View Full Version : Architect puts skills to use on trail

06-16-2004, 12:46
Architect puts skills to use on trail

June 9, 2004
The Knoxville News-Sentinel (javascript:NewWindow( 'FIISrcDetails','?from=article&ids=kxvl');void(0);)

When architect Philip Royer isn't designing schools, office buildings or homes at ASG Inc., he spends some of his time perfecting the architectural fineries of three-sided trail shelters in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Royer, current president of the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club and a resident of West Knoxville's Cedar Bluff area, has helped renovate five of the overnight trail shelters on the Appalachian Trail in the last dozen years or so, and is preparing to renovate the sixth.

"I had used the A.T. shelters since my first backpacking trip in 1972, and I always was frustrated with their lack of space for people and gear, Royer said. "I never dreamed I could have an impact on the shelters until friends in the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club approached me to help with renovations at Davenport Gap shelter in 1998.

"The design and planning came naturally enough, but the experience of constructing the improvements in the backcountry with volunteer labor was one of the most rewarding things I have done while an architect," Royer said.

The Appalachian Trail is the nation's longest continuous footpath, stretching 2,100 miles from Springer Mountain, Ga., to Mount Kathadin, Maine.

One of the most rugged and beautiful parts of the trail is in the Great Smoky Mountains, where the AT winds along the ancient spine of the mountain range near the Tennessee and North Carolina boundaries.

Thousands of backpackers attempt to hike the distance each year, but only about one in 10 completes the journey.

Members of the Knoxville-based Smoky Mountains Hiking Club maintain 100 miles of the Appalachian Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains and North Carolina's Nantahala National Forest.

Phyllis Henry of Blount County and Doris Gove of Sequoyah Hills, former president of the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club, also worked Saturday, June 5, to observe National Trails Day. The workday was expected to attract more than 200 volunteers from throughout the Southeast who were to repair parts of the Appalachian Trail between Newfound Gap and Clingman's Dome.

Construction on the club's sixth trail-shelter renovation project will start on June 19, when volunteers from the SMHC along with American Hiking Society volunteers from around the country will hike from Cosby to Tricorner Knob via the Snake Den Trail and Appalachian Trail.

Tricorner is the most remote shelter in the park, almost a day's walk from the road in the best of conditions. It required major planning for construction materials to be delivered via horseback and dropped by helicopter, Royer said.

Volunteers on the project plan to spend most of a week camping in the backcountry to complete their work on the shelter, he added.

"Plans are to complete the project by June 25," Royer said.

Among those who helped with the helicopter airlift to prepare for the project were Paul Ruble, Stewart Taylor, Jerry Troxler, Wayne Williams, James Fondren, Andy Piercy, Trailrider Dick Barnes, Phyllis Henry, George Minnigh and other park personnel.

Among the tasks they had to complete in preparation for the project were getting the tools ready, banding the material to be airlifted, tearing off the roof and shelter fence so it could be flown back out, and building another set of privy bins. Previous shelters renovated or reconstructed by hiking club members include Davenport Gap, Icewater Springs, Peck's Corner, Siler's Bald and Molly's Ridge.