Hard Core – Big Laurel Branch Wilderness and Grassy Ridge Relocations (2009)

The ninth annual Damascus Hard Core, held Sunday, May 17, and Monday, May 18, is now history. And it was a very exciting event! We hoped the Saturday night rains would clear sufficiently by mid-morning Sunday, and they did. Monday was a beautiful blue-sky day. Every year, people come to socialize and work at this event, and this year, they found plenty of both. Fortunately, no serious injuries occurred, even with all the rock work. 139 people, including 29 club members and guests from ATC and TVA, plus 110 hikers worked 2282 hours to make this two-day event a tremendous success. We built 4500 feet of very difficult sidehill relocations in these two days. This exceeds our record of 3800 feet built in 2008; and it is by far the most difficult trail overall that we have built with Hard Core.

On Sunday, 26 Club members and guests, plus 99 hikers, built 2250 feet of trail in the wilderness north of Wilbur Dam Road. You will now notice a significant drop in trail grade shortly after entering the wilderness as compared to the previous trail. “Camo” and his rock crew built a very impressive rock trail over a rock outcropping. Another group, directed by Bob Peoples, built a couple of rock-stepped switchbacks. Many of the other eight work crews had to do rock cribbing. Jeff Siirola and Ted Mowery’s crew had little rock work, but had to avoid exposure to rocks falling from rock crews on the trail above them. The local grouse had an opportunity to harass more people than normal. It even harassed a black Labrador retriever until the dog got loose from its leash. This new trail was white blazed by hikers and opened before supper. Dinner was served by Mary Cunningham and her crew at the nearby TVA visitor’s center at Watauga Lake.

On Monday, 12 Club members and guests, plus 90 hikers, built another 2250 feet of trail between Grassy Ridge and Stan Murray Shelter. More rock work was needed here than expected. “Camo” and crew built a large rock staircase at a switchback; they had to haul rock a couple of hundred feet. Likewise, Bob’s group installed a set of rock stairs at another switchback. Again the hikers painted white blazes on this new trail and opened it. Thanks to everyone for achieving these major trail improvements to eliminate steep and eroding sections of the AT. Club members, guests, and hikers readily volunteered to take on major tasks. Participants received a Damascus Hard Core patch or rocker. Most participants received caps donated by “Hammer.” “Camo’s” rock crew received t-shirts supplied by “Flying Porkchop”. As usual, several people deserve special mention for making this Hard Core event a success.

  • Bob Peoples is the motivator and logistics man, plus he finds or provides housing for all the hikers. Many stayed at Kincora Hostel. “Baltimore Jack” oversees the meal preparation for Monday evening. Dinner included about thirty pounds of spaghetti, soup, salad, garlic bread and dessert.
  • The North Carolina AT License Plate Fund provided most of the money to cover this Monday evening meal. If you live in North Carolina consider getting a specialty AT license plate.
  • Bruce and Mary Cunningham provided most of the meal for everyone on Sunday evening. Mary prepared barbecue, coleslaw, baked beans and fresh strawberry short cake. Carol Dunham and Mary Jane Fritz prepared a tossed salad. Several also prepared strawberries.
  • TVA, as coordinated by Aurora Moldovanyi, allowed us access to their property and facilities.
  • Mike Rice of USFS Watauga Ranger District loaned us pulaskis and fire rakes. Mike Hupko coordinated the movement of these tools.

These TEHCC members, affiliates, and guests participated this year: Daryel Anderson, Gregg Anderson, Steven Banks, Steve Banks, Paul Benfield, Ken Buchanan, Pat Buchanan, Bruce Cunningham, Mary Cunningham, Joe DeLoach, Andrew Downs (ATC), Carol Dunham, Dave Dunham, Carl Fritz, Mary Jane Fritz, Mike Hupko, Kat Johnson, Leanna Joyner (ATC), Julie Judkins (ATC), Jim Mann, Jake Mitchell, Aurora Moldovanyi (TVA), Ted Mowery, Ed Oliver, Bob Peoples, Steve Perri, Kim Peters, Jeff Siirola, Tim Stewart.