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.
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.