Saturday, May 12, 2018

New Dock at Upper Goose Pond Cabin--May 2018

For about 8 years, we've been making use of an old floating (mostly) dock from an expired inholding adjacent to the Upper Goose Pond Cabin.

Former dock at winter low water level
The old dock was waterlogged, heavy, and difficult to get out of the water for the winter (and equally hard to reinstall in the summer).

This spring, the time had come to remove this failing structure--but first (being in Massachusetts) we had to get a license for a new one.  This took a couple of months, two meetings and a $95 fee.

Removing old dock parts
The project starts with hauling away the pieces of the old dock--being mostly pressure treated lumber, we could not burn it on site.

On the return trip, we brought in the pre-assembled pieces of the new dock.
Returning with new, cedar platforms
For both trips, we lashed both canoes together to create a stable "barge" capable of carrying a surprising amount of weight.

A trip to the transfer station ends Day #1
The old dock parts went to a transfer station for disposal.  Just a bit over 1000 lbs!

The next week's project was assembly of the parts and installing them in the pond.  Unlike the previous dock, this one will be supported on stilts resting on the bottom of the pond.  

Brackets are installed while the platforms are upside down on the shore.
Rather than trying to assemble the whole thing while standing in 50 degree water, we bolted the brackets provided by the manufacturer onto each segment, then carried it out and adjusted it for level.

Each platform is carried out, placed and bolted to the adjacent piece

Some adjustments are made to make the dock level

At the deep end, rocks needed to be moved to place one of the feet. Water is about 4ft deep.
Soon, the main part of the dock was in place, now time for the platform at the end.  Same procedure, but the water was a bit deeper.  At one point, we sent a "diver" down to move some rocks out of the way.

After placing the final platform, a little more fiddling wth the brackets and legs, brought things to their final position.  It's expected that over time and use, the legs will settle a bit more.  At that point, we'll re-level the pieces and then cut the extra pipe to a uniform length above the platforms.
Final platform is installed.

Adjustments are made

Dock is complete and ready for use--or...

....for hanging around and enjoying the pond

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

An Adopter's Lament

Stopping by Shelter on a Snowy Morning                          
(with apologies to Mr. Frost)

Whose woods these are I think I know.
For travelers hiking through the snow,
On journeys long and short they walk
Maintaining paces fast or slow.

I see the shelter through the trees,
Red roof through forest beckons me
To stop and rest, put down my load,
And perhaps enjoy a reverie.

Approaching closer I see trash.
The stumps of trees so crudely bashed
Cut down to feed the fire pit.
A resource swiftly turned to ash.

In the shelter ruination.
I crave power to rudely sanction
Those who will always carry in,
But choose to decline extraction.

Bear box is approached with caution,
Skipping this is not an option.
Unlatched lid reveals the contents
And another need for action.

I load my pack, the fit is tight,
Fumes of fermented hops and rice.
It’s factory made and cheaply priced:
Why is it always Bud Lite?



Sunday, April 8, 2018

Heads Up

April 2018

Why are these men standing around in the woods on a snowy afternoon? 

Adam Brown (right) enters data
on a tree at Tom Leonard shelter
We'll need to go back to March 2015, when in Maryland, an AT hiker was tragically killed by a falling tree at an AT overnight site.  That you may not have ever heard of this event is an indication of how rare this sort of thing is.  However, our forests are changing; climate and invasive species are putting new stresses on trees.  Increased numbers of Trail visitors are putting more people in the woods.  ATC, local AT Clubs, and land managers (such as Mass DCR and the NPS) need to know both the overall magnitude of the issue, and develop ways to address areas where visitors may be at unusual risk.
We recreate (and work) in the woods without much undue thought about the potential risks present in that environment.  I think we are all aware of things like slippery rocks and roots, steep slopes and the heat and cold of our Berkshire climate.  We are also aware of risks from living organisms (plants, insects, and the occasional mammal)--now we have to worry about trees falling on us?  Don't we go to the woods to get away from the worries and concerns of so-called "normal" life?   

As you probably surmise, these risks, while not zero, are relatively minor, as most people who venture onto the Trail do return in good health, 'tho there are a small percentage of strains, sprains and bites, and very occasionally a more serious injury that requires medical attention.

So what's with the trees?  

Trees are living things, and are not a uniform crop.  They are young, old, healthy, ill and even dead and still standing.  Their lifespan and health varies, and is affected by climate, weather, location and attacks from natural (fungus, insects, animals) and human (careless or clueless) activity.   If you want to think long term (and indulge in a little paranoia), every tree near you in the forest is a hazard tree--eventually.

Fortunately, tree time is very slow, and barring an extreme event such as intense storms, or prolonged drought or fire, nearly all trees will continue to stand for decades or centuries.  But in a large population, there are always trees that are reaching the end of their lifespan or have suffered some localized damage that is causing an early demise (especially if presented with new stressors like an invasive insect or fungus for which they have no natural defenses).  One of our jobs as Trail stewards is to attempt to anticipate which trees are likely to present an unusual risk to Trail visitors.

Where is it dangerous?

When you are hiking, you are a moving target, the odds of being exactly where a tree (or large piece of a tree) is going to hit the ground at a particular instant are astronomically small.   However, when you aren't hiking (eating lunch, admiring a view or sleeping) your chances do increase.   So our main concerns are at places of congregation, that is to say, parking areas/trail heads, viewpoints, and overnight sites.   At these sites, we look at likely "targets" where hikers are stationary for a period of time or some property is at risk: shelters, privys, established tent sites and tent platforms.  Your car.

There will always be the chance that we missed a tree during a survey, or a tree that appears perfectly healthy will fall due to factors that can't be identified from an external examination from the ground or will fail in extreme weather events. 

Looking for hazards

Jim Pelletier (left), checks a tree for overhead problems
At each of these locations, trees are examined for "defects".  These can range from dead or broken branches, weird growth patterns that cause weak internal structures, rot, holes, fungus, (and yes, people being stupid with axes, hatchets and knives carving, or cutting tree trunks).  These defects are given specific values and the total score determines whether a tree is "monitored" or "removed".  When there are overhanging dead or damaged branches on an otherwise healthy tree, we will seek to prune those off.  

A tablet is used to record GPS data and observed
defects in each tree.
On the AT in Mass, there are 14 overnight sites and nearly as many parking areas as well a several viewpoints.  While volunteers informally check for potentially hazardous trees while at these locations on other tasks, the formal inventory process is extensive and detailed.  

Clearing a hazard tree at
Race Brook Falls campsite
Professional arborist climbs
to clear weak branches
Once a site is inventoried, the next step is to remove (or prune) the trees that present the highest risk and annually monitor the trees that are of concern, but don't seem to be eminently dangerous.  We can't simply cut down all the trees at a site as a proactive measure, that would fundamentally change the experience we are trying to preserve. 

Very occasionally, a tree may be so obviously
Glen Brook shelter.
Glen Brook campsite.
ready to fall, or shed major pieces, that the site is closed until it can be addressed.  When this is the case, signage will be prominently posted and the area may be physically closed with hazard tape or brush.  This is extremely rare, but there are always delays in addressing trees identified as hazards.  Resources are not infinite, and some trees require specialized knowledge and skills to prune or fell.  It's not like the street outside your house where a bucket truck can drive up and take the tree down from the top in a few hours.

Risk is Everywhere, but it's not Everything.

Trail visitors are always responsible for their own safety.  The AT is inherently a natural environment with limited human intervention.  Even at congregation areas, the effort is to provide as natural an environment as possible. What can you do to mitigate your own risk?
  • Look up.  Are there any branches that are broken or dead (no leaves or the bark is falling off)?  Hanging at an unnatural angle?
  • Look down.  Do adjacent trees have large holes in the trunk or large areas of damaged bark?  Are there large splits or cracks in the trunk.  Is the trunk covered with fungus (moss and lichens are usually not a problem, they live on the surface of the tree).  Are the roots loose or pulling out of the ground?
  • Look around.  Are there trees that are leaning at a significant angle?  Are they angled over the spot you've chosen to set up your tent or have some lunch?
If you see these indicators, you may want to consider a different location--especially in windy or wet weather (water adds to the weight of leaves and branches).    

Finally, if you see anything that concerns you, report it to us and we'll get out to take a look.

Please do enjoy your visit to the AT.  Overall, significant injuries are rare, and fatalities are even more so.  That doesn't mean you should not seek to be wise to the ways of the woods and be aware of your physical surroundings.  As always if you want to join us in our efforts, you can see what we're up to at

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".