Back to the Appalachian Trail

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I’m heading up to my Appalachian Trail section this Saturday to do water bar cleanout and weed whacking. I’m also taking my GPS equipped phone along and going to try and map the section with some waypoints so that when I describe to people “hey, we need to repair that water bar at [that place],” they’ll be able to find it. Assuming they bring along a GPS unit.

Digging back through my archives, I now realize I’ve never had a thorough posting about my duties for the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club. I’ve referred to them a time or two, but that’s it.

The Georgia Appalachian Trail Club is responsible for maintaining the Appalachian Trail and its approach trails within the state of Georgia. It’s a Georgia non-profit organization that…well, let me just quote from the bylaws

The purpose of this organization shall be to provide for the protection, management, and maintenance of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, associated side trails, and designated trails primarily within the State of Georgia; to bring together persons Interested In hiking and camping, and to conduct outings for their recreation and enjoyment; to foster in its members and in the general public an appreciation of the outdoors; to teach and encourage public observation of conservation ethics; to collect and publish Information concerning regions of interest to hikers In Georgia; to encourage the preservation of wilderness areas; to provide such advice and assistance as may be requested by the Appalachian Trail Conference, Inc.; and to encourage and assist the national and state governments in the preservation and conservation of our forests and natural resources.

As a part of the club, you’re encouraged to attend the monthly work trips (third Saturday of every month! Contact me at the email on the top right) where tasks that may require more than a few people are completed. This includes cutting new trail, repairing existing trail, building water diversion devices, creating rock steps, and many others.

If you join the club and demonstrate a modicum of interest and self-reliance, be assured you’ll be asked if you’d like to take over a trail section1 to maintain. The section overseer is responsible for keeping approximately 1.0 miles of the AT in good working order, quarterly cleaning out water bars, cutting weeds in the summer, clearing blow downs, maintaining the paint blazes, and generally making sure the section stays in good health. If there are items that require more work or people, you note that too, and either take care of it with other volunteers or wait for the work trip that occurs in your district.

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I’ve been a member of the club since 2005 and a trail overseer since a little after that. My section is #3.8, between US Forest Service Road 251 and Hawk Mountain. To be more specific, it’s about halfway between Three Forks and Hightower Gap. That’s about 6 miles trail-north of Springer Mountain.

I like my section for several reasons:

  • It’s not that far from the house, as the AT goes.
  • It’s relatively flat so I’m not dealing with huge mountain hurdles.
  • It’s in the section of the Trail that is used by the nearby Army Ranger mountain training facility, so occasionally I get little surprises.
  • I can access either side of the trail section in about the same amount of time. I have the choice of parking at Hightower Gap and walking a little over a mile to get there, passing Hawk Mountain Shelter and chatting with other hikers, or I can drive around to the other side on USFS 251 and park right at the beginning of my section. This is convenient if I need to bring in a chain saw or other heavy piece of equipment.

There are couple things that I don’t like about my trail section:

  • 79 water bars that must be cleaned out every time I go through! Believe me, that’s strenuous activity.
  • Some deliciously vigorous blackberries that like to grow over the trail. These have to be trimmed back regularly.

The GATC does a lot of recreation hikes as well, although I haven’t gone on many of them. If you want to get to know the North Georgia mountains, joining the club is a good idea.

That’s my Appalachian Trail work in a nutshell. I’ll post some pictures from this weekend’s trip on Sunday.

  1. “Press-ganged” is such a terrible phrase that I won’t use it here. []
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