Mea Culpa

Yes, the Crew Leader is guilty…of Blog Tardiness. Things have happened but I have not blogged about them. Until now. Mea Culpa.

Smith Roach Gap

Five of us met at the Smith Roach Gap parking area on Skyline Drive on Saturday, June 14, 2014 and worked on the Appalachian Trail south from the Gap. Five hours later, we finished rehabilitation of approximately 120 yards of the A.T., creating four new Coweta dips to better control runoff on this mild grade. We found ticks in abundance—or, better stated, many ticks found us.

We welcomed a new Crew member: Mandy! We found that she easily adapted to trail work; in little time, Mandy was directing the crew leader…


While we ate lunch in the parking area, an SUV drove north past us. Of a sudden, we heard brakes screeching, followed by the sound of the vehicle backing up toward the parking area (and against any traffic that might be cresting the Drive there). The driver rolled the passenger-side window down and yelled a warning to us that…a (rare, stealthy, dangerous black) bear was crossing the drive just beyond the parking area!

Alarmed and forewarned, we quickly checked each other to ensure that none of us resembled a blackberry or a blackberry bush.

The Biby Wilderness Trail

Rock Step - Slightly HUGE

We have finished our assigned work on The Biby! No, the trail is not “finished,” but our work on it ended on July 12, 2014. Karen, John, and Mandy came out and worked to complete a switch-back turn above the Devils Racecourse approximately half-way down the ridge.


Our small crew cut and graded the treadway to and out of the short switch-back. Karen and Mandy, although not pictured (because they took the pictures!), person-handed the rocks as much as the guys (John & Yours Truly). As with all of our trips to work on The Biby, the grade and the number of crew members limited us to measure our work in feet rather than yards or miles (?MILES?). The work y’all performed was as outstanding as ever.

Stairway to Where?

The weather was perfect! Breakfast at the Hayfield Family Restaurant was, as always, superb. (Also the pies we enjoyed later, after we came down off of the ridge.) I will miss the area; it is a very beautiful region in which to work. And, I miss the friendliness and service at the Hayfield Family Restaurant. (And the cost of the food is great, too!)

The Trailhead

Ivy Creek Overlook

The Crew

John and I were joined by Karen, our newest Crew member, and John Shannon, a stalwart veteran of the Flying McLeods trail crew, on Saturday, August 9, 2014.

The Plan

Our original plan was to continue a significant tread rehabilitation project begun by Mark Gatewood, Co-District Manager of the A.T. in the South District of Shenandoah National Park. South of the Ivy Creek Overlook on Skyline Drive, the Appalachian Trail climbs gently before swinging easterly and rising up a 15% slope that still affords outstanding views into the Virginia Piedmont. Unfortunately, erosion and the affect of millions of foot-pounds of hikers has caused the tread to “walk” down and outside of the original pathway.

A.T. above Ivy Creek Overlook

That was The Plan.

What Really Happened…

The slope

We found a short “Z” turn (a rough switch-back) that, because of the stone stacked along the down-hill side, had forced run-off down the trail instead of shedding water off of the tread. The tread was no more than dead pan crossed by many (!MANY!) semi-exposed tree roots. All together, this short stretch of trail was hazardous to walk and, due to its construction, destructive to the natural resource.

Naturally, “we” decided to amend “our” plan to work this area, instead.

Making progress

Of course, we also rehabilitated the treadway immediately above and below the Z-turn.

John Shannon works the treadway

Just moving the stones into place to create steps was more than a chore. Each of our group, “we happy few,” pulled, maneuvered, and slid stones into place to form steps. We pried the new steps up to shim them with smaller stone so that “no rock rocks.”

Moving Stone Uphill


Six hours of work; six stable steps created. Figuratively, physically, and alliteratively, this was hard work. No longer is the turn encased by curbing; the turn does not seem to have been cribbed by the CCC or by PATC. So, rain water may shed off of the steps and tread as it should…for now and in the near future.

We look forward to meeting and working with all y’all!

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