Appy Trail hikers will assist Eastman Hiking Club with shelter reconstruction project

By Rozella Hardin

   The Tennessee Eastman Hiking and Canoeing Club and the Appalachian Trail Conference will be working on a joint project to reconstruct the Clyde Smith Shelter with hikers passing through Damascus, Va., as part of Appalachian Trail Days Festival May 19. This project is the second year TEHCC has paired up with hikers traveling on the Appalachian Trail on their 2,100-mile hike to Mount Khatadin, Maine, according to Steve Perri, AT Committee Chair.
   The project involves construction of the Clyde Smith Shelter by replacing the roof and adding a porch-style entrance with built-in bar-like tables and stools for weary hikers to prepare and eat their meals. Other design features include improved lighting by adding skylight panels and a lower front roof-line to provide protection from the wind and rain.
   Appalachian Trail Days is an annual festival held in Damascus, Va., May 17-19 to celebrate the town's lineage with the Appalachian Trail. Perri said this year's festival will bring an adventurous class of hikers traveling from Georgia to Maine, and will recognize many trail alumni who have hiked the trail from end to end in the past. "Many hikers have had the opportunity to experience a range of personal challenges, and relationships with other hikers to appreciate the trail as a resource for public use. The maintenance and stewardship of the trail is the behind-the-scenes effort that provides users of the trail with a safe, reliable and well-marked corridor for their remote and wild experiences in the outdoors, Perri said.
   "Volunteering for a day to help maintain trail facilities is our means of giving something back to the trail," Perri said, noting that many hikers take for granted the trail and its facilities as being available for trail visitors with very little understanding of what is involved in maintaining all the trail resources.
   "The Appalachian trail maintenance project provides firsthand, on- -the-trail experience for hikers to work as volunteers with club maintenance and to learn about trail stewardship," Perri said.
   TEHCC is also coordinating the shelter reconstruction project for the club's second annual effort. Perri said about 12 club volunteers and 25 hikers are anticipated to be involved in the project. Hikers will be providing much of the needed labor for carrying materials in and out of the shelter site located about two miles from Hughes Gap, N.C., in the Roan Highlands. The old roofing material will be removed and carried away from the site for disposal. A new steel roof will be installed and a front porch will be added for the infrastructure of the built-in table and stools. The window panels are made with Spectar, a special light-weight polymer donated by Eastman Chemical Company. The Appalachian Trail Conference provided the club with a special grant to pay for the new materials.
   Also, Perri said L.L. Bean, a long-time Appalachian Trail Conference corporate member, funded the $1,000 grant for the program.
   On May 19, hikers and club members will transport materials to remote shelter sites, remove old roof, build new roof, and repair damaged shelter spots. On Monday, May 20, they will build shelter extension, tables and benches, and repaint shelter.
   The project is being coordinated by David Gibson, a club volunteer who conceived the shelter design, applied for the grant, and organized all the logistics of the project from gathering materials, transporting supplies, and shuttling hikers to the project.