The weather has been great in Central and Southwest Virginia during this Fall season. I have been leading work hikes since early October and the gains have been largely due to the warm weather. I have worked with 21 individual volunteers on 9 different work hikes on the Appalachian Trail (AT). The bulk of these volunteers have come from the Outdoor Club at Virginia Tech (OCVT). Most of the work has been done on the New River Relocation near Rice Field Shelter on the AT. See pictures below.
The trail work completed has opened up an additional week for other projects for the 2016 Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) Konnarock Trail Crew Season. This could provide up to 400 hours of additional labor at another work site. These work hikes have allowed me to better understand more about building new trails and organizing group work hikes. Leading these work hikes are great, but what is greater is having consistent leadership in the New River Valley after I leave in March. I am just starting to look into another avenue of approach for ways to improve student involvement on the AT while they are enrolled at Virginia Tech. I hope to have good news on the next blog.
Back in the summer, the first thing I started looking into was getting the local townsfolk of the New River Valley more involved. Mentioned in my last blog, The New River Valley Trail Club (NRVTC) has been changed to Trail Crew so that current local Trail Clubs (Hiking Mtn. Biking, and Equestrian) will more readily use the Meet up page as a resource to plan work hikes. The Meet up page is set up to have 50 Crew Members on board, so I have had to give about 15 removal messages to folks who have been inactive for a month, or who have never participated in a work hike. It is not ideal to turn folks away, but the group is for active people. The good thing is that most of the people are already members of several other groups, and can sign back up again at any time. The most active Club that I work with is the Narrows Now Trail Club. Their focus is on the Mills Creek Falls Trail in Giles County. In typical trail club fashion, a retired volunteer in their 60s is spear heading all of the work. This is one of the advantages of the Baby Boom from the 20th Century, however, in 20 years we will see a drop in volunteers.
I have been able to go to a meeting with the Eastern Divide, Back Country Horseman of America Group. I encouraged them to use the NRVTC Meet up page so that they can create better exposure to locals for their work hikes in 2016. I have yet to interact with any of the Mtn. Bike Clubs in the New River Valley. I am currently working on flyers to place in stores and locations in order to advertise the NRVTC in hopes of having a strong 2016 season.
I just updated my Work Plan and one thing that I will need to begin focusing on is a transition from the Roanoke Valley of Virginia, to the Heart of Appalachia in the Southwest region of Virginia. I would like to find seasonal work in the Clinch Ranger District of the GW & Jeff National Forests/Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area, and outdoor adventure tourism before studying to become a Paramedic in the Fall semester of 2016. Indeed, I will need to make plans to get chain saw certified through the Mt. Rogers Appalachian Trail Club so that I may be of better use once I become a member.
My next blog will be at the conclusion of the internship in March. I look forward to doing the bulk of the Konnarock on boarding for the 2016 season, training a new employee in the office and two interns from Roanoke College, and of course continuing to work on making the NRV a stronger AT community.
I hope everyone’s Holidays and New Year goes well.