The Appalachian Trail Pochuck Boardwalk in Vernon, NJ, was a busy place on Saturday, November 12. Families, couples, hikers, and trail runners were out enjoying a warm, sunny late fall day. Nevermind that the boardwalk was a little off-kilter and that members of the Trail Conference’s volunteer West Jersey Trail Crew were sometimes underfoot–actually under the boardwalk–replacing boards, lifting portions of the boardwalk, and repositioning the metal fixtures that hold the boardwalk in place over the swamp.
The summer’s tropical storms had lifted the nearly one-mile long boardwalk–“built to be six inches above a thousand-year flood,” according to crew co-chief David Day, who was also among the original builders– at least a foot above that level in the floods that followed. Fortunately, tie-downs kept the platform from floating away, and damage was remarkably minor. “It did what it was supposed to do,” commented one staff member about the boardwalk’s remarkable endurance.
For the most part the wood path settled back down onto its metal posts, largely undamaged, though often not quite in the correct position. Saddle sleeves that originally went over the supporting posts sometimes settled next to them instead or perched precariously on the edge. The result was an uneven but walkable boardwalk. When posts and sleeves were whacked into alignment with a sledge hammer along several long stretches, they settled into place with a sudden but satisfying crash.
Other sections needed more laborious attention, including jacking up the boardwalk to make space for repositioning parts. Water sometimes knee-deep made the work more challenging.
By the end of the day, most of the sleeve/post connections had been repaired and the walkway was level once again. In the words of many of those who walked past the crew as they worked, “Thank you!”
–Georgette Weir, Trail Walker editor