Signing up for MST Maintenance
Today, Lenny and I went to put our Mountains-to-Sea Trail section to bed for the winter. While I had been helping him on this section from time to time, now I'm a full maintenance partner. The two-mile section goes from Beaver Dam OV to Big Ridge OV on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
This is a valuable section of trail to adopt. Let me explain.
When we moved to Asheville in May 2001, we had already joined Carolina Mountain Club. We had maintained a piece of the Appalachian Trail since 1988 and we were eager to get one here.
But Don Walton, who at the time assigned sections of both MST and A.T., just smiled as if to say "Get in back of the line. But we do have an MST section that's open for adoption." And so we took it.
The MST section was in bad shape. Like a pet that has been chained up for too long, the piece was neglected and needed tender loving care. So we worked on it hard for a year.
And then a piece of A.T. became available. We took it but Lenny didn't want to let go of our MST section. It was like we had put so much effort to bring it up to standards, that now he wanted to enjoy it. But I took my name off the MST list and he maintained it himself, with occasional help from me.
But after walking the Mountains-to-Sea Trail across North Carolina and writing a book on the trail, it felt silly to not be a full-fledged maintenance partner. Trails don't maintain themselves; hikers have to maintain them.
Lenny carries a saw for blowdowns and shovel to clean out water bars. I have the loppers and clippers and the all-important garbage bags. The trail is is good shape, make that perfect shape. All it needs is our name on it.
Carolina Mountain Club has almost doubled in size since we joined. This piece of trail--easy, rolling and close to Asheville-- would not be available today. Someone would have snatched it up years ago.
It's like a rent-controlled apartment. Once you have a good piece of trail to maintain, you should hold on to it. And I'm glad he did.
Once we finished walking and clearing our two miles, we walked back on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I would have walked back on the trail but Lenny had been doing it this way for years. He hid the shovel in the bushes and we walked the road, which was much faster.
We had to go through a tunnel, Not the safest thing but it took less than a minute.
Even so, a car stopped us and wanted to know about a famous "rock" that she heard about. "You must be talking about Devil's Courthouse," and I sent her on her way.
But what's with the orange vest and hat? Aren't we in a national park where hunting is not allowed? Yes, but here the Parkway is so narrow that hunters and bullets may not know exactly where the boundary is. So orange was the color of the day.