2015 Appalachian Trail Bluff City Relocation
Volunteer Trail Crews, including the Konnarock Trail Crew, are supported by the USFS and ATC, in conjunction with responsible maintaining clubs, to administer the coordination of volunteers to accomplish varied maintenance tasks required to sustain the Trail.
The Appalachian Trail, describing the Trail from a south to north perspective, currently crests a ridge slightly southwest of Pearisburg, Virginia and essentially drops straight down the northern face of this ridge through private property (as described to the team, “between two houses.”) then travels for nearly a mile along US Route 460 before crossing the New River. Once across the river, the Trail resumes a forested track. The Bluff City Relocation is intended to modify this course such that the trail descends across the face of the mountain, eliminate the incursion onto private property, and minimize the road hike necessary to enjoy this portion of the Trail.
The land acquired for this project is adjacent to a local road, which has created an artificial ridge. The initial intent was to blaze the trail proximal to this road and take advantage of that artificial ridge; however, this area was used by local residents as a roadside dump for many decades, and has been declared to be of archeological value as artifacts greater than fifty years old can be found. This designation precluded the simplest placement of the trail, and required that the relocated portion be established approximately fifty to one hundred yards below the intended area – quite literally on the side of the mountain. (The worksite was located in the dark gray shaded are of this map, near where Cross Avenue bends to the left.)
In addition to the previously mentioned reasons for the trail relocation, several engineering and environmental reasons exist. In places where the Appalachian Trail essentially goes straight up and down mountains, nearly a century of use by millions of hikers has created a funnel effect with regards to rainwater. The runoff, seeking the path of least resistance, tends to funnel itself towards the footpath. This causes a degradation of the Trail, and presents a flooding hazard for those at the bottom of the incline. The relocation across the face of the mountain allows for an engineered approach to this situation – and in fact pseudo-walls were established along the crib walls to prevent rainwater from becoming a single current down the mountain.
Due to the location of this relocation – along a very steep mountainside, hence the name Bluff City – it was necessary to secure portions of the new Trail as stairways or sidewalks. The undertakings to create these were accomplished by members of the EfID team, and are described in detail later in this report. The engineering aspects of this project, guided by Appalachian Trail Design, Construction, and Maintenance (W. Birchard, Jr and R. Proudman), were subtle, but none-the-less present. These aspects are described as subtle, in that no blueprints were prepared, nor were any calculations conducted; yet, the principles of soil mechanics, mechanics of material and structural analysis, statics, fluid dynamics, and Newtonian physics were present at every turn.