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.