Saturday, April 9, 2011

Wanton Destruction...and Ultrarunning

I am running up on the Appalachian Trail Saturday morning, having queued up this post in advance.

A month or so ago I put up a post entitled Embarrassing Moments in Ultrarunning, here, wherein I described an unfortunate incident of pooping my pants while running on the Appalachian Trail.  I wanted to follow up with a different aspect of that same story.

The stream where I tried to clean up was the tiny little run that issues from Bailey Spring, perhaps half a mile or so north of the PA Rt 16 crossing.  Bailey Spring is a walled spring, with the stream also walled for a distance of maybe a hundred feet or so to channel the water down a narrow (1'-2' wide) streambed to where it crosses under an old woods road.  The spring itself runs well year-round in all but the most extreme droughts. 

Several years ago an Eagle Scout undertook a project to cover the spring by roofing it over to prevent leaves and other forest debris from filling the spring.  The young man used 4" x 4" treated lumber posts to support the roof.  If I recall correctly, there were only a pair of posts in the front, as the back of the roof abutted the hillside embankment to the rear of the spring.  The roof was of corrugated tin, and a plaque was affixed to identify the project as an Eagle Scout endeavor.

It wasn't long before the plaque was all shot up by hoofties (a friend's moniker for hillbillies) with guns.  Subsequent trail runs past the spring--where I always would stop to fill my bottles or get a drink--revealed more and more bullet or shotgun blast damage.  The roof soon was full of holes from being shot from above, and eventually the posts were shot to smithereens, dropping the roof into the spring, rendering the spring itself unusable.

Of course I must note that the Appalachian Trail is off-limits to firearms and hunting, but that doesn't stop the hoofties.  Law enforcement in the backcountry is almost nonexistent due to lack or resources.

My most recent trip showed that someone (perhaps the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club maintainers) has dragged the construction debris off to the side to uncover the spring again.

What's the answer to such wanton violence and vandalism?  The only "solution" would be to move the spring deeper into the backcountry where hoofties don't venture.  The question of "why" will never be answered--vandalism has existed for millennia and will continue to exist. 

It's just a shame that we who love the backcountry, who love it with every fiber of our being, have to put up with stuff like this.


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