For 20 years, volunteers have amassed at the Obed Wild and Scenic River to don leather gloves, grab mattocks and hoes and disappear into the backcountry to give back to the climbing and hiking community. It is Trail Day, and there is plenty that needs doing.
This year was particularly remarkable because the East Tennessee Climbers Coalition, in conjunction with the National Park Service, dedicated the South Clear Parking area. It was a donation from the family of Dawson Howard who generously ceded this property so hikers could descend into the gorge and snatch precious views or pull up on sandstone cliffs.
One hundred people, most of whom are climbers, spent a cloudless Saturday rerouting water bars, removing trash, spreading gravel and shoring up trails. There are 350 climbing routes in the Obed, all of which are bolted and maintained by the East Tennessee Climbers Coalition. “One of the ETCC’s greatest strengths,” says John Nowell, board member of the coalition, “has been creating partnerships with individuals and agencies that share common goals and assist with mutually beneficial projects and objectives.”
It requires expertise to hang off these cliff faces with a hammer drill and brute strength. Area rock jocks are quick to step in with the appreciation and blessing of NPS staff.
Katherine McCrotty has participated in most every Trail Day since 2005. “Trail Day is an event I mark on my calendar each year, and I always look forward to maintaining trails and reconnecting with old friends while helping to keep the Obed beautiful.” She has worn many volunteer hats through the years from trash pick up to spraying hemlock trees for the invasive adelgid. The payoff for her is obvious in her fondness for the special relationship between climbers and park service staff. McCrotty is quick to note the generosity of Del and Marte Scruggs who own the Lily Pad which serves as the launch pad for this event.
If you are interested in volunteering, contact the ETCC on Instagram: @east_tn_climbers_coalition.