Monday, August 3, 2015

2003 AHS Volunteer Trail Project for South Carolina's Palmetto Trail

South Carolina's Palmetto Trail takes you "from the mountains to the sea" on a 420 mile cross-state tour. Designed primarily for hikers and mountain bikers, equestrians are allowed on some sections. The trail began in 1995 as a grass-roots effort by four people sitting around a kitchen table in Columbia, South Carolina, and the first section (sections are called passages) was opened in 1996. As of 2003, over half of the trail miles are open, with the longest continuous stretch extending 170 miles. Each "passage" is designed to be easily completed by hikers in a weekend, and maps of the entire trail and of each passage are available on their website. The trail is administered by a private, non-profit corporation. 

We were assigned to work on the trestle network which crosses the three and a half miles of the flood plain of Wateree Swamp. This old rail line was acquired by South Carolina in 1998 and Palmetto Trail volunteers have been constructing decking over the old trestle ties for the last three years. In case you think I'm kidding about the Wateree Swamp, here it is. Yes, we were warned about not dropping tools over the side, and if we did, NOT to go after them. We regularly saw Copperheads and Cottonmouths down below us.

This is what the 680 foot long eighth trestle looked like before we began constructing the decking.

First we placed seven parallel stringers made of treated 4"X 6" lumber over the ties and leveled them. Next 2"X 6" decking was nailed to the stringers. A dump truck delivered the wood to us near the trestle and we had to deliver it to the work area, a task which kept four people busy for a day and a half. This was a bit tricky since there were places where your leg could fall through openings between the old timbers (I know because I did once while backing up. Fortunately no injury.)

We went through a lot of wood! Dump trucks delivered more wood daily back where dry land ended, and we used this pushcart to bring it to the worksite which of course kept moving farther away as we installed more decking.

The power nailer sped up the process quite a bit.

Lunches were eaten on the trestle which actually was our sanctuary away from the mosquitoes. The Palmetto Trail organization kept us well supplied with food, tools, materials, and tasks, and even provided an old plantation house in the Manchester State Forest as our dwelling for our six nights. One afternoon, a delicious hot fried chicken lunch with all the fixings was delivered to us at the work site by a local restaurant, and one morning we were given a tour of the studio and workshop of local famous wood carver, Grainger McCoy. Our host, Ollie Buckles (Palmetto Trail trail coordinator) even cooked South Carolina's famous and very delicious Frogmore (aka Low Country) Stew for us one night.

We finished decking trestle eight after two days of work. Then we worked on the finished seven trestles, re-nailing some problem areas, replacing bad boards, and pruning encroaching foliage. Railings will be added later. The last hurdle the trail foundation has to overcome is funding for and construction of the final 2200 foot long trestle which has the vertical supports still in place, but nothing spanning from one support to the next. The eight completed trestles represent 5120 feet of decked surface -- a truly monumental accomplishment! Here's a photo of the finished project.

Our industrious and talented AHS crew:
top row (l to r): Gary, Jerry, Carri, and Floyd
row 2: Chuck, Vickie, Betty, and Mary
kneeling: Bill, Ben, Joe (our incomparable leader), and Ted

In 2006, I did another volunteer project for the Palmetto Trail and that trip report is here.

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