Long Distance Trails Crew installs steps and stepping stones in eroded trailbed
By Bob Fuller and Marty Costello, members of the Long Distance Trails Crew
The Long Distances Trails Crew has been out again, this time to restore a small section of the Appalachian Trail just south of the major relocation we completed last month. Our task was to build steps and install large steps into a steep badly eroded gully and across the muddy stream crossing at the base of the gully.
Turning this… Into this
This was a four-day project for the crew. Because this project involved moving large and very heavy rocks for the stepping stones and steps, we needed to set up the highline. We needed rocks with “lots of gravity” so that once they were properly set in place, they would stay in place.
We started work on a Friday and after determining where we wanted the highline to run, selected spar and anchor tree and set up the highline in the morning. After lunch, we began “quarrying” large rocks of suitable size and shape, attaching slings around the rock, then lifting and moving the rock to the top of the work site using the Griphoist and lots of man (and women) power.
All of the required equipment (Griphoist, rock bars, pick-mattocks, sledge hammers, shovels) weighs close to 500 pounds. This particular job site was just off of Beechy Bottom Road, and we were fortunate that our heavy equipment could be driven in by the park rangers. Often it all must be carried, sometimes for several miles, to the job site.
First we locate a rock we want to use, lift it out of the ground with rock bars and prop it up. Then we attach a sling around the rock and a belay line on the sling. Next we slacken the highline wire so it can get close to the rock, and use a shackle to connect the sling to the block on the highline wire. Then we call out to the Griphoist operator to “Tension Hoist,” the highline wire is pulled tight, and the rock is lifted off the ground. Once we have it high enough off the ground to move it, we call out “Hold Hoist”; this stops the lifting process and the rock is then pulled along the wire using the belay line. Once the rock gets to where we want it, we call out “Slack Hoist,” and the rock is lowered into place. This action is repeated over and over again for each rock we want moved.
This process of selecting rocks, preparing the bed, and placing, leveling, and setting each step continued through the three -day weekend. During that time we also placed two very large stepping stones into place and built a treadway to provide a firm and dry trail surface leading to the stepping stones.
We finished the steps, stepping stones, and treadway and dusk was arriving late Sunday afternoon. While the job was almost complete, and the happy crew was proud of what we had accomplished, we still had one more day of work to finish the job.
The crew went out during the week to finish placing stones on the sides of the steps and installing a waterbar and treadway at the top of the new steps. Now we have built a new section of sustainable trail that should last for many decades.
This project took about 30 man days of work. Some of us worked one day of the four, some two, some three, and a few all four. Everyone who comes out makes a significant contribution and everyone’s efforts are appreciated. And, most importantly, we all work safely, have a great time, and leave with a feeling of accomplishment.
Our next work trips are Nov. 22-23 and Dec. 6-7. The crew provides hard hats and safety glasses, training, and the opportunity to learn new skills while being rewarded with the results of your day’s work. All you need to provide is a completed Volunteer Services Agreement (see Trail Conference website), lunch and water, gloves, hard hat and safety glasses if you have them, a smile, and a desire to work hard and safely in the great outdoors.
The crew will have more outings later this fall and beyond so please join us. Contact Crew Chief Chris Reyling 914-953-4900, firstname.lastname@example.org, for more information.