The Ice Storm of 1998
Diary of a Trail Maintainer

February 14,1998

Special Bulletin - The Appalachian Trail is Closed!

"Ask not what the Trail can do for you, but ask what you can do for the Trail!" Okay, John F. Kennedy I am not, but if ever there was a time that the Appalachian Trail needs your help, it is now. The Blue Ridge has gotten blasted with the winter ice and snow storms for the entire length of the Blue Ridge Parkway and Shenandoah National Park. To quote from a message published by the National Park Service "Some sections of Skyline Drive have 30 to 150 trees down per mile, and there are hundreds of snags and hazardous branches hanging from many of the remaining trees. Dozens of miles of trails, including the Appalachian Trail, are similarly covered with hundreds of downed trees. In some areas the Appalachian Trail is no longer visible."

In a second message issued from the Blue Ridge Parkway office, "The damage is comparable to that inflicted by Hurricane Hugo in 1989, but is far more widespread, affecting areas along nearly the entire length of the parkway." In NBATC's area, we think the Trail is impassable in all areas above 2,000 feet, or about 50 miles of our trail section. It took four of us over 4 hours to clear a mile and a half of trail on Saturday in the James River Face wilderness. And that was possible only by bypassing 6 large fallen trees that will be cut later with a crosscut saw. What's this got to do with me you might ask. Let me tell you. There are many ways you can help. They are enumerated below.

We will have work parties going out at least every Wednesday and Saturday until the Trail is reopened. If you can help on Saturdays or Wednesdays, call Sam Ripley or Neil Rider respectively. We need many helpers to work with the sawyers to throw limbs and logs off the Trail once they have been cut into pieces.
 
If you are a trail maintainer and have your own equipment, we would ask that you work with a crew. Some of the downfall is dangerously tensioned and we would prefer that people work in groups. Members are reminded that only persons holding a Forest Service chain saw permit can use chain saws on the Appalachian Trail.
 
Groups that hike on Monday, Thursday, Friday, and Sunday can assist by turning their hikes into work hikes. An amazing amount of work can be done with bowsaws and axes. Please consider changing your planned hikes into work hikes. If you are planning to do hikes above 2,000 feet elevation, call Sam for an update on conditions.
 
After every hike, work hike or pleasure hike, please make careful mental or written note of remaining downfall and telephone it into Sam so that we can send crews where they are most needed. With everyone's help we will get through this current crisis and have our 88 miles in tiptop shape by April 1st.
 

(Pictured: Sam Ripley, Joe Chavez, and Bob Kyle clear brush on the on the AT near Sunset Field. Photo by Sharon Ripley)

February 22, 1998 This is the first of weekly updates regarding NBATC's progress in clearing our 89 miles of the Appalachian Trail of ice storm damage. We have fielded about 10 work trips since the ice storm in early February. On Saturday, the 21st, we had an excellent turnout of 24 members. We split into 3 groups, one led by Sam, one by Leonard Johnson, and one led by Bill Foot & Robert Alcock (2 saws running continuously). We worked on the section between Floyd Mountain and Apple Orchard Falls Trail. On Sunday, the 22nd, Glennys turned her hike into a work hike and worked on Bald Knob. I want to sincerely thank everyone who has helped out so far. You have done a fantastic job. We are pleased to report no injuries so far. Let's keep it that way. To date, the sections that we have cleared and that are considered to be in good condition, from south to north, are:

Mills Gap Overlook to Jennings Creek

7.5 mi

Top of Floyd Mtn to Blackrock

1.5 mi

Petites Gap to Johns Hollow Shelter

12.6 mi

Punchbowl BRP Crossing to Tarjacket Ridge

20 mi

Cripple Creek to Tye River

1 mi

Total miles cleared = 42.6 Miles to go = 46.4 As you can see, we've made a good start but have a long way to go. Consider this your invitation to join us on Wednesday or Saturday. For Wednesday crew, call Neil Rider. For Saturday crew, call Sam Ripley. On Saturday, the 28th, we will carpool from Boonsboro Shopping Center at 8 am, from Forest Square Shopping Center at 8:20 am, and work from Mills Gap Overlook south to Black Horse Gap. We hope you can join us.March 1, 1998 This is the second of our weekly updates regarding NBATC's progress in clearing our 89 miles of the Appalachian Trail of ice storm damage. We have fielded over 20 work trips since the ice storm in early February. This week, we had crews on the Trail on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Bill & Laurie cleared Little Rocky Row and Big Rocky Row on Tuesday. Neil Rider's Wednesday Crew had a great turnout of 10 people and cleared from Bobbletts Gap Overlook to Harveys Knob Overlook.


(Pictured: Bill Foot & Robert Alcock clear downed trees near Floyd Field. Photo by Bill Cheatwood)

On Friday, Neil led another crew with 6 people and finished a section on Cove Mountain. On Saturday, the 28th, we had an excellent turnout of 27 members in five different crews. Sam Ripley and Norman Sykora's crews cleared from Black Horse Gap to one mile north of Harveys Knob Overlook. Leonard Johnson's crew cleared from Jennings Creek to Bryant Ridge Shelter. Bill Foot's crew cleared from Saddle Gap Trail to Bluff Mountain on the north side of the James River and Robb & Cindy Koether and family and friends cleared part of their section between Fish Hatchery Road and Cash Hollow Road. We also had a boy scout troop from Lewisburg, WV working on Bryant Ridge (without chain saws), plus John Doyle worked there on Sunday. A phenomenal amount of work was turned out this week. All of you trail workers should be extremely proud of yourselves and all the rest of the Club membership is proud of you too. You really make a difference!! I want to sincerely thank everyone who has helped out so far. You have done a fantastic job. We are pleased to report no injuries so far. Let's keep it that way. To date, the sections that are cleared and in good condition, from south to north, are:

Black Horse Gap to Bryant Ridge

19.6 mi

11/2 miles S of Cornelius Creek Shelter to Blackrock

2.3 mi

1 mile S of Parkers Gap Rd to Parkers Gap Rd

1.0 mi

Top of Thunder Ridge to North Fork Piney River

46.0 mi

Fish Hatchery Road to Cash Hollow Rock

1.6 mi

1 mi S of Cripple Creek to Tye River

2.3 mi


Side trails cleared and in good condition: Piney Ridge, Saddle Gap, Salt Log Gap

Total A.T. miles cleared = 72.8 A.T. Miles to go = 16.9 This is excellent progress. We've developed great momentum. Let's keep it up until the A.T. is all clear. We hope you'll join us this week to continue the work. For Wednesday crew, call Neil Rider. For Saturday crew on March 7, call Bill Foot as Sam and Sharon Ripley will not be available this Saturday. Wednesday Crew hopes to finish Bryant Ridge. On Saturday we'll try to open the section between Blackrock and Parkers Gap Road and work on Apple Orchard Mountain. On Saturday, March 7th, we will carpool from Boonsboro Shopping Center at 8 am and from Forest Square Shopping Center at 8:20 am. Others can meet us at the Peaks of Otter Ranger Station around 8:45 am. We hope you can join us. Please call and let us know if we can expect you.

March 8, 1998 This is the third of our weekly updates regarding NBATC's progress in clearing our 89 miles of the Appalachian Trail of ice storm damage. We have fielded 52 separate work trips or groups of people, with 85 different trail workers, totalling 1,621 hours since the ice storm in early February. This week, we had crews on the Trail on Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday. Bill & Laurie cleared one mile in the Thunder Ridge Wilderness on Apple Orchard Mountain on Tuesday. Neil Rider's Wednesday Crew had an ever larger turnout this week of 14 people and after 9.5 rugged hours they finished Bryant Ridge.


On Saturday, we had a turnout of 15 people. Bill's crew finished up the section between Blackrock and Parker Gap Road. George Fralin's crew cleared from the top of Apple Orchard to Parker Gap Road. At the same time, in a splendid performance, Pete Iossi, Walter Rawle, Jim, & Sandra Elder hiked up Thunder Ridge from Petites Gap carrying the crosscut saw and cleared from the top of Thunder Ridge to Thunder Ridge Overlook. This completes the Club's work in designated wilderness areas which was all cleared without power saws. This leaves only a 1.4 mile section between Thunder Ridge Shelter and Thunder Ridge Overlook yet to be cleared on the south side of the James River. Meanwhile, north of the James, Norman Sykora, single-handedly, with a bowsaw, cleared from Fish Hatchery Road to Seeley-Woodworth Shelter. Even though we have not yet seen it, we feel that the section between the North Fork of the Piney River and Seeley-Woodworth Shelter is not heavily damaged and is passable for hikers. After spending the night at Thunder Hill Shelter, on Sunday, Pete and Walter hiked in a driving rain back to their car at Petites Gap clearing more trees from the trail as they hiked. I want to sincerely thank everyone who has helped out so far. You have done a fantastic job. We are pleased to report no injuries so far. Let's keep it that way. To date, the sections that are cleared and in good condition, from south to north, are:

Black Horse Gap to Thunder Hill Shelter

27.3 mi

Thunder Ridge Overlook to North Fork Piney River

47.4 mi

Seeley-Woodworth Shelter to Cash Hollow Rock

3.9 mi

1 mi S of Cripple Creek to Tye River

2.3 mi

  • Side trails cleared and in good condition:Piney Ridge, Saddle Gap, Salt Log Gap, & all but 1/2 mile of the Sulphur Springs Trail (the section between the A.T. and the Forest Service Road) has been cleared.

Total A.T. miles cleared = 80.9 A.T. Miles to go = 8.8 Wow, only 8.8 miles to go! You guys have been great. Let's keep it up until the A.T. is all clear. We hope you'll join us this week to continue the work. For Wednesday crew on the 11th, call Neil Rider. For Saturday crew on March 14, call Sam Ripley. Weather permitting, Wednesday Crew will finish clearing the section on the south side of the James River. On Saturday we'll tackle the Priest and the section between Crabtree Meadows Road and Cash Hollow Road. On Saturday, March 14th, we will carpool from Boonsboro Shopping Center at 8 am and from Aunt Sarah's Pancake House in Madison Heights at 8:20 am. We hope you can join us. Please call and let us know if we can expect you. (Pictured: Members of the NBATCwork to reopen the trail. Photo by Sharon Ripley) March 15, 1998 Hurrah! NBATC's section of the A.T. is clear!! This is the fourth and last of our weekly updates regarding NBATC's progress in clearing our 89 miles of the Appalachian Trail of ice storm damage. According to the "official" records, we have fielded 69 separate work trips or groups of people, with 89 different trail workers, totaling 2,011 hours since the ice storm in early February. This week, we had crews on the Trail on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Bill & Laurie cleared the Hunting Creek Trail on Tuesday. Wednesday Crew spent a very cold morning clearing the 1.4 miles between Thunder Hill Shelter and Thunder Ridge Overlook. This completed the clearing of the Club's section south of the James River. On Friday, in an all day ordeal, the Alcocks, Foots, and Joe Chavez cleared from Salt Log Gap (north) to Seeley-Woodworth Shelter and walked on to Fish Hatchery Road. The chainsaw got pinched on a huge tree and bent the bar and broke the chain, so the remaining 2 miles was cleared with an axe.


(Before and after in one picture. Walter Rawle and Sam Ripley clear Fish Hatchery Road)

On Saturday, we had a turnout of 20 people. Robert's and Bill's crews cleared from Crabtree Meadows Road south to Fish Hatchery Road. One of the final trees of the day was 36 inches in diameter. Sam's and Leonard's crews put in a very long day and finished the northern end by clearing from Crabtree Meadows Road to the Tye River over The Priest. Sam's crew also started work on the upper end of the Crabtree Falls Trail. On Sunday, George Fralin and John Doyle cleared the Rocky Row Trail, and Sam's and Leonard's crews finished clearing the Crabtree Falls Trail. Thus, our 89.7 miles of A.T. has all been cleared of ice storm damage and it is in very good condition. Even the heavy deep snow has melted and there are only a few places where snow still covers the trail. Branches and limbs will still be falling down for quite a while though. If you see them during your casual hikes, please take a minute to remove what you can and report the rest to Sam. Club members are reminded that the work is not totally finished, however. There are many miles of connecting blue-blazed trails that we will be working on. Saturday Crew will take a break the weekend of March 21, but will resume on the 28th. If you are new to maintenance, continue the fine tradition and join us. Call Sam for meeting place and time. Wednesday Crew will continue going out every week to work on side trails and to perform other trail maintenance - like repairing a huge root ball hole near Bryant Ridge Shelter, replacing a handrail on the Matts Creek Bridge, and fixing up the privy at Bobbletts Gap Shelter. So, if you have enjoyed working with the Wednesday Crew, don't despair, we still have a lot of work to do. If you can join us on any Wednesday, call Neil Rider. I want to sincerely thank everyone who has helped out on this Herculean effort. Without the excellent response from so many of our club members, this would not have been possible. All those of you who helped out will be receiving a second message inviting you to a big pizza party to be hosted by the Club. It's a small token of our appreciation and we hope you'll be able to join us. As of today, our 89.7 miles of Appalachian Trail between Black Horse Gap and the Tye River has been cleared and is in good condition. Side trails cleared and in good condition: Piney Ridge, Saddle Gap, Salt Log Gap, Hunting Creek, Rocky Row Trail, Crabtree Falls Trail, & all but 1/2 mile of the Sulphur Springs Trail (the section between the A.T. and the Forest Service Road) has been cleared. Thanks for all your efforts. Bill Foot, President, NBATC