Back in Berea
Been doing a whole bunch of driving lately, but think that's done for now. After the last post here, I drove with Graham (little brother) and Ben (friend of Graham and I) up to Kentucky by way of Neels gap. Fortunately, my box of stuff made it in before we did, so after quickly checking the fit on the clothes and double checking that the other stuff worked, we packed up and headed north! I drove the whole way up, which turned out to be pretty nice because we had good weather and generally not too much traffic. Graham did the navigating, although we both pretty much have the route memorized at this point :)
Made it up to Berea Wednesday evening, unpacked the car and repacked my stuff, visited with mom for a bit and our friend Larrey stopped by for a bit too! Got out early the next morning and zoomed back down I75, around Knoxville, and over to the tri-cities airport to pick up Phoenix Rising, a hiker friend who needed a ride up to traildays. We met up quickly at the airport, then headed off to Damascus!
Traildays was muddy, wet, and lots of fun as usual. Not quite as many 2003 thruhikers were there as we had last year, but we did have quite a strong showing and managed to get somewhat organized and eat dinner at Sicily's Saturday night. It was really fun to see a bunch of hiker friends, catch up on what people have been doing, eat a bunch of good food, see some funny stuff, hang out chatting until the wee hours of the morning, and all that sort of thing. Had a good test of my spiffy new tent too, was crashed out for a bit in it during what was apparently a raging little storm and didn't even notice anything but the rain until walking around outside afterwards and seeing other tents blown over and such. Also got to chat for a few minutes with Moonshadow about our possible river trip for summer of 2007, sounds like we might actually pull it off, so that's cool.
Hardcore, as usual, was a bunch of fun too! We had something like 130 people volunteer this year, so (also as usual) things got done a bit quicker than expected on the first day. We packed in a whole bunch of lumber and some carpentry tools through about a mile and a half of trail in the first couple hours, which was expected to take all day. I ended up only making a trip and a half - first one I loaded a pack with a bunch of wood and a bag of chips on top (hiker fuel!) and carried a couple boards, then by the second round, there was nothing left to pack in so just swapped in and helped with some roofing tin. Unfortunately, we didn't have the truckload of trail tools at the worksite (the packing phase was supposed to take all day,) so a bunch of people sat idle all afternoon, but it was fun nevertheless. I spent the rest of the evening working with Camo, Flying Porkchop, and trail Yeti doing stone work to build a waterfall (don't have any pics handy, but it's pretty cool) and a little bench for getting water above the new fall. Ended up losing a sleeping pad that I never even had a chance to use for sleeping - had it with me to use as a seat at the jobsite, but left it sitting at the trailhead because I needed the pack space for lumber. The pad was gone when I returned, I figured it was because someone thought it had been lost and intended to return it, but after asking around for the next day it never turned up...
The next day we split into two groups with the larger one heading over to Unaca Mountain to cut some new trail. I stayed with the shelter crew where we worked on cutting a new trail between the shelter and our water bench. The water trail was over some pretty gnarly terrain and required quite a bit of cribbing and moving some rather large rocks around (by hand, I once again swore I'd bring a big come-along, snatch cables, chains, and webbing next time...) Had a good time and beautiful weather, but didn't quite manage to get everything finished before quitting time. Did get a huge amount of work done though, and took care of all the hard stuff so the Tennessee Eastman club that normally maintains this section should be able to finish everything up. Dinner was excellent Pasta, sauce, salad, and ice cream - we went through 30lbs of dry noodles in one sitting! Good times!
Tuesday was a day of driving, I took four hikers who volunteered with Harcore back up to where they had left the trail at VA42, which is somewhere in the viscinity of Pearisburg, then headed from there up to I64, then over to Lexington, and finally down to Berea. Something like 11 hours of driving by the time it was all done. Part of the deal with Hardcore is that if you volunteer as a hiker, you're given a ride back to wherever you were on the AT before you came in to help out. It's a really neat system, and pretty amazing that it works, but it seems to work out fine every year so far!
Unfortunately, I didn't take a single picture over the last week or so, but did manage to get a copy of some other people's pics from the first day of hardcore, so here are a couple of those!
Me packing in shelter parts on the first day of hardcore:
The new shelter under construction: