Saturday, September 12, 2015

Marcy Dam Trail Work 2015-09-12

On Saturday I volunteered for ADK 46er trail-work. I got a ride to Adirondack Loj with a MOAC group headed for Iroquois and Algonquin. We arrived at 9:20 AM which was late enough to require parking near South Meadows road. After establishing a rendezvous time of 7:00 PM with Badri, the organizer, I wished everyone a great hike and disappeared down the road.

Fifty minutes later, I emerged at Marcy Dam and began looking for tool-wielding 46ers. They had arrived well before me and were busy working on several projects. I learned Joe was a half-mile up the trail, somewhere near the Kagel lean-to. I recognized Mike milling around near the dam and introduced myself. He was waiting for Katey who would assign us our next task.

A few years ago, Marcy Brook washed away a section of the trail leading to Avalanche Pass. The trail was re-routed away from the brook. However, whenever the brook jumps its banks, at a sharp westward bend, water runs directly down the old trail and floods the new one. Katey showed us where to build a retaining wall in order to block the entrance of the old trail.

John, Mike, Bill, and Gary haul a large stone to form the base of the retaining wall.
The job required hauling stones from the nearby brook and stacking them to create a dam. The heaviest stones, weighing in at 200+ pounds, would form the base. We carried each stone in a nylon "diaper" suspended between two sturdy iron bars held by four people. The technique made us look like stretcher-bearers.

The stone heads for the unreinforced stream bank visible in the background.
Three rows, of the largest stones we could carry, formed the base of the retaining wall. The brook and the steep muddy bank made footing treacherous. The danger of twisting ankles or crushing toes was very evident. By task's end, we emerged with nothing worse than tired muscles and wet footwear. The same could not be said for the "diaper". It developed many small tears which eventually became one gaping hole that rendered it useless.

John tips the stone in place to form another row.
After completing the retaining wall, we proceeded to reinforce the earthen bank with stones to prevent the brook from undermining the wall. With the diaper out of commission, we hand-carried thirty-pounders and then lobbed 5-10 pounders across the brook. Given an ample supply of nearby rocks, we made good progress creating a stony shield. By mid-afternoon, our work was done and Joe complimented our handiwork. We estimated that we had moved close to 3 tons of rock to create our masterpiece.

Done! The stream bank is now reinforced to protect the retaining wall.
We gathered our tools and returned to store them at the DEC Interior Station at Marcy Dam. There we saw the results of another project, the construction of new "thunder-boxes". Built of recycled 2-inch thick planks, volunteer 46rs will carry these sturdy toilets to nearby lean-tos.

Autographed, limited-edition "thunder-box".
Upon departing Marcy Dam, the predicted rain arrived. It began as a light shower but we stayed dry walking under the forest canopy. Whereas we were lightly dressed, and outbound, the crowds of inbound backpackers seemed "post apocalyptic". Burdened by enormous packs and clad in full raingear, they appeared to be escaping from some devastated place. Unfortunately, they had it all backwards because the impending torrential downpour would soon make the backcountry a sodden mess.

We arrived at the parking lot shortly after 3:00 PM and said our good-byes in the intensifying rain. Joe handed out beverages and I took two bottles to tide me over the 3-4 hour wait for the arrival of the MOAC group. I joined the growing number of soggy hikers seeking refuge in the HPIC building. I chose a good people-watching vantage point, reached into my pack for a towel and dry shirt, and then settled in for the balance of the afternoon. Shortly thereafter the rain fell hard and fast.

There was an endless queue for the showers and bathrooms. The line up for the female john became so hopeless that several desperate women invaded the men's toilet. After the crowd thinned, I found an empty shower stall to change into dry pants. The last step was to buy a steaming cup of hot cocoa. Dry and warm, I could now comfortably sit and watch the droves of wet hikers seeking shelter from the downpour.

Mike reappeared and kept me company until 5:00 PM. A woman introduced herself as Celine and asked if I had finished a 46er round atop Dix and had handed out drinks to everyone. Indeed I had completed my first winter 46er round on Dix and I offered single-malt to willing celebrants. I met Celine and her father on Dix's summit and we had toasted to the occasion. She said her father was doing well and he had also finished his winter round. I extended my congratulations to him and to her young daughter who, despite the dreary weather, was ebullient.

Shortly after 6:00 PM, Gabriel appeared and indicated the balance of the group was not far behind. Over the course of the next hour, the group reassembled and was in good spirits. They had ascended the Boundary trail, skipped Iroquois and hiked over Algonquin when the rain caught up with them. The descent was slippery but everyone exited without incident. It was now after 7:00 PM, the rain had restarted and it was getting dark. Several hikers had commitments the following day so a group meal was nixed in favor of returning to Montreal ASAP. We said our goodbyes and settled in for the rainy ride home.


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