Current impact of COVID-19 on TEHCC and regional activities

Aligning with guidance from our partner organizations and employer, the following actions are being taken in response to the current situation for the coronavirus.  If the principles of social distancing are being properly employed, the risk of contracting COVID-19 is still considered to be low in our region. Tennessee and North Carolina plus the Appalachian Trail Conservancy has entered Phase 2 of their respective plans for reopening activity.

TEHCC Hiking Program

  • With Eastman Chemical starting to bring more employees back full-time on-site, the Steering Committee has decided to begin the 2020 hiking program in July.  Watch the Events calendar for outings and read the July newsletter for details.

Appalachian Trail

  • 6/16:  Within the next few weeks, Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) will likely recommend that thru and section hikers can resume their plans – while spreading out along the length of the trail as not all states have opened overnight camping.
  • Many shuttle services are still temporarily halting operation thus do not count on finding a ride to/from the trail.
  • As of 5/22, Cherokee (TN) and Pisgah (NC) National Forests reopened all A.T. trailheads including Hampton blue blaze and Dennis Cove accessing Laurel Fall, Osborne Farm/Cross Mountain, and Roan Mountain/Carvers Gap.
  • Pisgah NF has closed through July 8, 2020 or until rescinded A.T. shelters (Stan Murray and Overmountain link to order – latter was already closed due to structural damage). The use of trail shelters on the Tennessee sections of the Appalachian Trail is discouraged.
  • Pisgah (NC) and Cherokee (TN) National Forests are now allowing volunteers with restrictions under Phase 2 to complete maintenance and repair.  TEHCC has interpreted these conditions include limiting crew size to maximum four, only travel with immediate family, not sharing tools, wash hands or use sanitizer frequently especially before eating, and maintaining 6′ social distancing in the field.  Do no maintenance at the closed shelters and privy, including nearby trash pick-up. 
  • Because of the no carpooling, our regular Thursday maintenance crew and Third Saturday Hiking with Tools are still suspended through July.

Other Trails

  • Present understanding is that day hikers are allowed on area trails but keeping group size to a minimum with less carpooling.  Take hand sanitizer to use liberally.
    • Bays Mountain Park (Kingsport) is open.  Nature Center and some programming will resume in June 1 with limited capacity.  
    • Trails in Cherokee National Forest are open for use, but ranger stations are closed.
    • Trails in TN state parks are open for use, but some park facilities remain closed.
    • Virginia State Parks opened for day-use activities, including trails for hiking, biking and equestrian use. Campgrounds and restrooms opened Memorial Day weekend, but picnic shelters are staying closed. Bring cash for entrance fees which are being collected.
  • In all cases, maintain social distancing of at least six feet. If parking area is full, head somewhere else. There are much lesser used access points and trails in the region.

Rental Equipment

  • Eastman Recreation says club rental backpacking and camping equipment may now be checked out from Building 310. Their open hours have been reduced to 7:30am to 4pm weekdays.

Area Events

  • Hot Springs, NC Trailfest 2020 (formerly April 24-26) has been cancelled.
  • Erwin, TN Great Outdoors Festival (formerly May 2) has been cancelled.
  • Roan Mountain, TN Hiker Palooza (formerly May 8-10) has been postponed.
  • Damascus, VA Trail Days 2020 (formerly May 15-17) has been cancelled.
  • Roan Mountain Rhododendron Festival, normally third weekend in June, cancelled for 2020.
  • Tuesday Evenings: Johnson City Roll Practice are suspended as Freedom Hall Pool is closed.
  • Thursday Evenings: Kayak Sessions are not being held as Kingsport Aquatic Center is also closed until further notice.
  • USFS has reopened most river launch sites.  Outfitters are offering trips with limited number of same family in each raft.

Ted Malone – 25 Year/Silver Anniversary as a Trail Maintainer

Ted Malone is being honored for having been an Appalachian Trail maintainer for more than 25 years. He was the club’s Hiker of the Year in 1990, and with the Stan Murray awardee in 1993. A review of the club’s records shows that the AT maintenance hours and number of volunteers increased significantly in the mid 1990’s due to his leadership as maintenance recruiter. The records also show that he has over 1,100 hours as a volunteer on the AT. We will honor Ted with a plaque to celebrate his 25 years at the next dinner meeting.

Thank you donation for impressive trail maintenance!

TEHCC received a $250 gift in memory of Mary Ellen Abrecht and Sue King who were part of 15 friends that have slackpacked sections of the Appalachian Trail every May over the past 13 years. The group is mostly from the DC area with others coming in from California, Kentucky, and Minnesota. They stayed at a motel in Johnson City, while sampling as many local eateries at night. The crew jokingly call themselves the “2070 AT Hikers” since when they would finish at their current pace.

The donation was made in honor of two members sadly lost during the past year. Group was impressed by the five-star condition of the trail along the NC/TN border, so researched who was the local trail club – TEHCC. Thank you to the many volunteers who put in the hours to create an enjoyable experience for those who wander through our section.

Kim Peters – August 2018 ATC Volunteer of the Month

Kim Peters is the ATC’s Volunteer of the Month for August 2018!

Kim has been an active TEHCC member for more than 18 years, and over time, has taken on more responsibility by providing trail maintenance leadership. In 2010, she began serving as TEHCC Maintenance Coordinator engaging many different volunteers, from new members to retirees, in various maintenance activities. TEHCC typically has more than 13,000 hours invested in the Appalachian Trail each year, by roughly 450 different volunteers, across regular outings and special events. Therefore, the role of volunteer coordinator is critical to our club’s success

A search of club newsletters reveals that Kim started out hiking with TEHCC on April 1, 2000 with a trip to the Sand Cave/White Rocks in Ewing, VA. Since then, her retirement has enabled her to spend more time in the outdoors through both hikes (TEHCC Hiker of the Year in 2001 and 2007) and trail maintenance. Kim has hiked the Appalachian Trail from Springer Mountain to Harper’s Ferry. Over the years, she has logged personal maintenance time of nearly 5,000 hours over 600 events. Currently, Kim invests around 450 hours (~56 days!) each year; thus is the third most active TEHCC maintainer.

As Maintenance Coordinator, Kim recruits volunteers for our 36 trail sections and 15 shelters over 134 miles of the Appalachian Trail. She hosts a large winter meeting to kick off each new maintenance season with recognition, safety, and training. Inquiries from potential volunteers are matched with the weekly trail project crew, section groups, or a regular monthly outing. In 2012, Kim rebranded the third-Saturday events to “Hiking with Tools” to reach out to those who are new to maintenance, have a weekday job, or desire lighter tasks such as cleaning out waterbars, lopping rhododendron, breaking up fire rings, or painting blazes/shelters. This latter effort has been very successful in recruiting new maintainers of the Appalachian Trail.

The Tennessee Eastman Hiking & Canoeing Club sincerely thanks Kim for her service and leadership over the years. And congratulate her on being further recognized as ATC’s Volunteer of the Month for August 2018! Please contact Kim (atmaint@tehcc.org) if you’re interested in helping with the Appalachian Trail.

Invasive Species Removal – Devils Creek Gap, Saturday, April 28, 2018

Many plants imported to the US can outcompete native species and these plants are called invasive species. One invasive plant that is still being propagated in the US is the Autumn or Russian Olive. On April 28, TEHCC will be removing Autumn Olive as well as picking Garlic Mustard. Invasive species spread by a variety of methods. Garlic Mustard seeds attach themselves to clothes and animal fur, which are picked up in one place and dropped in another. Russian Olive was imported as a large shrub which can provide food and cover for birds. As birds travel the Atlantic flyway, they deposit seeds from Autumn Olive plants along the flyway corridor, which includes the Appalachian Trail.

We will be cutting Autumn Olive plants and painting their stems with herbicide to keep the plant from growing back from its roots. Last year, four folks removed 227 pounds of Garlic Mustard from Devils Creek Gap. If you are interested in this project, we’ll leave from the Colonial Heights gathering location at 8:30am to arrive at Devils Creek Gap by 9:30am. Current plans are to work until 1pm. In case of inclement weather, a back-up date of Friday, May 4th has been selected.

Across the southern AT clubs, there are only three Garlic Mustard Challenge days this year because two of the five sites have too little Garlic Mustard to pick. If you can come this year, maybe we won’t have to pick next year.

Roan Mountain Garlic Mustard Pull, Saturday, April 21, 2018

Roan Mtn State Park, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, ATC, TEHCC, and other groups are partnering to work this day. Meet at 8:30 am in Colonial Heights to arrive at Roan Mtn State Park main entrance by 10 am for briefing and to receive heavy duty trash bags. We’ll pull until early afternoon, and then drop off the collected plants back at the park before heading home. Last year 634 pounds of garlic mustard was pulled. Rain date is Wednesday, May 2.

Contact Greg Kramer if interested.

Bill Murdoch, TEHCC Maintainer of the Year 2017

Bill started trail maintenance by being a member of a maintenance team for Deep Gap to Iron Mountain Gap in 1980 and became team leader in 1984. He diligently section hiked the entire A.T., summiting Katahdin in September 2016, which developed a personal perspective on the trail needs. Amongst the maintainers, he is known as “MacGyver” because of his resourcefulness and rigging capabilities whether it be a tree, rock, or bridge beam we desire to move. When a rope puller is not functioning sufficiently, he takes it home, rigs up a dynamometer, tests different rope designs, and donates the proper rope. Or Bill finds scrapped grating that he purchases to make our bridges slip resistant. Or he recommends a fiddle block (pulley) and rope system that we use regularly to move rocks and logs. TEHCC is proud that Bill is our 2017 Maintainer of the Year.

Note: Bill was not at the Spring Dinner to receive his plaque. He is also a passionate sailor. Bill and his wife, Adair, are currently on their eleventh consecutive five-month sail in the Bahamas.

Dan Firth – Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s Volunteer of the Month

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.

3rd Saturday Maintenance – Hiking with Tools!

Contact: Kim Peters, atmaint@tehcc.org, 423-366-0128

Hiking with Tools! is an opportunity to enjoy a day hike on our beautiful section of the A.T. while helping out with some routine maintenance, such as breaking up fire rings, cleaning out waterbars and steps, lopping rhododendron, and painting blazes.  All tools will be furnished and no prior experience required! Last year we typically had four to five people on each trip – with eight new volunteers making a contribution.  Contact Kim for hike details, including meeting time and place.