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Water Bars and Climbing Ropes

For National Trail Days this year Vandy’s Outdoor Program Teamed up with Austin Peay University’s Outdoor Program to go and do some much needed trail work at King’s Bluff, our local climbing crag.  King’s is a fun, limestone bluff about an hour from Nashville and is one of the best in the area to get new climbers on some real rock. There is a mixture of short easy climbs as well as longer more technical ones. The short, steep approach trail snakes down the bluff from the parking lot above and then comes to a T at the base of the bluff with climbs on right and left of it.  Since we use this spot so much, it made since to do a service trip to give back to it. The game plan was to do trail work in the morning and the go climbing that afternoon.

When our crew of 15 got there, the first step was to scout out what we would be doing. We decided to focus most of our attention on widening and reinforcing a section of trail at the base of some of the climbs, replacing some water bars, and closing a shortcut section to encourage people to use a switch back. It was a lot of fun teaching the students how to use the pick mattocks, bow saws, and other tools that they had not used before. As the morning went on, we widened a 35 foot long section that was nothing more than a balance beam-like foot path to a 3ft wide, reinforced trail. In terms of instant gratification, trail work whoops social media any day of the week! Eventually we ran out of materials to reinforce the banks of the trail, we moved up to replacing water bars and closing down the short cut trail. My group got the short cut closure job and the rest of the morning was filled with bringing in rocks and debris to put on each end of the short cut.  It was soon obvious that it would be more work to remove the stuff than to take the extra steps down the switch back, the shortcut was closed. When we moved down to help with the water bars the other half of the crew was just finishing up tamping them down and the bars looked great.

After taking a minute and admiring our work, our crew gathered up the tools and trekked back to the vans to clean up and get lunch. We chatted more with our new friends and then switched gears to go climbing. It was a solid day in the sunshine!





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