered a class, "Introduction to Using Mobile Phones & GPS Applications for Navigation" at Crozet Library.  Although the group was small, including Nancy Kern, Pepper of Great Outdoor Provisions, and Marit Anderson - everyone was happy to practice using different GPS apps, hone their map and compass skills, and navigate around downtown Crozet using these skills.  The group met from 9 am until noon.  Thanks to Mark for his instruction.

submitted by Marit Anderson

Elliott's Knob - September 14, 2019

submitted by Barbara Martin

Nine intrepid hikers searched for each other in the fog on Afton Mountain the morning of September 14th.  Hike leader Barbara Martin was joined by Margaret Helber, Anna Castle, Nancy Handley, Sharon Celsor-Hughes, Lynn Hatch, Claire Cline, Marie Moss, John Brandt and new to PATC, Carolyn Elliott.  After we located ourselves and our cars we left the fog behind driving down Afton Mountain and met Michael Seth at the trailhead on Rt. 42.  We started out in misty conditions that turned to blue skies as we climbed up the beautiful Falls Hollow trail.  When we reached the road heading to Elliott's Knob, the true work began, a steep uphill climb.  The sunshine was not so appreciated now as we worked up a sweat!  At the top the weather inexplicably turned to rain.  Several hikers stood a few yards away from the top where they found no rain!  We all took the final 0.1 mile trail to Elliott's Knob.  The fire tower was discussed as a place for lunch, but we all decided to eat on the grassy knoll.  Margaret and Claire handled photography duties.  Thank you!  The trip down was much quicker and we all returned satisfied and tired to our cars to hike another day.

Mutton Hollow Invasive Plants Management - August 24, 2019

submitted by Jeanne Siler

‘Twas the Season…for Spraying Japanese Stiltgrass

August was the perfect month, according to the Blue Ridge PRISM’s Jim Hurley. Perfect for spraying large swaths of Japanese stiltgrass at the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club’s Vining cabin, that is. The PRISM, or Partnership for Potomac Regional Invasive Species Management (blueridgeprism.org), is a Cooperative Weed Management Areas (CWMA), one of about 1500 in the U.S. and the only one headquartered in Virginia. The PRISM’s mission is to reduce the impact of invasive species in ten counties roughly along Shenandoah National Park, the fiscal sponsor of the Blue Ridge PRISM.
Hurley joined a near dozen members of the Charlottesville PATC chapter and a total of 39 volunteers over the weekend of August 24 and 25 in the continuing effort to knock back the invasive plants and bring back the expansive meadow at the Vining cabin property in Mutton Hollow located in Greene County, Virginia. Thomas Jorgensen, coordinator for the supplies and volunteers as well as the Mutton Hollow tract manager, noted those helpers driving the farthest came from West Virginia, Virginia Beach, and Bethesda, Maryland.

The meadow reclamation project began in December 2017 and with the help of PRISM grants, supplies and PATC volunteers like Hurley, the sunny, sloping meadow is slowly re-emerging for planting with native grasses and wildflowers. Originally hidden from view, the meadow, along with a fence, rock walls, and a dead tractor were all buried in a dozen or more invasive plants.  The invasives are trees ailanthus and paulownia; shrubs such as autumn olive, multiflora rose and wineberry; grasses like stiltgrass and carpet grass; and forbs like perilla, jimsonweed, garlic mustard, and others. Now, after turning the invasive shrubs and trees into mulch, and safely applying herbicide to the stumps and herbaceous plants in the meadow, the exotic seed bank is on the way to being reduced sufficiently to plant desirable grasses and wildflowers, likely in spring 2021.  

In the meantime, during the August weekend, volunteers were surprised with a meadow full of six-foot pokeweed and jimsonweed, plants that had made it through the July herbiciding of the meadow.  Hurley promptly refocused the volunteer work from spot-spraying and weeding the meadow, to stilt grass and wineberry control in several acres on the meadow’s up slope perimeter, which will help protect the meadow from re-invasion in the long term.  The pokeweed and jimsonweed were cut the following week by a local farmer. The pokeweed, a native perennial, will re-sprout and need to be treated next year, while the jimsonweed, an introduced annual, is done. So the meadow zigs and zags its way toward rehabilitation, with the PATC leadership of Jorgensen and Mark Walkup, some PRISM experience and expertise, and the energy of many great PATC volunteers. 

A little more on those PATC volunteers: five repeatedly strapped on backpacks with three gallons of an herbicide that only targets grasses, and sprayed hundreds of yards of Japanese stilt grass above the cabin, around the meadow, and behind the barn, in forested areas unreachable with an ATV or mower.  These plants will have died before they could drop more seed, reducing the threat to the meadow. Another ten or more volunteers, armed with good gloves, pulled, or cut and squirted herbicide on wineberry and autumn olive, two shrubs that have dominated the meadow perimeter. Hundreds of plants were removed, putting the meadow that much closer to an invasive-plant-free zone.  Both pieces of work will need to be repeated for several more years before these plants are fully under control.

It took less than a decade of neglect to generate the weed-choked field that was such an eyesore in 2017.  It will take a few years to turn these acres into a native meadow that will be a healthy habitat for birds, mammals and pollinators, and a pleasure to behold from the Vining cabin porches. Hurley noted that an e-newsletter posting on Japanese stiltgrass was well received, widely viewed and shared by members of the PRISM’s subscribers.

For more information about the PRISM, go to blueridgeprism.org.

For their stiltgrass advice, see: