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 and wearing of face masks in public spaces are being properly followed along with avoiding hot spot areas, the risk of contracting COVID-19 is still considered to be moderately low in our region. Tennessee and North Carolina plus the Appalachian Trail Conservancy are in Phase 2 of their respective plans for reopening activity. Virginia has remains in Phase 3 plan with some restrictions.

TEHCC Fall Lunch

See the event notice about the club hosting a ribbon-cutting for the revitalized Forest Walk loop trail at Eastman Recreation park on Sunday, October 25th.

TEHCC Hiking Program

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

Appalachian Trail

  • Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) reminds users of the A.T. to remain safe with several recommendations found in this blog post.
  • Many shuttle services are still temporarily halting operation, while few have reopened.
  • 7/8: Cherokee NF notice: “The Appalachian Trail is open, however trail shelters and privies are temporarily shut down“.
  • 7/14: Pisgah NF has closed the A.T. shelters (Stan Murray and Overmountain) link to order – latter was already closed due to structural damage. While the order says through July 8, PNF still considers these facilities to be closed.
  • ATC advises: Overnight hikers should carry a personal shelter and camp at least 200 feet from any source of water and 100 feet from the trail. Also, bring a trowel to bury your fecal waste at least 70 adult paces from campsites and water sources.
  • 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, 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. 
  • Regular Thursday maintenance crew is operating but with just 8-10 crew members arranged by the A.T. Projects Coordinator.
  • Saturday Hiking with Tools will be held on the second Saturday in October to provide training for some new volunteers. Check the newsletter and club calendar for details.
  • Overall, the A.T. section managed by TEHCC is clear and open. Some pockets of heavy growth are still being pursued with the record-setting rainfall experience early in 2020.

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 resumed 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, restrooms, and picnic shelters are open. Face coverings are required in all park facilities. 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 be checked out from Building 310. Their open hours are 7:30am to 4pm weekdays. Good use has been reported, thus recommend making reservations at (423) 229-3771.

Area Events

  • 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.

Bluestone River Trip, June 1-3, 2018, 39th Year

Leader: Terry Dougherty, 423-502-5177

The annual Bluestone River Trip (39th Anniversary) is scheduled for June,1-3 2018.

We will stay at the beautiful Pipestem State Park (Mountain Creek Lodge). We have reserved a block of rooms, please call 800-CALL-WVA (ask for Pipestem State Park / Mountain Creek Lodge) and reserve your room for Friday and Saturday. To secure one of the clubs block rooms, reservations must be made by May 14 . Rooms are $ 112/night + taxes. We plan to paddle the scenic Bluestone River both Sat. and Sun. This is a Class III trip the first day and Class I the second day. You can skip the second day, if you like. Other options include family camping at the state park campground and/or driving up on Saturday morning. This is a GREAT trip with a lot of family fun, scenic river and very nice lodging. In addition to the paddling, Ed Montgomery will once again be in charge of HAPPY HOUR and libation coordination on Saturday night and is going to make this one special. Please contact the trip leader (Terry Dougherty, 423-502-5177) if you are planning to attend.

Bob Peoples to be inducted into Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame

TEHCC received notice that Bob Peoples will be inducted into the Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame on May 4, 2018. The museum’s website (link) cites his biography as…
After retiring from the U.S. Air Force in 1988, Bob Peoples decided to devote his life to hiking trails. He initially helped to maintain the Long Trail in Vermont, a portion of which is also the A.T. Then, in 1994, Bob and his late wife Pat purchased a cabin adjacent to the A.T. near Hampton, TN and founded the legendary Kincora Hostel. Thousands of A.T. section and thru-hikers have received Bob’s gracious hospitality there.
Each year, immediately after the Trail Days festival in Damascus, VA, Bob leads the Hard Core crew, comprised of the current year’s class of thru-hikers. For a couple of weeks, Bob and his crew take on the most difficult and challenging trail maintenance tasks on the A.T., before they resume their adventure on the trail. Bob is perhaps the A.T.’s greatest living ambassador, inspiring young people who have experienced the Trail to give back afterwards.

Watauga Lake Shelter still closed due to bear activity

March 2018:  The bear pole, picnic table, and the steps to the shelter platform have been removed from the shelter to discourage eating or staying at this site with it being under a bear closure.

October 2017:  The A.T. section between US321 (NB Mile 427) and Wilbur Dam Road (NB Mile 431.4), including Watauga Lake Shelter, is still closed to camping due to bear activity. A temporary campsite (no water) has been set up at coordinates N36.29847, W82.12701 (NB Mile 426.5) just outside the Pond Mountain Wilderness. Also nearby is Boots Off Hostel along Bear Branch Road on the south side of the closed section. Vandeventer Shelter is open to the north of the restricted section.

April 2016: Two nights of bear encounters have been recently reported at the Watauga Lake Shelter. The bears were seeking food, thus destroyed a pair of tents, able to shake a bag off the bear pole, and climbed trees for hanged bags.

The US Forest Service has reinstated a Closure Order similar to the previous one which now covers Oliver Hollow Rd./Hwy 321 to Wilbur Dam Rd. – approximately four miles of the Appalachian Trail along the west side of Watauga Lake. No picnicking, lingering, or overnight camping. Hiking, only, allowed on the named four mile Appalachian Trail section. BEARS ACTIVE IN THIS AREA. Help us protect you and the bears. Please hike through the area without stopping. Closure Order: April 15, 2016- Until Further notice.

For TEHCC members, the best recommendation is to avoid this “Oliver Hollow” area and enjoy another section of the Appalachian Trail. For thru-hikers, the word is being gotten out so that they can properly plan their distances. The temporary campsite located south of Hwy 321 above Shook Branch is available for use.