By Addie Hurwitz, From her personal blog, October 31, 2019
The Service Bus is rolling! Let me start out by introducing the NCOBS 2019 Service Bus crew. Currently there are four of us, with the possibility of one or two more joining us down the line. In the photo above, from left to right: Alyssa Casey, Liz Bowling, Caroline Feeney and, Addie Hurwitz. Alyssa and I work out of the Table Rock Base Camp in North Carolina, Caroline works out of the Cedar Rock Base Camp in North Carolina, and Liz works out of the Scottsmoor Base Camp in Florida. To read our bios and see more about the Bus’ itinerary, check out the Service Bus Page.
Our first stop on the Service Bus was Babel Tower in the Linville Gorge to complete some trail work in the Gorge with Wild South. Wild South is an organization that does trail work in public lands across the Southeast. North Carolina Outward Bound School (NCOBS) has a partnership with Wild South where student crews throughout the season get to work with them on service projects. It was especially special for us to be able to work in the Gorge, as it is a wilderness area, so it has a 10 person cap on group size. On course, we usually have too large of a group to go into it. That day we worked with John Massey of Wild South and his wonderful family. We completed three very gratifying trail work projects over the course of this mini expedition with the Massey Family.
DAY 1: TRAIL BRUSHING
Our first day of trail work consisted of trimming back an overgrown trail that was switchbacking down a steep hill. Switchbacks are when a trail winds back and forth to make the trail on a steep section longer, but much less steep. We used loppers to remove the overgrowth on the uphill side of the trail, so that trail users would not walk on the downhill edge, causing it to erode.
After a few hours of trail brushing we hiked down to the Linville River at the bottom of the Gorge where we had a nice break before heading to our camp for the night. The weather was amazing, as was the foliage. We believe this day to have been the peak of peak leaf color season and we really enjoyed being in the Gorge and doing trail work for it.
DAY 2: CLEARING DOWNED TREES
Day 2 with Wild South was when we broke out the big tools. We walked down the Linville Gorge Trail and cleared trees that had blown down and fallen across the trail. Regarding clearing the trees, Alyssa said that it was “short term satisfaction with long term effects for the trails, because people won’t reroute around the trees anymore (creating impact). While it was thrilling in the moment, it was especially cool to know that it would create such a lasting effect.” Alyssa hit the nail on the head with “thrilling in the moment”, the photos below will help to describe that further.
DAY 3: BUILDING A TRAIL SECTION
The massive oak that we cleared the following day was so huge, that when it rolled down it took out the whole hillside and trail. That set us up nicely for our third day of work, in which we went back to that location and used hoes to do a lot of digging to reform that section of trail.
This third day was pretty rainy so we don’t have as many photos. Nick and John showed us a really cool spot for lunch that kept us out of the rain. We ate in a small cave near the trail we had been working on, and even saw a few bats. It was awesome to have their local knowledge in addition to all that they had taught us about trail work.
INTERVIEW WITH KEVIN MASSEY FROM Wild South
Q: Why is service (and specifically trail work) important to you and the Wild South organization as a whole?
A: When communities participate in their land — not just taking from it but also finding ways to give back — that balance creates a completely different experience. Yes it certainly affects the land, reducing human impacts and restoring the quality of natural systems, and as a practical matter volunteer trail crews are now essential to the management of public lands. But this participation also affects the volunteers, and through it they consistently find a richer experience of the outdoors.
Q: Why did you decide to partner with the NCOBS Service Bus for this project?
A: Wild South partners often with Outward Bound to provide service opportunities for students, and we’re always struck by the caliber of the instructors Outward Bound attracts. The NCOBS Service Bus, like the Outdoor Educator Course and similar programs, was a chance for us to work with the cream of the crop.
Q: Why do you like working with Outward Bound crews in general?
A: Outward Bound teaches their students self-reliance, and at the end of the day Wild South is doing something very similar. We’re inspiring people to enjoy, value, and protect their land, and that pride of place leads directly to personal and community pride. They believe in their land, and they believe in themselves.
UP NEXT: ASHEVILLE
The Service Bus is rolling out of the Table Rock course area and headed south to Asheville. We are all excited to be moving on and participating in new types of service! Updates will continue to be posted on this blog periodically and you can also follow @outwardboundnc on Instagram for more.