View Full Version : Maintainers

01-09-2003, 14:56
I'm copying this thread from Sgt. Rock's site in hopes of getting more responses. Great suggestions so far.


As of January 1, 2003, I am the maintainer for the Berkshire section
from Finnerty Pond to Tyne Rd. (just north of Rt. 20 and the
MassPike). Who else on the forum is a maintainer? Grimace? Want to
pass along some tips?


You're just trying to get me to post so SGT Rock doesn't get mad that
I've just been "lurking" so far...

Tips you're after eh? Remember three things and you're good to
go. Drianage Drainage Drainage. The Berks aren't as bad as the Whites
in terms of thin top soil and foot traffic, but if you do not create
adequate drainage in the form of dips, ditches, and water bars you'll
find yourself up the creek (pun intended). By chance the first two
times I went up to my section it was pouring. Gave me a great idea of
where the problem spots were and where the water was going. Go out in
the rain.

When you walk your section, walk like a hiker not like a
maintainer. Try to envision where people are stepping and whether that
is a good place or not. Are people going off the trail here? Why? How
can I keep them on the foot path? A good example is a large rock step
in your trail. Hikers hate to step up and will create paths off the
side of the trail just to get around the obstacle. Cut down brush or
leave it there to force people to walk in certain spots and to stay
onthe trail.

Always bring something for the thru-hikers. Cookies, Soda, Beer. Make
sure you check the spring at Full Goose Shelter when you're going
thru. Maybe I've been there recently.

We should get together once the snow melts and do a couple maintaing
days. We'll haul you out to ME one day in return for us working on
your section. I'm sure some other New England members here would be up
for it as well.
ME->GA '01


Thanks, Grimace, those are great tips, expecially about going out in
the rain. My maintainer-coordinator has offered to go out with me in
the spring, but I may accept your offer too. I plan to check my
section a few times this winter to look for blowdowns. I bought a
pocket chain saw from Campmor and have been using it to cut blowdowns
on the trails behind my house, so getting a little practice. Do you
carry full-sized tools or get by with compact or lightweight ones?


Tools- I'm lucky that I have the backing of the AMC. THey go through
all the trails under their jurisdiction in early spring and take care
of the blowdowns - chopping crews. Therefore I do not need a chainsaw
or axe.

My section is actually pretty high up on the Mahoosic Ridge. NOt a lot
of big trees to be honest.

What I do carry. (split with my wife)

2 Hazel Hoes
Hand Clippers
Collapsable Hand Saw
Haven't needed a paint kit yet, trail is easy to follow

ME->GA '01


Grimace - I'm guessing drainage is your forte.

I got the chance to do a little trail maintanace this spring on my
hike. One of the things I got to do was water bars. Man! That's tiring

Just simple logs sticking half way out of the ground so I never really
took notice of them except to step over so that I wouldn't trip. After
I got to put water bars in, I appreciated the work that maintainers
put into every one that I saw one.

Thanks to all the maintainers out there! I appreciate the work that
you do!


I have a section from Sheeprock Top to Low Gap, that's in GA for you
yankees. Grimace said it all, go out in the rain so you see how the
water flows. I carry a matok, rack, shovel, pruner, swingblade and
crosscut saw however not all ay the same time, it depends on what I
plan to do. Down here we like to make water bars of rock and if wood
is used locust is prefered. Skin the bark before you dig it
in. Grimace hit the mark with think like a hiker and figure out where
they are going to put their feet. Also all work you do water bars,
etc. should be easy to walk on/over otherwise people are going to go
around and the work is for nought. I'm a member of GATC and the club
is very active in maintenance, every third Saturday of the month.


Go out there in the rain, or just after, and clip all the branches and
brush that falls across the trailway when wet.

PS. Thanks for taking on trail maintenace.


My hat goes off to all trail maintainers. I try to do a work hike at
least once or twice a year. There is nothing harder than swinging a
pulaski for a couple of hours. You will go home knowing that you did
something that day, the next day you will be reminded also.

Thanks guys for the work that you do.

03-05-2003, 11:26
I was at Home Depot last night and found two lightweight tools that I think will be great for trail maintaining.

1) Fiskar PowerGear Anvil Loppers, 13 ounces, 15 inches, will cut limbs up to 1.25 inches.
-- I have 3 lb 30 inch loppers, but I think small lightweight loppers will be nice to have also.

2) scraper/fork with retractable handle About 2.5 feet long closed, opens to 4 feet. I'm hoping this will work for clearing water bars. The scraper end is similar to a hazel hoe. It's fairly light at 1.25 lb.

I've also been using a 21 inch Sven folding saw (14 oz), which works really well. And a Pccket Chain Saw which weighs 6 oz. (available from Campmor for $25). The Pocket Chain Saw is harder to use than a bowsaw, but can be used with very little clearance. If you need to cut from the bottom on a log resting almost on the ground, you can thread the Pocket Chain Saw under it and cut upward.

jimmy b
04-08-2003, 12:10
Hi, I worked last year as a trail maintainer on the Appalachian Trail in TN. My favorite tool, the palaski. I spent most of my hours digging new trail, but I also painted a few white blazes. jimmy b

04-30-2003, 12:58
My wife and I will be taking the AMCís trail maintenance course May 17th in Pinkham NH. Although the trail that we adopted is not officially part of the AT (Davis Path), it is maintained by the AMC. I was just wondering how many tools you bring with you on any given trip, and what is the collective weight? Also, do you leave your tools at the site (hidden of course) or do you bring them in and out on each trip.

Since the section of the Davis Path that we are maintaining takes five hours to reach, we have to do it as an overnight trip so we have to make certain we have all the correct tools. Iím sure the AMC will explain all of this to us during our training course; I was just curious what others do?

04-30-2003, 13:50
It depends on the time of year. In spring you go out to cut blowdowns, so you bring loppers and a bowsaw. Later in the summer you might go to cut brush or paint blazes if that is needed, so bring those tools. Keep checking Viewsfromthetop to see if anyone reports recent blowdowns on your section that might need to be cleared in mid-year. For the big tools, try to plan certain trips where you will bring them. Otherwise, get a folding Sven Saw and some lightweight loppers so you can handle occassional blowdown work for minimal pack weight.

Mr. Clean
04-30-2003, 18:55
it's still a busy trail, the South Baldface section
of the loop trail in Evans Notch, NH. Just got back
from doing drainages, but wished I'd brought an
axe for blowdowns. My favorite tools are a steel
grass rake for getting leaves out of drainages, and
a regular 10" wide garden hoe for light digging of
drainages. I save blazing for summer when it's
to hot to chop/dig. It's easy to carry both, and I
almost always hike with a pair of hand clippers in
my hand so I can clip as I go, getting the worst
stuff that way.

04-30-2003, 20:07
It is difficult for me to give advice for general trail maintenance since I've specialized in blowdown removal almost exclusively ... but here are the tools I would generally carry - cheap 8 inch folding saw (emergency use only), 21 inch Corona Pro pruning saw and sheath (fits nicely in ski slots in pack - my primary saw), the head from an old cheap hand ax (dulled and used as a wedge or for cutting PI vines), a short handled 2 pound hammer for use with the wedge (also useful for driving stakes to support water bars), and lastly leather gloves.

For occasional use I will bring a crow bar for moving heavy blowdowns, moving rocks, and light digging. Another tool used occasionally are a pair of 15 inch loppers by Corona also - good for brushing up a trail and easy to carry. For the bigger blowdowns I will bring my 5 foot crosscut saw (a felling saw so as to get the wedge in earlier) in addition to the 21 inch Corona and the crowbar, wedge and hammer. The 21 inch saw and the 5 foot saw are a good combination - major cuts with 5 footer then finish the cuts with the Corona. I carry the crosscut saw to the site in my leather gloved hand - since it is a felling saw it is easy to hold one handed in the center of the blade.

If I were to do diverter clearing or other water bar work I would probably use a long handled hoe for moving the leaves and digging out the channel. A hoe also is useful as a walking stick when reversed.

jimmy b
04-30-2003, 22:58
Hello Maintainers, I am reading the AMC field guide to trail building and maintenance. I found it in the library. it has a section dedicated to tools, describing use, care and even suppliers. I think leaving tools in the woods is definitely considerable, especially for a rock bar. We always carried our tools out, but the average hike was only a couple of miles and the tools belonged to a hiking club. I think rock bars or crow bars are really quite heavy and carrying one 5 hrs., well thats a day in itself. the pulaski is still my favorite tool, and I like the name. the tools we used most pulaski, rake, mattock, sledge hammer, crow bar, loppers, small hand saw, and occasionally a chain saw, really these are the only tools I think we used. this book has many others. As for weight, well their kind of heavy, we normally had a dozen people and each person only carried three tools max for hikes of 2 miles in. I really think trail maintenance is a great experience, especially after hiking the A.T.. I remember climbing down into Pinkham Notch and having a all you can eat meal at the lodge there. If hiking the A.T., stopping at Kincora Hostel in Tennessee on a tuesday you might get to work on the trail, this is were I meet some great maintainers and trail builders.
good luck Mad River, Jimmy B

07-12-2003, 11:05
Did my first drainage work on July 5 and 6 with a work crew from the Berkshire AMC. We put in about 20 drainage dips and a few waterbars in my section from Tyne Rd. to the summit of Becket, and cleaned and repaired existing water bars from Benedict Pond to South Wilcox. Yesterday it was supposed to rain hard in the Berkshires, so I decided to go back to my section, hoping to see water running down the trail and find out how well the drainage dips worked. I left home at 6 am and was quite excited to be driving through a downpour, but alas, when I arrived at the trail, the rain was down to a drizzle. No sheets of water running down the trail and following the drainage dips off to the side. But most of the drainage did need some improvement, so I shouldered my mattock and headed up the trail at 8 am. Worked on almost all the new drainage dips, smoothing the uphill angle into the dips, building up the berms, and widening the outflows. Finished about noon and managed to get to work at 2:30, in very muddy clothes (luckily I had clean clothes with me and there is a shower here at work). It was a hard morning's worth of work, but the nice part was that every hiker who passed stopped and thanked me for doing maintenance.

07-12-2003, 14:10
Deb, I think that all of us here at WhiteBlaze.net give thanks to you and all of the trail maintainers out there. The amount of work that goes into trail building, drainage maintenance, blazing, weed-whacking, and handling blowdowns is really astounding when you come to think about it. Hikers readily notice when the maintenance hasn't been maintained, but are likely to forget about the underlying maintenance when it has been done well. Thank you!

Mr. Clean
07-16-2003, 07:52
It's always nice to see someone else get excited over trail work. I have also gone out during the rain to check my drainages. Keep up the good work and have fun.

Non A.T. trail maintainer...

walkin' wally
02-25-2004, 12:36

A typical maintainance season for me at Rainbow Lake in Maine is to go in as early as possible in May to beat the bugs and cut all the blowdowns with a chainsaw that I carry on a packframe with my gas,oil, food, and safety equipment. After an overnight at Rainbow Stream lean-to I hike about two miles to get to my section and then I will cut for 3.7 miles. I also check out the Rainbow Spring tentsite for litter and clean the firepit. Some years the amount of blowdowns are worse than others, I guess it depends on the amount of storms.
The second trip in is in Mid summer to cut back ingrowth with clippers and I carry a sven folding saw for small trees if I need it I also check out the tentsite for litter. Cutting ingrowth is tedious and it takes a long time to do the whole section.
My last trip in to my section is in late summer to check for more blowdowns and check the tentsite for litter.
I also try to get in as much section hiking as possible in Maine and New Hampshire. It's nice to outdoors.

WalkinWally :)
Ga-Me someday

Kozmic Zian
02-25-2004, 13:03
Yea.......Keepin' The Trail Nice! Thanks alot for the unselfish and loveing respect for The Trail that you guys deliver. If it wasn't for The Maintainers, Shelter Keepers, Ridge Runners, Trail Club Volunteers, and all others associated with keeping this incredible 2,173 mile National Park open and accessable, it would just cease to be. I think it's incredible how each Club and Maintainer has their own way of 'doing things' despite being schooled in the same 'classroom'. It keeps The Trail personable and unique from section to section and never does it become boring.
The physical work that goes in to maintaining a section is considerable, and I guess the rewards far outweigh the demands, witness the waiting list to maintain a section. So, you guys.....hats off and a hearty HUZZAH! We'll toast one at Dot's to you all. KZ@

09-25-2004, 12:08
:welcome My wife and I maintain a section of a different trail, not the AT. I've found the best time to paint blazes is on a warm winter day when the ground and trail is covered by fresh snow, so you can't see the trail. The placement of blazes has to be such that they will lead you along the trail even though you can't see where it is.