Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A New Roof for North Wilcox Privy

Working on privies  is never a pleasurable project, but they do need maintenance and care from time to time, so.......early this week our small crew headed to North Wilcox to replace the roof.  The roof on this privy had several holes in it and was generally in poor shape.  Also, the roof panels used barely covered the roof resulting in rotted fascia boards at the roof edges. 

We decided to nail short 2X4's to the front and back of the privy so we could tip it over on it's side making access to the roof easy. 

After removing the old roof, which took all of about 5 minutes, we built an extended roof structure from 2X4's to make the roof slightly larger affording more protection to the sides of the privy.  After nailing on the new fascia boards it was time to cut the hole in the first new roof panel to go around the privy vent.

Above Don screws the first panel down after much fiddling with the hole for the vent.  These fiberglass roof panels are not easy to cut but we finally made a satisfactory job of it and gooped up the join where the vent passes through the roof panel.  The rest of the roof panels went on easily with a minor problem to deal with.  We did not buy enough of the wood closure strips which are laid under the paneling to match up the corrugated underside of the panels with the flat 2X4 roof framing.  We solved this problem by leaving the bottom left side of the new roof unsecured.  It will be a quick job to return with the necessary closure strip and a screw gun finishing the job. 
With Silvia starting the painting we finished the roof job before tipping the privy back upright.
Here you see the nearly finished job which was shortly done and open for business.  It was a full days work so we packed up our tools and the old roofing and headed back to our vehicles.  The day held one last surprise.  We noticed a rather friendly hawk hanging out where the AT crosses Beartown Mtn road on our way into the project in the morning.  He (she?) was waiting for us on our return and even let me get a picture:

And so ended another great day of fun in the woods!  Checkout our Project Schedule for upcoming events and join us if you'd like.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Upper Goose Pond Cabin Maintenance

August 10, 13, 17 and 24.

The NPS-owned cabin on Upper Goose Pond is a much-anticipated stop for all visitors on the AT in Mass--and a few locals as well.  Overseen by volunteer caretakers who work weekly shifts, this building has no electricity or running water--and no road access.  A small propane stove and rudimentary kitchen provide for the needs of the caretakers--hikers still must bring and prepare their own food and sleeping gear (a bunkhouse on the 2nd level accommodates about 16 sleepers).  There are also two tenting areas adjacent to the cabin.

The cabin sits above the rocky shore of Upper Goose Pond.  A pristine, undeveloped pond (perhaps the last one in Massachusetts?) surrounded by land purchased in 1982 to protect the AT.   The pond has hosted both moose and bald eagles in recent years.

Dave paints from the fire escape
Although the structure is owned by the National Park Service, it is maintained and operated by our Trail Club (AMC Berkshire Chapter's AT Management Committee), completely with volunteer labor and management.  It hosts around 600 overnight visitors per season, plus many more day users.  

Keeping the cabin and the few outbuildings in good shape and in safe operating condition is another responsibility we happily undertake.   This summer we installed new roofing and siding on two small sheds as well as continuing with the "one side per year" painting schedule for the main cabin.

Don works the SE corner
Pete finishes the railings
 Although extensive by comparison to typical AT overnight sites, the AT Committee works hard to maintain a sense of remoteness at the cabin that is consonant with the AT experience.  The temptation to make "improvements" (easier access to drinking water, better lighting, interior finishes, etc) is constant, and must be resisted--else the cabin becomes a "town stop" instead of a singular overnight experience for the AT traveler.

Pete and thru-hiker Atlas install rafter extensions on the woodshed

Don gets roof duty.

The final pieces of water shield on on.  They will be covered with red metal roofing.

Field Clearing--Goose Pond Rd and Tyringham Valley

Tuesday Aug 6-Thursday Aug 8

This week we put together a team of trail volunteers, ATC staff and a trail neighbor to perform some field maintenance on properties near the AT.   While the AT does not run through these fields, it does run adjacent to them and they form an important part of the view hikers have as they traverse the countryside. 

Silvia gets ready to attack
Definitely the right tool for the job.  ATC's new tractor w/ brush hog
Open fields, particularly in valleys, are a part of the "New England vernacular landscape".  It's the visual picture that to some extent defines what the area looks like--at least in our present sensibilities.  Of course previously, before Europeans began to define the land, it was mostly forested with open areas created by natural causes (beaver
meadows, for example) or areas opened by the indigenous inhabitants (aka "Indians").

Once Europeans became a permanent presence, the forest steadily diminished, and open country became the predominant landscape.  Images of southern New England from the latter part of the 1800's show almost no forests, even on the mountains.

In Massachusetts, since the mid 1850's, the land that was originally in agriculture, and later in pasture, slowly began to become re-forested as farming became less profitable and populations began to congregate in the cities and towns--where the jobs were.  Today, Massachusetts has more forested acres than it has had since the Civil War.

So back to the Trail.  As the footpath was moved off of roads onto protected lands, some of that land was being actively farmed or otherwise recently in agriculture, especially in valleys.  Both to preserve the current Trail landscape as part of the "nationally significant scenic, historic, natural, or cultural qualities of the areas through which the Trail passes"   (from the NPS AT Strategic Plan), we try and maintain these traditionally open spaces.  One way is via a Special Use Permit (SUP).  This is an arrangement with a farmer to keep the land (possibly purchased from him for the Trail) in agriculture.  He (or she) pays a small fee to the Park Service, is able to farm the land, but is not responsible for paying property taxes on those tracts.  In other places, the land may have simply been purchased as open land, and the local Trail Club decides whether  to maintain it as open, or let natural succession take place--eventually resulting in more forested land.
How tall was the grass?  Steve running the tractor/brush hog .

So that's a (very) long-winded way to say we need to mow to keep these particular parcels open--to maintain the landscape in it's current form.  Therefore, we devote several project days a year to this effort, assisted by ATC staff and equipment as well as the Club's own field mowers.

Smaller mowers are used around the edges and obstructions.
The DR is challenged by this much growth.

The Giant Machete does a little better
Out of the Green Tunnel.  AT passes through the gate in the center of the photo.
We mow late in the summer after birds are finished nesting and most of the plants have set seed.  This is an ongoing part of maintaining the Trail in both Mass and CT--and likely other states as well.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Rt 7 Bridge, Day 3

Rt 7 Bridge--Completed

August 3rd, 2013

With an experienced crew of 8 bridge builders we wrapped up the project today.

Pete and Christine start planking on the south end
We arrived on site to find the timbers as we had left them spanning the stream.  We attached them to the sills and began to install the blocking and deck planks.  Because the beams were slightly warped, we used a bar clamp to align them as we inserted the blocking in the space between the beams. 
Dave and Steve start on the north
This blocking serves several functions:  it helps share the load among all three timbers,  maintains equal space between them and most importantly, because the beams are relatively narrow for their depth, keeps them from twisting under load. 
The careful layout and installation of joist hangers on previous project days paid off, as we had little trouble inserting the blocking.

Kneeling on temporary planking, Pete and Dave drive the "golden spike" in the middle of the span
The bridge seems strong enough
While the blocking and planks were being installed, four 6x6 posts were set into the ground, two at each end of the bridge.  These are intended to keep the bridge mostly in place should it ever be floated off the ground by flood waters.  This area sees water up to two feet above the trail--particularly in the spring.   When this happens, hikers are routed onto adjacent roads until the water subsides, usually in a day or two.
Our greatest concern would be to find the bridge had been floated so far out of location that one end dropped into the stream--the thing is so heavy we would not likely be able to pull it back into place w/o heavy equipment.

Bob and Don attach railing posts

Adding railings to the bridge completed this phase of the project. 
While most AT bridges in Mass don't have railings, for this long span and deep ravine, railings seemed like an appropriate measure.
Our first official customers.  Two Northbound thruhikers

The final phase was the demolition and removal of the old bridge.  Using a rock bar, we were able to easily pry the planks from the the 8x8 timbers.
Steve removes nails from the old bridge planks
Timbers were unbolted from their posts on the north end and using the comealong--with some effort--we were able to drag them over to the south bank.  The timbers were cut in half for transport back to the tool shed.
Don operates the comealong to drag the old timbers ashore
We then cut up the portions that were not rotting, and will use them for bog bridge base timbers on a project happening later in the month.

From identifying the problems with the old bridge (rotting support beams and a widening stream bank), to completion this past week took almost two years.   Along the way, we were early users of ATC's new bridge policy, applied for and received approvals from the Sheffield Conservation Commission and the National Park Service, and paid for about half the materials through an LL Bean Grants to Clubs program.  Total cost for this project was about $2000.  Volunteer hours for construction totaled 138.  Planning hours are harder to figure, but are probably around 100.  During construction, we had the pleasure of working with staff from ATC's New England Regional Office and the Mass Department of Conservation and Recreation's AT Ridgerunners.  Special thanks to Bruno's Dog House for letting us use their hose to wash off with poison ivy soap after each day of construction.

Open for business.  Note the posts at the ends to reduce the tendency for the bridge to float away

Looking Northbound

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Rt 7 Bridge--Day 2

July 30, 2013

Today was about getting the previously assembled beams across the stream and fastened in place. 
Sill work, beams in background

Dave and Jim setting sills
We finished up the sills for the bridge to rest on and on the beams, laid out and attached the joist hangers for the internal bracing.

Denis finishes up sill bearing plates.

One at a time, each 500lb beam was then slid from the assembly area and pivoted to align with the sills before being sent across the stream. 
Dragging a beam into position for launching.
This was probably the most difficult part of the day, as the ground was not particularly even, and the 36ft pieces were heavy and cumbersome.  Next time, we'll bring some rollers to ease this process.

To keep the beams upright and horizontal on their way to the far bank, we installed a piece of 1/4" wire rope across the stream to carry the front end.  This wire was 75 ft long, attached to a tree on the south side, and to a post we installed in the corn field as the anchor on the north side.   To support the 250lb end of the beam in the center of such a long span, this wire needed to be very tight.  We used two 1/2" diameter turnbuckles to tension the wire until the post began to shift slightly in the ground.  A bracket was attached to the front of the beam to hold a pulley that traveled along the wire.

Beam #1
Beam #2 starts the journey
With most of the team lifting and pushing from the north side, the beam was slid over the sill and out over the stream. 

As the beam approached the south bank, two people lifted and pulled the beam up and over the sill.

Once all three beams were across, they were set in their final locations and screwed to the sills with timber screws.

First beam landed
All 3 beams in place and ready for planks
On our next (and hopefully final) day on the project, we'll work our way out along the three beams installing blocking and deck planks as we go.  Then a railing will be set in place and the old bridge taken apart and removed from the site.