Sunday, August 2, 2015

2005 Sierra Club Volunteer Trail Project on Cape Cod

The Beech Forest Trail is in the northernmost section of Cape Cod National Seashore, near the tip of Cape Cod in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Though sand dunes occupy the shoreline, this magnificent forest abuts the dunes and provides stability to the soil in the area. The hiking trail is a figure eight shape, and the "top" of this figure eight travels over a high knoll as partially seen here. Stairs constructed during the 1970s were in serious disrepair. Last year, a Sierra Club volunteer crew rebuilt one upper section, and this year we tackled the top and the downhill section on the other side. You can see in the next two photos how unsafe the trail had become, with loose sand and roots and narrowed by overgrowth of vegetation.

Along the level top of the hill portion of the trail, Ann, Catherine, Deborah (our leader), and Joe begin enlarging the trail to four feet in width and preparing for side timbers to be installed. The old wood was carried down the hill so it could be removed from the forest since it had been treated with chemicals, and the new timbers and gravel fill were carried up by us. Each day as we worked, hikers passed us and expressed thanks for the work being done.

Our new trail will provide stairs for easier and safer hiking uphill and downhill. To keep the gravel/sand tread material in place, side walls are also being installed. Obviously, lots of lumber and cutting of lumber was required.

The timbers had to be cut to size, then drilled and pegged into the ground and each other with reinforcing bar, and finally the gravel tread poured into place, raked, and tamped down. The nearly finished downhill section of the trail is seen here, with only a little timber cutting remaining for the National Park Service trail crew. The rebuilt trail is far safer for hikers and hopefully will last 30 or more years, and the new lumber will hold the gravel tread in place during storms.   

The most strenuous aspect of the project was carrying the gravel tread material up to the top. As shown here, a bucket brigade was utilized numerous times. The National Park trail crew (Donna and Wayne) delivered the lumber and gravel by front end loader after the first attempt by dump truck became stuck in sand a half mile from the project site. In this photo, Catherine, Barb, and Jolene tote buckets as Joe below fills buckets. At times, all ten of us on the project spent an hour or more operating the bucket brigade.

Below you see a finished section of trail. Quite an improvement from the "before" photos at the top of this post!

After cooking for ourselves all week, we celebrated the last night with supper in town.

The industrious crew (l to r): Chuck, Annie, Sue, Diane, Wayne, Jolene, Joe, Catherine, Barb , and Deborah (our Sierra Club group leader.)

A side note: Our leader, Deborah, was a lifelong Bostonian and really knew the Cape Cod area. We had a lengthy drive to get to the work site each day, and on the way back she would take us on tours of the area. We visited the Truro Winery and had a wine tasting, visited the historic home of an 18th century whaler captain, visited the NPS facility to learn the history of the predecessor to the Coast Guard, the lifesaving men who risked their lives to save sailors whose ships sunk on the nearby reefs, and even toured the local Audubon Society property. Thanks, Deborah!

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