Monday, August 3, 2015

2006 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 500 mile cross-state tour, of which 350 miles are complete as of 2015. Designed primarily for hikers and bikers, equestrians are allowed on some sections. The trail began in 1994 as a grass-roots effort by four people sitting around a kitchen table in Columbia, South Carolina, and the first passage (sections are called passages) was opened in 1996. It is one of only 16 cross-state trails in the country. 

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 the Palmetto Trail website. The trail is administered by a private, non-profit corporation.

We were assigned to reroute a mile section of existing trail from private land onto Francis Marion National Forest land. In one section shown below, this entailed digging new tread on a century-old dike originally built to terrace rice fields. It also involved building a bridge across a drainage area which is what I was assigned to do.

Using stringers and decking removed from bridges on the old trail section, we constructed a 26 foot bridge across this stream. Notice the cable from the come-a-long winch attached to the log at the bottom of the photo. Troy and Max are hand cranking the winch as Woody, Ted, and Dave watch the first stringer inching its way across the water.

This is the winch (or "come-along" as it is called down South) being used to pull the stringers across the creek.

After positioning and leveling the two stringers, decking was nailed to the stringers...

...and here is the finished bridge which has a ramp on the left side to allow bikers easy access to the bridge. 

The ramp was created by Woody, a true magician with a chain saw, who painstakingly constructed a jig and then sawed the two stringers on an angle - a great deal of work, but an elegant and practical solution to the height difference between the two banks of the creek.

The ranger in charge, John DuPre, had determined the route for the new trail corridor and flagged the route. Then firefighters had been sent through with chainsaws to cut down the trees and bushes. Next our crew "swamped out" the corridor, placing all the chainsawed materials unobtrusively into the woods. Finally came the task of digging the new tread as seen here with our extraordinary co-leaders, Bonnie and Phil, leveling a high section and moving the excess dirt to low areas.

All organic material is removed and mineral material serves as the final tread, providing a safe surface for hikers and riders. In this photo, Jane, Bonnie, Dave, and Donna put the final touches on the trail surface, and then patient Carole will follow and lop off any remaining roots.

In the photo below, the entire group poses at the start of the Palmetto Trail, just yards from the ocean at Buck Hall Campground. Behind the group, a large Palmetto tree is encircled by elaborate decking, a job completed by a previous year's crew which included some of the same people pictured here. 

front row (l to r): Ted, Dave, Carole, Jane, Chuck, and Max
back row: Woody, Bonnie, Phil, and Troy

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