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November 2020

Finally, the heat broke and we are now enjoying some cooler weather.  I expect many club members will be hiking and camping now that temperatures are more accommodating.

Recently, I met one of my backpacking buddies in the Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois.  Typically we do a “big deal” hike in a western National Park, but we didn’t want to fly and Shawnee was a mid-way point for us.  He lives in Madison Wisconsin.

While not very hilly, a major elevation change could be 200 feet, there are some views.  The forest is bordered by the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.  What really made the place interesting is that 350 million years ago it was the bottom of a lake.  We are accustomed to seeing rock formed by glaciers and wind, here it was formed by water currents.  Most of the lines are horizontal and the rocks are rounded.  One particularly cool place had the tread (about three feet wide) passing between thirty foot high rocks.

Volunteer Service Agreement

Normally, this barely is worth a mention, and this may be resolved by publication.  We have a Volunteer Service Agreement (VSA) with the Chattahoochee National Forest (C-ONF) which authorizes us to do the work we do on the trail.

Just over five years ago, our Trail Ambassador program started with a separate VSA.  At the time it was decided to wait until later to combine it with the club’s VSA (which expires mid 2022).

At this point C-ONF wants to add two “sticky” points: They want all volunteers to check in and out of the forest by sending a text or email to a contact in each district.  They also want all volunteers to have first aid certification. 

I am hoping to present a Responsible Party Protocol whereby a volunteer would let someone (spouse) know where they were going and when they would be back.  This would apply for trail workers and Trail Ambassadors.  It would also direct who to call.

Thru-Hikers

It is anticipated next spring we will see banner numbers of thru-hikers and spring breakers on our trail, assuming things are not shut down.  The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) conducted a survey of hikers this year and of those who left the trail almost half said they would retry in 2021.  Many of these will start where they left off, probably north of Georgia.

We could see well over 4,000 hikers this spring, with many starting over, weekenders and spring breakers.  Of course the unemployment situation could also add many hikers.  Fortunately, most of the trail is in good condition and ready for the traffic.

We have not been allowed to service structures, principally shelters and privies.  There are a few privies in need of switching now, causing a significant impact in the area.  The upside of being closed and lower traffic many non-compliant camping sites have grown over and do not look inviting.

Appalachian Trail Tag Grants

At the annual meeting it was announced that all Appalachian Trail Tag Grant applications were approved.  This year there was approximately $53,000.00 in applications with $70,000.00 available.  Due to the COVID situation many of our ongoing projects were put on hold to next year. 

The North Georgia Mountain Authority is submitting a $3M grant application to the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Program for a new visitor center at Amicalola Falls State Park.  One of the Tag Grants was for $10,000.00 is in support of their application.  We should know if this is approved by the end of the year.

Trail Skills Workshop

Recently the first program in this year’s virtual Trail Skills Workshop was held.  Jeff Marion presented his research on trail and campsite design.  This explored the factors affecting sustainable site locations and management.

Morgan Sommerville will discuss Trail Construction and Maintenance on October 10.  Our Sawyer Coordinator, Mike Cordisco, will be covering Crosscut Sawyering on October 17.  This is a great introduction to sawyering where even experienced sawyers will learn something. (Editor Note: Recordings of these sesssions are avaialble to the public and posted at https://georgia-atclub.org/who-we-are/trail-maintenance)

Wolf Pups Born on Isle Royale

Some months ago I wrote about how wolves were being reintroduced on Isle Royale in Lake Superior.  The issue, then, was whether this was in contradiction to the Wilderness Act.  Between September 2018 and September 2019 19 wolfs were relocated to the archipelago.  Their movements were tracked by Global Positioning Satellites (GPS) and by April 2020 it was estimated that 14 wolves were present.  Based on scat analysis, it is believed one female gave birth to at least two pups in 2019.