Crow’s Nest: Busman’s holiday
By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager.
In May our family camped in southwestern Virginia, went to Trail Days in Damascus, and volunteered for a couple days on the Appalachian Trail.
Yes, it rained six days out of seven, but it makes for some beautiful, lush landscapes. The plant communities there are familiar, but a little different, from home.
Trail Days is a celebration of the Appalachian Trail, timed so that through hikers who started at Springer Mountain are within reasonable distance of Damascus. We attended some lectures and presentations at Trail Days, including one on edible plants and another on salamanders. I hadn’t realized how much of a global hotspot of diversity that region is for salamander species.
We volunteered for Hard Corps, an opportunity for present and past AT hikers to give back to the trail. It was organized by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s Konnarock Trail Crew, the Appalachian Long Distance Hikers’ Association, and the Mt. Roger’s Trail Club, which maintains this section of trail through the Grayson Highlands. We moved rocks, added steps and gravel to make the trail more smooth and better drained, thereby encouraging hikers to stay on the trail to protect the fragile surrounding landscape. I was interested to see how the clubs organize the volunteers, brief them on the work, and look after us. We were in crews of 5 – 7 assigned to specific portions of the trail, the tools were delivered ahead of time (as it is, it’s a long walk up to the job site from Massey Gap), crew bosses go over potential hazards and ways to mitigate them, and volunteers must wear helmets, gloves, and safety glasses. Those doing rock work also wear shin guards. The organizers fed us dinner and gave us a place to camp in Grayson Highlands State Park. We had to quit a bit early on the second day due to thunderstorms, but overall it was a satisfying experience. Of course, it was also wonderful to get back to Crow’s Nest.