Congratulations to Dan on being the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s Volunteer of the Month for August 2017.
Dan Firth has volunteered 500 hours on the Appalachian Trail with the Tennessee Eastman Hiking and Canoeing Club. He has served on its A.T. committee, monitored rare plants, and recently became an A.T. section maintainer. He monitors seven phenology sites along his Trail section, which involves tracking and reporting seasonal changes in the life cycle of the species being monitored. Since retiring from the Eastman Chemical Company last year, he has eagerly taken on more responsibilities.
Matt Drury, ATC’s Southern regional resource management coordinator, says, “Dan is our most prolific rare-plant monitor in the region, and often seeks new populations to monitor. He is also helping us monitor for ash trees and the emerald ash borer and will be surveying most of the likely ash sites on the Trail in Tennessee this year. This information will help managers prioritize areas for treatment against the emerald ash borer.”
This year, Dan and Matt are conducting a campsite survey of Roan Mountain, covering more than 20 miles along the Trail. The Roan Highlands area has the highest concentration of rare species found along the entire A.T. They are surveying areas impacted by camping, classifying the ground cover into condition classes, and looking at canopy cover, exposed soil, and other conditions. The next step will be to analyze the data and develop a report for Trail managers.
Dan lives in Kingsport, Tennessee, with his wife and their son and daughter. A section hiker, he has completed the Trail from the Springer Mountain approach trail to Front Royal, Virginia. He was involved in Boy Scouts as a youth and with his son, and he continues to be involved with the Sequoyah Council. Besides the opportunities for outdoor experiences and education, Dan says that the Scouting emphasis on service and volunteering often has an impact that carries into adulthood.
Dan most enjoys monitoring the rare plant populations and appreciates the ability to make a difference as a volunteer: “Having a scientific basis for decision-making through observation and analyzing impacts on rare plants and on the biodiversity of an area is key to protecting them.” The data he is gathering will provide important information to Trail managers on protecting rare plants.
Due to recent heavy rains, TVA has raised Watauga Lake and several areas of Appalachian Trail are under water. The trail is temporarily rerouted on US 321 and Oliver Hollow Road. Signs are posted and route is blue blazed. If heading trail north on Shook Branch Road, cross US 321 and walk left or west along US 321 for about a quarter mile and then go right along Oliver Hollow Rd. Follow the road for a third of a mile and take the short woods path to the right to the A.T.
Wildflowers are popping out around the region. The picture was taken along the Fall Creek Trail in Warriors Path State Park in mid-April. The club would love to see photos of what you see in the region.
UPDATE: Laurel Fork Shelter continues to be temporarily closed because of the July 8th high wind storm. While the Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards (SAWS) removed the hazard tree in front of the shelter, there are two oak trees and a large locust tree still laying on roof. The major concern is a , which will require an expert sawyer from USFS to remove.
Closure signs have been posted at the shelter trail junctions. Please do not plan to visit or even stay in its vicinity until the storm damage has been safely cleared.
Leader: Mike Watts, 423-963-1593 Rating: Moderate per TEHCC, Moderate-to-strenuous per ATC for 4.6 m round trip, 1000’ elevation gain
This Saturday event is planned to participate in the ATC’s Family Hiking Day. Beauty Spot is a natural grassy bald (4,437’) with excellent views of the Roan and Black Mountains. The overlook was recently improved by the Cherokee National Forest Hotshots (June newsletter) who removed some of the trees which had grown up over the years. Let’s leave Colonial Heights, TN at 9am to meet at Indian Grave Gap around 10am. Bring plenty of water, comfortable footwear, appropriate clothing/sun protection, and lunch. The hike itself will take roughly three and half hours depending on how much lunch/sightseeing time is desired on the bald. For further information, check the trail wiki or call the hike leader.
For Second Class rank, a Boy Scout is to use a map and compass to take a five mile hike. Bays Mtn Park offers a good location as the topo map can also be oriented with the lake and surrounding ridges. The needed distance is readily covered by following Lake Road with a side diversion on the Chinquapin Trail. This hike is good for those who want to learn how to use a directional compass and interpret topological maps – and is open to club members or scouts from any troop. Departure time from Colonial Heights is 1:30PM from a different location of the Presbyterian Church or just meet at the park dam by 2PM. Entrance fee for Bays Mtn Park is $4 per car, although the Scout Expo coupon is still good until the end of August. Bring plenty of water, comfortable footwear, appropriate clothing/sun protection, and your own compass, if desired. The hike will take around three hours depending on how much instruction time along the way. We’ll also be on the lookout for signs of different animals and observing native plants, which are other rank requirements. For further information, please call/e-mail the hike leader.
Three reports have been recently received of bear activity along the TEHCC section. On June 13th, hikers were disturbed by a bear at Low Gap on Unaka Mountain who would not leave their campsite. Next day (June 14th), a juvenile bear was encountered around Cherry Gap Shelter, who again did not want to leave. The leader used bear spray in an attempt to negatively reinforce the bear, which returned that evening to take a pack. The pack did not contain food, which was properly hung. On June 15th, a third report was made for three miles south of the Mountaineer Falls Shelter. Along the trail it was apparent there was a lot of bear activity. Necessary precautions to limit risk of encountering a bear were taken including hanging bear bags 50 feet or more from the campsite.
ATC and USFS have been notified or provided information on all of these incidents. Warning signs were posted on Monday at trailheads and in the shelter at Cherry Gap. Camping at Low Gap or Cherry Gap Shelter is presently not recommended.
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s Biennial Conference is being co-hosted by Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC) and Mountain Club of Maryland (MCM). Sited at Shenandoah University located in Winchester, Virginia, which is near hundreds of miles of outstanding hiking trails, including a short 18 minute drive to the Appalachian Trail at its closest point. The University is also close to important civil war battlefields such as Manassas, Gettysburg and Antietam, and 90 minutes from Washington D.C.
Workshops will be held during the day on Saturday, July 18th through Monday, July 20th. Coordinated hikes will be offered between Saturday, July 18th through Thursday, July 23rd. In addition to amazing scenic areas, there will be nature, history, and photography theme hikes, plus sunset outings. Many of the hikes include a swim, and/or a stop at an ice cream shop, restaurant, winery, or brewery. Family hiking specialists have designed hikes suitable for most families that are five miles or less plus hikes suitable for most children eight years and older that are nine miles or less.