Konnarock Crew

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The Register - Summer 2000 – Volume 22, Number 2

"Repeat Offenders" Help Konnarock Crew Break New Ground

By Mike Dawson

Again and again, the big sledge hammer fell, "turning big ones into little ones." It seemed that there was no end to the pile of big rocks or the gravel that the supervisor demanded.

This was the fourth time that Kerry was breaking rocks with this crew. It seemed that he would never learn. Many of the others were even more incorrigible, having ended up back here five, ten, even fifteen times. Sure, there was the security of three squares and a cot, but what flaw in his character led him back to this hard labor, time and time again?

Perhaps the flaw of caring too much, or of wanting to make a difference along the Trail that he’d come to love.

Kerry Snow, you see, is district manager for the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club. He has been active in the club’s Trail work for about ten years. But, as if that weren’t enough, he’s also doing his fourth stint working on ATC’s Konnarock crew, one of the all-volunteer crews that gather each summer and fall to do intensive Trail projects up and down the A.T. Each year, during the first week of the summer crew season, the Konnarock crew camp at Sugar Grove is bursting at the seams with people such as Kerry. Usually the two Konnarock crews are full with 14 volunteers, but, during the first week, it isn’t uncommon to see as many as the 24 crew members who were at camp from May 11 to 15 this year.

Each year, a hefty number of the volunteers on the crew are "repeat offenders" (alumni of past years’ crews) such as Kerry. They know they’re in for hard labor, and they come again anyway. Their presence on the crew is an enormous help in meeting the program’s training goals. With experienced alumni present, crew leaders can split off small groups to tackle separate projects, such as a turnpike or a set of steps. That gives the less-experienced crew members good one-on-one field training in various techniques.

So, who are these incorrigibles of the crew program? During the first week of the 2000 Konnarock season, we had Bill Waite, a retired 28-year Forest Service soil scientist on his fourth crew season. Sarah Jane Lee and Ed Clayton, both from the Mt. Rogers A.T. Club, have six and eleven years of experience, respectively. Nineteen ninety-five thru-hiker Katie Flynn is in her fourth crew season. Randy Sample was on crew for the seventh year. He has been an AMC member for 32 years and presently works with Piedmont A.T. Hikers. Joy Berg did her first week on crew while she was the supervisor of the Jefferson National Forest. Now in the U.S. Forest Service’s Washington, D.C., office, this is her sixth year on crew. ATC Southern Regional Vice Chair Jim Hutchings can usually be found at Sugar Grove during our crew "old home week," working either as a crew member or putting in his five days on crew with his home club, the Roanoke A.T. Club. This year, Hutchings earned his eleventh crew T-shirt. Jeroen and Chris Droogh are in their third year, after piloting their boat from the Netherlands. Even our crew leaders have all come to us as volunteers. This is Susan Guida’s second season as assistant crew leader, but her fourth on crew. Assistant crew leader Jennifer Drinkwater is in her first staff season after two years as a crew volunteer. Both crew leaders, Andrew Moores and Josh Adams, started as volunteers and have now been leaders for not only Konnarock, but also the Rocky Top and mid-Atlantic crews, respectively. Camp Coordinator Janet Gibbons (whose cooking is one of the real secrets to securing return volunteers) started as a volunteer in 1992, joined the Konnarock staff in 1996, and has worked as staff member and volunteer on the Rocky Top and mid-Atlantic crews and as a ridgerunner at the Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area, too.

Since its inception in 1983, the Konnarock crew program has had two clear missions: to assist local maintaining clubs with the backlog of needed major projects and to spread information on the best, longest lasting techniques for trail construction. The mix of seasoned veterans, new volunteers, exceptional staff, and an infusion of club volunteers each week are the secrets to success for meeting Konnarock’s twin goals.

Sure, it’s hard labor. But, it’s the kind of willing help that money can’t buy. And, year after year, it makes a huge difference to the Trail.