Thursday, September 27, 2012

Trail Repair in Wildwood

While walking along the bike path early in September, I saw a truck pulling a trailer. Trucks are not usual sights in the middle of Wildwood so I took a picture. That's what I always do when I see unusual sights in the Park.

 I soon began asking one of  the men questions about why the equipment had been brought into the Park. (I think that having a camera in my hand makes me more curious than usual. It also makes some folks more willing to answer my questions.) Charlie Dundas, the fellow with the beard (And yes, I agree that he looks a lot like Santa Claus!) introduced himself. He told me that he was the owner of Tri-State Company, Inc. and that he had been hired by the City of Radford to repair some of the damage that the wind storm had caused at the end of June. He and a member of  his crew began to closely inspect the tree that had almost fallen on the footbridge in the middle of the Park. He also told me that he had built the Middle Footbridge, the Grand Staircase, and trails that had stairs. I was impressed - who should know better how to repair the damage?

 The trailer and the equipment were left parked by the side of the bike path. Hmm, I thought, that Caterpillar is very different from the ones I usually see here. I got used to seeing it each day as I walked with my camera.

Then one day, I noticed that it was gone - where could it be? That question was soon answered when I passed the Outdoor Classroom shelter, heard an engine, and looked up through the trees and into the woods. There it was - on the upper trail!

Charlie Dundas waved to me from high above. I crossed the middle footbridge, walked up the stairs,
and soon saw the Caterpillar hard at work.

This was the place where the huge tree uprooted by the wind had pulled out a large portion of the trail, breaking up rocks and leaving a big ditch where the trail had been. Dirt was being rearranged as the shovel lifted out dirt and dumped in it another place. The blade on the front was then used to smooth out the area.

Charlie was watching the progress as he stood behind the machine.

He soon was able to come across the trail to stand beside me and answer my questions. Remember, I  had my camera in my hand so I was very curious. When I asked how he got the machine up to the trail, he said that it was driven up there! The tractor wheels can be moved in or out to make the machine narrow or wide.  It is called an excavator and is powerful enough to move dirt and rocks but small enough to be driven up the trail. In addition to the shovel or bucket, there is a jack-hammer for breaking up rocks.

        The bucket has claws on one side that can be used to dig out trees that need to be moved.

                   Another crew member is always ready with a chain saw to cut the trees into smaller pieces.

The front attachments are designed to be changed out easily and rapidly. Well, they made it look easy, and it didn't take long. 

As we watched the trail gap begin to be smoothed out and closed up, I asked Charlie how he got started in the business of building trails and bridges and such. He said that he and  several other Boy Scouts, over a period of several years, built a 31 mile trail along the Kanawha River in West Virginia. That trail became a part of the Kanawha River Trace that will celebrate its 50th anniversary in October. After serving in the Marines, he became owner of his own company and has built and repaired trails all over the region. He specializes in being as gentle with the environment as possible. 
During our conversation he received a call that H.T. Bowling had arrived at the Main Street entrance and someone was sent to open the gate for his truck. The crew took a break from the construction work and went to conference with Mr. Bowling and his crew.

A large crane would be needed when it was time to remove the huge tree that had fallen beside the Middle Bridge and was lying tightly beside it. The crane would have to hold the tree trunk in place to keep it from slamming into the bridge and Mr. Bowling would be the expert to do that task. I was getting hungry so I said "Good-bye" to all and headed home for lunch.

Several days later, as I hiked the upper west slope trail, I saw that Mr. Dundas and his crew had completed their work there. The ground under my feet was even more level than before because the path did not have to go over big roots. The big tree at the middle bridge was still waiting to be removed.

No comments:

Post a Comment