Learning A New Set Of Skills

One of the pair of boots from Technica

I spent the first couple of months at Mt. Rogers becoming familiar with the trail network. On average, I hiked about 8 to ten miles per day and the route I chose was up to me. It would not be uncommon for me to hike out to Elk Garden and back, as this would cover a lot of the high use areas. On one of those trips, I met a group of outdoor gear representatives who were on a dealer outing. Once they found out what I did, I spent the weekend with them at their invitation. They took an interest in what I did, and as a result offered to outfit me with some gear. Mountainsmith provided me with a nice backpack and Technica kept me in boots. Some of those people I met on that day continue to be among my closest friends.

By the fall, I had a pretty firm grip on the trail system and was eager to learn more skills as well. I was asked by the Forest Service backcountry recreation tech if I would be interested in learning trail construction techniques. I jumped at the opportunity and was provided with a couple of different books on trail construction and design. I spent my free time poring over those books, learning different terms that soon would become almost a second language to me. I spent the better part of a week with my supervisor looking at trails that needed work and coming up with plans for repairing them. A lot of my initial training took place on the job. I was teamed up with another volunteer who had more experience and he passed on some of his knowledge to me as well.

Briar Ridge, between Mt. Rogers and Elk Garden

Most of the trail work I performed early on was primarily maintenance type activities such as cleaning out waterbars, removing blowdowns, and doing some tread maintenance. Many of the trails in the highcountry received a lot of abuse from the heavy amount of equestrian use. Some of the trails had seen very little in the way of upkeep, and erosion was a major problem. With my new set of skills, though, I set out to tackle the most difficult projects, and as much as I was able, to improve the conditions for the visitors to the backcountry.

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