Friday, September 25, 2009

"AT Corridor Boundary Work" by Benton McKay Schwartz

I like to work on the Appalachian Trail corridor boundary and now I’ll tell you about it.

The work on the boundary includes painting blazes, cutting a clear line of sight between blazes, finding monuments and working with boundary neighbors. To mark the boundary, we repaint the faded yellow blazes and hang signs along the boundary line, following the lines determined by the surveyors. The yellow paint used is easy to see in the woods, but it gets everywhere on clothes. It is best to work on the boundary during spring or fall because it is easier to see the blazes when the leaves are off the trees. It’s best to work with a small group of up to six Trail Club Volunteers on the boundary at a time. We use saws and loppers to clear a line from one monument or blaze to the next when it gets thick. We cut a clear line every five to seven years.

The AT Corridor boundaries have been surveyed by many land surveyors. A monument is a physical marker set by a surveyor to mark the boundary line. There are several types of monuments found along the boundary lines such as standard monuments, rock tablets, iron pipes, concrete posts and sometimes even natural features like a rock or a very large, old tree. Sometimes a monument is missing or buried and can take awhile to find. To help us find in our search, we triangulate and surveyor’s measurements from reference points back to the boundary monument. Using your map & compass skills effectively and knowing the type of monument and its location can all be helpful tools to find the monuments and the faded blazes along the boundary line.

The compasses we use on the boundary are surveyor’s compasses. I sometimes use my compass to sight the boundary to find the survey monuments and the blazes. Out on the boundary, the survey map is labeled clockwise. We like to work clockwise since the compass settings go clockwise too. Then we don’t have to set the compasses backwards. We use the compasses often enough to know that they can mess up near radio towers, power lines and high voltage lines and some times even near rocks.

We use several types of maps. The maps we use on the boundary are mostly exterior corridor boundary survey (ECBS) maps. ECBS maps are drawn by the surveyor and have the compass settings on them for us to use. These maps show where the boundary is for the AT. They tell the monument numbers and the compass angle and direction of the line between the monuments. A segment map is useful for finding your way into and out of the woods and to the area of work for the day.

Violations are a big problem to the Trail and boundary of the AT Corridor. Violations of the boundary can be trees cut, tree stands erected and roads built inside the corridor. As volunteers, we strive to solve the problems along the boundary between Trail neighbors and the National Park Service. We use green spray paint to erase a violator’s illegal trail markings or we pull dead trees branches and brush across the ATV paths that trespass into the AT Corridor. The green spray paint we use blends in with the trees and mosses on the boundary. We work to get along with the Trail neighbors and the communities around the trail so they don’t become violators. (Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you)

Caring for the AT boundary is as much fun as work. The more work done on the boundary the better. Caring for the AT is fun too, but it’s fun to work off the well beaten path of the AT.

Written by Benton McKay Schwartz, age 12, with AMC-Delware Valley, the youngest Jr. Boundary Ranger on the Appalachian National Scenic Trail and an uber Corridor Steward. Watch out A.T. Violators because Harry Potter of the Boundary in on the watch!

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