Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Repairs to Cooper Brook Bridge

June 10 and 13, 2017

This lengthy bridge spans an old beaver meadow, now just a stream surrounded by an occasionally wet field.  Last year, one of the old telephone poles serving as stringers for this bridge gave way and was temporarily shored up over the winter.

Last Saturday a team of six volunteers transported about 2000lbs of materials from the road down to the work site--including a 16ft long telephone pole estimated to weigh around 600lbs.  Beartown State Forest donated the used pole for this project.
Wheels make all the difference

Using a trail cart, we were able to move the pole with three people, except where we had to lift the cart (and the pole) over the rocky stream between the road and Cooper Brook.

Lunch Break
In addition to the pole, day one of the project was also spent transporting material for 92 new planks to replace about 75% of the existing planks on the bridge.  We got started on the far end with plank replacement before wrapping up for the day.

On Day two, we stripped all the planks off of the broken stringer and removed it from the cribbing that supports the bridge.  Clearly, time had come for replacement, as the thing pretty much crumbled as we pried it off of its supports.
Prying off the south end
The north end was easy

Carefully moving the new pole into place
We then carefully moved the new pole into position, moving it a foot at a time, using the adjacent stringer for support.  We were then able to roll it into position, and secure it to the cribbing at each end.

A little work with a draw knife to smooth the transition between new and existing stringers, and we were ready to install planks on the new section.  Meanwhile, along the remainder of the bridge, we also pulled up older, failing planks and replaced them with new ones.
Plank replacement

The entire bridge uses 6 stringers like the one we replaced, two of them over 20ft long.  While at the time the bridge was originally installed the area supported an active beaver population, at present the area is reverting to meadow and we may want to consider an alternative way to cross the stream, rather than needing to maintain and repair such a large structure.  Some ideas include just creating a span across the main stream and step stones or bog bridges over the marshy areas, using the old beaver dam as a walkway (a long-established method in Vermont and Maine), or using large step stones to create a permanent route across the entire area.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Upper Goose Pond Cabin Opening Day

You just know that the hiking season is upon us when the cabin is open, so welcome to another hiking season! 
Yesterday our crew of 8 (later joined by Joanne for a total of 9) headed up the hill shortly after 9AM to open the cabin for the season. At the blue blaze trail, Russ headed east to the AT to post the cabin open sign while the rest of us continued to the cabin.   Due to the pending rain and the fact that a couple of our crew had to leave early, we tackled the dock first. With the pieces afloat we left Cosmo and Juliana to finish up the bolting together process while the rest of the crew went back up the hill to the cabin. 

  Joanne and Bonnie tackled the kitchen; Jim, Russ, Hank and Dave tackled the shutters; Juliana and Cosmo paddled over to the Leisure Lee dock to pickup the goods Joanne had left there and Pete got the wash table and personal wash stations setup.   There after every one took a chore or 2 from the list and by shortly before noon the list of items yet to be done was getting pretty slim, so a lunch break was declared.  Here's a couple photos of the mornings activities:

After finishing up the few remaining items, Dave, Russ and Hank headed downhill while Pete got a fire going in the fireplace (the rain had not started yet but it was chilly).  Shortly Bonnie and then Julianna also left as the list was pretty much done. Juliana met Mike and Penny headed up the hill with quite a load.  Rumor has it Julianna gave them a hand bringing a load up to the cabin. 

Cosmo and Jim made an attempt to install the new sign frame at the channel entrance, but we will have to come up with another plan as the digging was just impossible.

Lastly, here's a shot of Pete touching up the AT logo on our new canoe earlier in the week on a beautiful spring day.
So, cabin's open folks let the fun begin!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

About time for a new post I'd say, overtime.  Will try to be better at this in 2017.  In any event our 2017 Project season is well underway with trail clearing and natural heritage projects already completed.  But not to worry, there are many more opportunities going forward.  Just check in at: and then click the 2017 Schedule link to see what we're up to.

Well yesterday was a great day to get out in the woods.  The touch of snow on Greylock didn't make us hesitate one bit as we drove up to the Jones Nose parking area on the south side of the mountain.  With some doubts we decided to chance it and Cosmo drove his Tacoma down Old Adams Rd to the bridge (no problem as it turned out) making for a much shorter carry up to the Noepel shelter.

Once there, Pete and Cosmo unhinged the old beat up door on the privy and started fashioning a new one.  Mike and I went to work unloading the resting side of the privy, distributing 13 buckets full of decomposed material to the forest floor and bagging a considerable quantity of non-degradables.  Once again, baby wipes took the prize for most commonly disposed of non-degradable.  It really would be nice of folks would either bag em and take them out or switch to good old TP!

Hey, how about some pics!  OK, here's what happens when we don't regularly knock the cone down:
We also noted that some folks have been filling the duff bucket with leaves, not duff (read the instructions folks!).  This made the pile very clumpy and will necessitate more frequent mixing to ensure the pile decomposes properly over the next couple of years.  OK, probably more than you even wanted to know about privies.  Here's a shot of our crew positioning the privy over the newly emptied pit.
While at the site we also posted a caution sign at the water source advising hikers to treat their water and scouted for opportunities to expand the tenting areas.  With the privy all set, I headed back down the hill to scout a washed out area about a mile south of Old Adams Rd.  Here's what it looks like:
And, lastly, here's the brand new privy door about done and ready for customers.
Looks pretty good, don't you think!  So till next time have a great time out there, leave no trace and join us on a project of your choosing.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Hubbard Brook Boardwalk Repairs

Just when you think this will be the year we don't have to patch up the Hubbard Brook Boardwalk the maintainer reports that once again there's trouble down by the brook.  As you can see in the photo below the boardwalk section spanning the small creek that has developed over the last years collapsed on the southern end.
The auger anchors just don't provide enough lateral support and with the continued expansion of the brook and lack of vegetation under the boardwalk, well let's just say the inevitable happened!
So, what to do.  A variation of our usual plan was developed that involved putting timber cribs under the boardwalk where sections meet.  The variation involved moving the heavier undamaged section over the creek to the north side of the creek removing the damaged section which had become heavily wracked when the supports failed.  Here, you see Jon removing the last of the joists from the damaged section.
Removal of this section revealed the need for a crib support under the trail north end of this boardwalk segment so before calling it a day we made one up and positioned it in it's new home under the segment end.  Here's how things looked at end of day.

The fun on day 2 started in the parking lot.  A good sized snapper was headed down the road towards the center of South Egermont and another was in the field next to the parking area readying a nest for her eggs.

The first order of business on day 2 was to remove the deck from the span across the creek, disconnect it from the adjacent section and drag it across the stream.  It took our full crew of 8 to make the move, so no picture (sorry).  In any event, it was soon a done deal and assembly of the new crib at the shore of the creek was soon done and the moved segment put on it's new cribs north of the creek with timberloks fastening the boardwalk segments together. 
Next came another variation on our prior repair methods; on the first day we had assembled a box frame 2' wide and long enough to span the creek.  This structure was moved from it's storage location on the boardwalk south of the creek over the creek resting on top of the north and south side segments; a bridge of sorts if you will.

Likely you have also noticed that the deck boards are spaced ~1 1/2" apart, another departure from our prior practice.  Our hope is that this will provide sufficient sunlight to permit vegetation to grow beneath the boardwalk and provide some stability to the whole structure. 

With the boardwalk back in working order we repaired to the South Egremont Store for refreshments before returning to the parking area to load up the truck with all our tools and materials. 

Over the course of this project we explored other hopefully more robust solutions to the ongoing problems we've had with this boardwalk.  Jon suggested an approach he use on Diane's Trail in Monterrey involving pipes driven into the ground.  We plan to give it a test later this year, so watch for the project listing if you'd like to join in the fun.

Oh, almost forgot, the snapper.  Had finished her business by the time we returned to the parking area having deposited her eggs in a nicely concealed "nest".

Monday, May 16, 2016

Shays Rebellion Monument Restoration and Arbor Day Tree Planting

Shays' Rebellion Monument 

The Shays’ Monument was increasingly listing to the south and many AT and local folks were interested to see it properly straight with a good foundation. The Sheffield Tree Project had long been interested in planting some trees in the same area on Arbor Day.  So a combined project was planned over 2 years to both straighten the monument and plant some trees. Adam Brown of ATC and Tom Ingersoll local landscaper, AT friend and member of the Sheffield Tree Project co-led the tree job and Adam and Steve Smith co-led the monument straightening.

Because the monument is on National Park Service Appalachian Trail lands, there were extensive planning and permitting tasks to complete.  The monument indicates the site of the last battle of Shays' Rebellion, and thus required some attention from the Park Service Archeological Office before it could be moved or the surrounding area excavated.  Additionally, it was important to ascertain that the work would not disturb any rare plants or habitat prior to beginning work.

Day One, April 27

  Starting at 7:30 AM, David Lanoue, a contractor funded by an anonymous local donor, and Jeff Collingwood, a volunteer Civil Engineer, were busy with their crew laying out the steps to success.  First, a “cradle” had to be created behind the current location of the monument to safely hold it while the foundation was being prepared.  An excavator driven by Kyle Wilkinson was used to dig the hole, place crushed rock as a bed, and then lift a large concrete manhole section into place. 

  Then the crane was moved into position and the monument was lifted carefully into its new home, guided by Terry and Kyle Lamphere, stonemasons.  Their skills were such that the giant stone was removed, stored and re-installed without a scratch.

After cement was poured and troweled, the monument was in place and all was ready for next steps.  Backfill soil was piled on tarps and saved aside waiting for archeological evaluation.


Day 2 and Day 3--

NPS Archeologist Joel Dukes and Steve Smith begin the metal detecting of the soil for backfill plus digging test holes where trees were to be planted.  More extensive metal detecting, eventually covering 20 acres over 3 days, yielded two bullets, a button and a buckle potentially stemming from the original 1787 battle.

Hannah Chamberlain, and Jim Pelletier to continue hand moving dirt and landscaping the monument.   Joel concludes the archeological search and testing.  At the end of Day Three, all is in readiness for the Arbor Day Tree Planting.

Day 4--Arbor Day

 Setting up food for folks was done early by Sheffield Land Trust volunteers. 

 Tom Ingersoll and crew, which included Whalen Nursery, used a tractor to assist with the planting of 30’ high trees.  White Oak, American elm, Sycamore, and Red Maple were among the 6 trees planted.  Three were placed around the monument, three near the kiosk and trailhead parking area.
 Tom also offered an impromptu seminar to folks about the art and science of proper tree planting and care of transplanted trees.

  Caleb Turner, arborist, restored an old apple tree near the parking area.   

At 11:00am, Tom Ingersoll led a dedication ceremony.  An Arbor Day Proclamation was read, the Shays’ Rebellion history was recited, and short speeches were given by the partners: Tom for the Sheffield Tree Project, Joel for the National Park Service, Adam for the ATC, Steve for the AMC and lastly a director of the Sheffield Land Trust spoke. 

When these trees mature in the next 10 years or so, this area will provide a bit of welcome shade to hikers crossing the 5 miles of the Housatonic valley--reputed to have the worst mosquitoes on the entire A.T.

Photos and text for this post were provided by Steve Smith, Cultural Resources Coordinator for the Mass AT Committee.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Upper Goose Pond Cabin Gets a New Porch Deck

Well, it's been awhile, but winter's over (what we had of it) and spring is in full bloom!  Time to get back to some fun in the woods on the Mass sections of the AT.  If you've been to Upper Goose Pond cabin in the last couple of years you may have noticed that the porch decking was none to healthy in spots.  So while last year's big project was up above ( a new roof for the cabin), this year it was time to pay attention to the deck. 

Over the last few weeks, Pete procured the materials and applied stain to them in his driveway in preparation for this weeks series of days to actually do the work.  On Tuesday, we lashed our canoes together to make our catamaran barge and loaded the new decking and materials for the cabin opening into the barge at Leisure Lees dock.  With a fair wind it was an easy trip back to Upper Goose Pond (sorry no photos of this we were to busy enjoying the scenery and the beautiful day) where we unloaded the wood, propane cylinders, bags of sawdust for privy duff, etc.  While Pete, Jim N, Jim P and Joann were loading and transporting the materials, Cosmo was starting removal of the old decking.  Our new battery powered circular saw sure did help with this chore.  After lunch with all hands at it the old deck was soon history as shown below.

The rest of the day was spent prepping the joists for the new deck boards, lugging the new boards up from the beach on the pond, clearing away the big pile of pieces of old decking and carefully fitting the first board.  It was critical to get this board right or suffer the consequences of misaligned boards as the decking progressed.  Here's a picture of Pete fitting the first board.

By the end of the first day we had ~1/4 of the new boards down and things were looking pretty good.

Wednesday, Jim arrived a bit early and went to work on crafting sisters for the joist ends at the center beam of the porch.  Five of the six needed sistering as the old joist ends were either rotted or not well supported on the center beam.  Our crew of Pete and Deena installing new deck planks were joined by a new volunteer, Tim, who came in from Boston and helped with cutting and fitting the planks speeding up the process.  Below is a shot of the crew about mid afternoon showing great progress.

By end of day 2 we had progressed with the new decking all the way across the doorway.

Thursday, Jim was again at it early, meeting a north bound thru hiker who had just left the cabin after spending the night on the partially completed new porch deck!  This time the attention was to the north end of the joists and the 2 X 10 pressure treated frame.  The frame was leaning out on top by a substantial amount and the gap between the new pressure treated frame and the original framing was filled with mouse treasures, mostly acorns.  All was resolved by fishing the debris out with a paint stick and a hack saw blade, addition of some blocking and sistering 5 of the beam ends.  Lastly, timberloks were screwed into the upper part of the canted frame bringing it back to near vertical position and tightly up to the old framing.  While this was going on, Dan and Deena were quickly nailing down the new boards and it wasn't long before the new deck boards were reaching the end.

A quick count of our remaining supply of boards confirmed we had enough to reach the end and our measurements confirmed that the last board would be less than 1/4" out of parallel with the edge of the deck frame.  Pete meanwhile was busy putting the trim boards back around the posts. 

After some fiddling, fitting and cutting the last board was nailed home!

After finishing up the odds and ends including trimming the board ends, staining the raw ends, sweeping, picking up our tools, etc. it was time for a picture of the satisfied crew on the newly finished deck!

A great job well done that will last many years!  Great bunch of volunteers and good fun was had by all.   Thanks to all who pitched in.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

A New Roof for Upper Goose Pond Cabin

It took a while, but it's finally done (almost)

In May this year, we started a project to replace the aging roof on Upper Goose Pond Cabin (UGPC).

Somewhat naively, we figured it would take maybe 5-6 days to get this done, but as these things sometimes go, it took about twice that.   Here's what we did.

Scaffold assembly
   In May we set up a scaffold on the north side of the cabin.  This would allow easy access to the roof, and help to catch anyone who happened to slide off.
Scaffold complete on the first side
Once we had the scaffold in place, we started to strip off the old roof--well, make that roofs.  The Onduline, probably installed in the 1980's, came off fairly easily in big pieces.  Well rotted, it was no problem to tear it off and send it to the ground.

Under that, we found not one, but two layers of asphalt shingles, that also had to be stripped off.  We had two special shovels with teeth on the front, designed to rip up shingles and pull the nails.  The trick was not falling off the roof while using them.
Roof brackets provide a work platform to strip
the old roofing
 One of our volunteers, Hank, donated some roof brackets so we could fashion a small working platform that could be nailed to the roof, providing a more or less stable place to work from.
First side in process

Eventually we were able to get a pretty clean surface down to the original cabin roof boards.

Of course, we needed to be ready for rain with half of the roof stripped off the cabin, so at the end of every day we covered the roof with a giant tarp, which mostly worked.
A tarp to keep out the rain

On the two project days when it did rain, we did clean up duty on the mountain of old shingles at the bottom of the scaffold, bagging them and dragging them down the hill to a holding area near the beach.
Rainy day clean up
 Late this year, we'll ferry them via boat to the dock, then transport them to a disposal facility.  The entire roof took more than 50 contractor bags.

An unexpected side effect of the work was a veritable rain of grit and dust from the old shingles sifting its way through the roof boards an onto everything in the bunk room.

Eventually, we stapled plastic sheeting to the underside of the rafters, which kept most of the crud contained.

Once the roof boards were completely cleared, we found several that were rotting, mostly around the chimney, where the roof had been leaking for years.
Patching the old roof

New boards were cut to size and nailed in place creating a sound surface for the next steps.

A new layer of roll roofing was laid down over the clean boards.   Once in place, the backing was peeled off and the large pieces were stuck down to the roof.  This roll roofing will seal around nails or screws used to fasten down the finished roofing material, providing an extra layer of water protection.  We discovered that the roof boards had to be scrupulously clean to allow the roll roofing to adhere.

Finally, it was time to put the new metal roof pieces on the roof.  Having been ferried in by canoe the previous fall, and stored in the boat shed,
Metal roof ready to go
we carried them up the hill, and laid them out against the scaffold where they were lifted into place and screwed down.

Precision work
A little bit of trimming was required to fit around the chimney, but the pieces went in fairly quickly.
Now all we had to do was take down the scaffold and reassemble it on the south side of the cabin, and do it all over again.  Since we used all of our planned project days in late May and early June on just the one side, we took a hiatus until the bulk of the hiker traffic wound down in late August, and to complete the rest of the trail projects scheduled for the season.  Even then, there were days when keeping hikers out from underfoot became an ongoing problem.  
The second half of the roof went a bit faster, as we had figured out most of the problems on the first side.  Fairly quickly we had new roofing on the north side, and all that remained was to cover the gap between the field stone chimney and the new metal roofing.

To facilitate this work, we constructed a work platform that straddled the peak of the roof and hung down on both sides of the chimney.  
Chimney work platforms and ladder
We found it a little small, and too close to the chimney to allow room to work, so we built a 2nd, larger platform in the same manner.   We also attached a wooden stop to the top of a ladder which hooked over the peak of the roof as well, so we could climb up the slippery metal roof and access our work area.

Lead flashing was chosen for its ability to be easily molded to the rounded fieldstones of the chimney and the ridges of the metal roofing.  Cut in to smaller pieces and bedded down in roofing cement (fondly referred to as "bear shit"), the lead was easily contoured and went in fairly easily.
Lead flashing in place and painted.  Also a strap used
to secure workers while they are on the platform
Painted a matching red, it blends in nicely.  The last step was to chip out bits of loose mortar between the fieldstones, and trowel in new mortar to reduce water infiltration.

It took 12 days, twice as long as we expected, to complete this project.  Over 250 volunteer hours were spent, assisted by about 40 more hours from DCR and ATC staff on various work days--and we still have a solid day of waste disposal ahead of us.  We do have a roof that we expect to last many decades, and be resistant to the normal barrage of small limbs that inevitably land on any roof in the woods.  Plus it looks great!

UPDATE, October 17:  As we start to close the cabin for the season, volunteers removed almost two tons of old roofing material via motor boat and trucked it to the disposal facility.  All that remains are the sheets of old Onduline which will go out next spring.  Our roof got a good testing in the heavy rains we've had recently--no leaks so far.  We'll see what the winter snow and ice brings...