BreakAway 2002 was its usual fun and productive experience. Students from West Virginia Wesleyan, Michigan State University, Florida State University, St. Norbert (Wisconsin), Hamilton College (New York), Allegheny College (Pennsylvania), and University of Vermont gathered to build trail, clean up gorges, build bridges, and generally inspire our Tennessee volunteers with a fresh shot of youthful energy.
The first two weeks (March 3-16) were spent working on the Cumberland Mountain Segment (47 miles that will eventually stretch from Cove Lake State Park north to Cumberland Gap) and the Smoky Mountain Segment (the 35 miles which will run from Cove Lake State Park south to Frozen Head State Park). New trail was cleared and cut (approximately 1.5 miles worth!), staircases on new and recently-built trail were completed, 60 water and erosion bars were installed, deadfall over the trail was removed by a chainsaw crew, a wooden stile was built and installed at a fence crossing – restricting entrance to all but foot-traffic, a tar-and-gravel surface was added to the recently-completed natural-materials bridges at Montgomery Fork and Springs Branch, and two new bridges were begun – one at Bruce Creek (32 ft long) of processed materials – one at Greens Branch (34 ft long) of natural materials. The work on Bruce Creek Bridge, along with rock work nearby, gave the students the chance to experience the sounds of nature as well as the sound of the interstate, and the building of the road’s impact on the surrounding landscape. The imposing and beautiful Devil’s Racetrack, a prominent rock outcropping, rising overhead was an added treat. The final task before opening a new stretch of trail, BLAZING!, was completed on part of the Smoky Mountain Segment.
The 3rd week (March 18-23) combined “gorge rescue” (a more romantic term than “trash removal”!) with marking the boundaries of our new 5,000-acre purchase of several gorges in Hamilton County, as well as flagging the route of some of the trail which will pass through those gorges. More than 20 dumploads of tires, trucks (no kidding!), and general trash were taken out of that beautiful spot. Our volunteer leaders are lamenting the fact that they didn’t take “before” pictures so we could show you what a fabulous difference those 3 days of work made. Students also enjoyed walking through the wilderness to mark the boundaries, while others tied flagging to trees, marking the path in preparation of beginning trail construction in the fall. Next spring’s BreakAway will see trail construction in this area, and a major trailbuilding push in May and June 2003 is now in the planning stages. Sections of a loop trail were also revitalized, as was the core trail down the side of Signal Mountain and up toward Edwards Point.