Winter Divergences

Winter is the best time a trail crew leader or trail steward has to pause and reflect on things that have happened with an eye toward what needs to be done in the new year.

Good leaders, I’ve learned, don’t allow themselves to be diverted from their mission. And the mission of a leader—any and every leader—is two-fold:

  • Accomplish the assignment
  • Build the group
A Winter Trail

Mea Culpa

In 2012, I was diverted from the primary task of the Acme Treadway Company—to finish the Biby Wilderness Trail—by my primary task as District Manager for the Appalachian Trail in the South District of Shenandoah National Park: constructing the A.T. relocation over Little Calf Mountain from Beagle Gap. Well, many people, including several members of the Acme Treadway Company, accomplished that project last summer.

Now for 2013…

It's time to re-set my sights on finishing the Biby Wilderness Trail. Our crew has worked on this project since the fall of 2004! The terrain is a major factor, but so is the problem we have had attracting volunteers to work with us on the trail. Recruiting—effective recruiting—is my responsibility, and I have not (apparently) been successful with it. So, I resolve to do better; to do my best to attract and maintain our active membership.

We have two, perhaps three, climbing turns to dig before we connect the Biby Wilderness Trail with the Tuscarora Trail. That seems easy enough, especially since we will be working in areas that have considerably less mountain laurel and where more mineral soil is available. Laying out and digging along  the cut lines for the legs between these climbing turns will be simpler than we have experienced to date. Groves of mountain laurel mean that rock is close to the surface of the land; the absence of mountain laurel portends well for the crew.

Our Challenges

Of course, we face challenges. Particularly with crossing an antediluvian stream bed, which I call the Devil’s Racecourse. We must bring the Biby Wilderness Trail across 35 yards of steeply sloped ground strewn with rock and boulders. Of course, there is no digging to be done; all of the work we will accomplish here involves moving and setting rock to make the best pathway possible. Okay, I take that back—a little bit back, that is. We will dig one or two borrow pits to obtain enough mineral soil to build ramps on the uphill and downhill sides of the section. In between, we will move and set rock for the pathway.

This is not the only Devil’s Racecourse, of course. The Appalachian Trail approaches or crosses two such rock gardens within PATC’s area of responsibility: one in northern Maryland and the other in Northern Virginia, south of the Blackburn Trail Center.

Does this deter you from volunteering? We face challenges each day; there is nothing inherently unsafe in tackling our Devil’s Racecourse. In fact, meeting the challenge, which we will certainly do, will be greatly satisfying. Especially when a large enough group meets the challenge!

Your Challenge

The challenge you face is to volunteer and participate. Winchester, Virginia is not that far from what is now the Washington, D.C. metro region. The area is beautiful and the people who live there are friendly and helpful. You will find that our crew members welcome new volunteers, whether you are a member of PATC or not. I cannot guarantee you will have a good time; I can only guarantee that you’ll have the opportunity to have a good time as well as a time doing good things.

I hope to see you On The Biby!