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. However, further adjustments will be made as the club leadership learns more about the continuing impact.

  • 5/27: No hikes will be scheduled until Eastman Chemical starts the process of reintegrating employees working from home back into full-time presence on-site.  A recent announcement has been made that first business personnel will be allowed on-site starting June 10th; however, the Steering Committee will need to decide if conditions are right.  Present hope is that the 2020 hiking program can commence later this year.  Check the Events calendar for outings once this restriction has been lifted.
  • 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.
  • 5/7: Roan Mountain Rhododendron Festival, normally third weekend in June, cancelled for 2020.
  • Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) requested that thru and section hikers suspend their plans in case of exposure while on the trail.  Most shuttle services have temporarily halted operation thus do not count on finding a ride.
  • 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  • Pisgah NF has closed through August 13, 2020 or until rescinded the Roan Mountain area including A.T. shelters (Stan Murray and Overmountain – latter was already closed due to structural damage). The use of trail shelters on the Tennessee sections of the Appalachian Trail is discouraged.
  • Tennessee and Virginia have begun phased reopening.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • 5/30: Bays Mountain Park (Kingsport) is open for trail use.  Nature Center and some programming will resume Monday, June 1 with limited capacity.
    • Appalachian Trail Conservancy is still stating to stay off the A.T. The issue is avoiding congested parking areas such as Carvers Gap/Roan Mountain or Hampton blue blaze/Laurel Falls.  
    • Trails in Cherokee National Forest are open for use, but ranger stations are closed.
    • Trails in TN state parks are open for use (Rocky Fork reopened May 4th, Warriors Path now allows overnights) , but most park facilities remain closed. Some hosted events will restart in June.
    • Virginia State Parks opened for day-use activities on May 21, including trails for hiking, biking and equestrian use. Campgrounds and restrooms are opening for 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.
  • 2020 Konnarock Crew has been cancelled.  (June dates for TEHCC.)
  • Regular Thursday maintenance crew and Third Saturday Hiking with Tools have been suspended until guidance changes from the ATC.
  • 5/27:  Pisgah (NC) and Cherokee (TN) National Forests are now allowing volunteers with restrictions under Phase 1 to complete site assessments, trash pickup, and minor maintenance and repair.  These conditions include limiting group size to maximum three, only travel with immediate family, not sharing tools, and maintaining 6′ social distancing.  Do no maintenance at the closed shelters, including trash pick-up. 
  • Invasive Species event to Devils Creek Gap planned for April 25th was cancelled. We’ll lose ground on the treatment.
  • Roughly every two weeks, ATC is hosting a teleconference to update the clubs.
  • Spring Dinner meeting (was 4/17 then 5/8) has been cancelled. Awards and recognition will be presented to our Fall Dinner (details to be decided during the summer).
  • 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.

Reference Resources (links may not function from Eastman network)

ATC’s Guidance to Hikers

ATC’s Letter to Long-Distance Hikers 

ATC’s Current guidance to Volunteers 

ATC’s Notice on decisions related to Visitor Centers and Ridgerunners

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.