Raft Out the Trash!

Raft Out the Trash Volunteers, and the haul.

Raft Out the Trash Volunteers, and the haul.

Where would we be without our volunteers and amazing AmeriCorps Project Conserve members? Our “Raft Out the Trash” event  earlier this year reflects a stellar example of how these team members’ incredible initiative, drive and dedication help us achieve conservation success.

Since protecting the Lost Cove tract in 2012, we at SAHC have heard over and over how much this special place resonates with people. Unfortunately, however, years of illegal use had marred the beauty of the cove – and left literally tons of trash strewn about. When our AmeriCorps Outreach & PR Associate, Anna Zanetti, first scouted a hike into Lost Cove, she was appalled by what she found and commenced to plan an ambitious volunteer excursion to take care of it. The resulting “Raft Out the Trash” event was part of our celebration of Earth Month 2014, and this is Anna’s account of the day:

“The arrival of summer entices us to bask in the beauty of our mountains and rivers. Unfortunately, a recent volunteer experience with the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) reminded me not to take our natural spaces for granted. I led a group of volunteers into the Nolichucky Gorge to “Raft Out The Trash” from a secluded, protected tract near the NC/TN border; and what we found there could be a poster lesson for “Leave No Trace.”

Before

Before

I recruited 24 volunteers to clean up scars of vandalism and debris in Lost Cove, a historic ghost town surrounded by the Pisgah National Forest. USA Raft generously offered their services in partnership for the volunteer day, replacing a strenuous trek out of the gorge with an adventurous rafting trip after a long and rewarding day of service.

After

After

On the morning of the event, we met a group of cheerful volunteers at USA Raft’s outpost in Erwin Tennessee and proceeded to the trail head. After soaking in the sun and views from the meadow above the gorge, we began a three-mile descent to the Lost Cove settlement, surveyed the damage, and divided into two groups to conquer the trash.

It was seriously sad. One group picked up beer cans, glass containers, and even clothing littered around the site. The other intrepid half of our party forayed into the more-than-knee-deep pit of garbage filling one of the remaining historic outbuildings, probably once used as an agricultural store house. They gathered up a hefty load of bottles, cans, shards of glass, scraps of plastic, aluminum foil, even pots and pans — the remnants of camps where people had come down to enjoy the cove and left much more than just a trace.

A little ingenuity goes a long way!

A little ingenuity goes a long way!

Despite the dirty work, we were still pretty fresh after filling our bags with garbage. But that’s when the real challenge hit us: How were we going to carry the bags (each containing around 100 lbs. of trash) down about a mile of the steepest, rockiest terrain to the meeting point with USA Raft? In cases like this, a little ingenuity goes a long way.

Teamwork!

Teamwork!

Henry, one of our volunteers, suggested we tie the bags of trash onto sturdy branches to help displace the weight on our shoulders. Working in pairs, and stopping along the way to take breaks and check out some of the blooming wildflowers, our crew finally reached the river. We rested underneath the shady trees to rejuvenate and ate lunch atop a rock bluff overlooking the Nolichucky River. Struggling with fatigue in the last portion of our trek, our group certainly gained a greater appreciation for the folks who had once inhabited the Lost Cove settlement and hiked goods and supplies up that steep trail!

Hiking down the trash.

Hiking down the trash.

After lunch the raft guides arrived. They pulled up to the beach with five rafts and ten guides, each a rollicking river character. With professional ease and an entertaining air, the guides ushered our group into four of the rafts and helped load the 23 bags of trash onto the last one — and off we went down the class three rapids!

When the passenger rafts paused for a break, we looked around and wondered, where is all the trash? Then, we turned to see one heroic guide managing double oars and keeping the Raft o’Trash afloat. Major kudos to him for navigating the class 3 rapids with all that unwieldy weight! And a huge ‘Thank You’ to USA Raft for safely transporting the trash and volunteers three miles down-river where food, music and fellowship awaited us at the Pickin’ and Paddlin’ event. We had an amazing time on the river and loved the character and camaraderie of the USA Raft staff.

The Raft O'Trash

The Raft O’Trash

After months of preparation and coordination among staff members and USA Raft, the Lost Cove “Raft Out The Trash” event was here and gone. The event was truly a bonding experience for all of us, but it has brought me the greatest happiness to provide this outing for SAHC and all of our volunteers. The experience also deeply underscored the need to remind all who use our beautiful outdoor spaces to strive to Leave No Trace, “to leave only footprints and take only memories.” As you  hike, camp and enjoy the breathtaking mountains around us this summer, please remember to pack out what you bring in – and leave it for others to enjoy in the future, too!

Thank you to all our volunteers, guides, and USA Raft!

Thank you to all our volunteers, guides, and USA Raft!

Advertisements
Categories: Volunteer & Stewardship Activities | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Post navigation

4 thoughts on “Raft Out the Trash!

  1. OMG … you guys are AWESOME!! As someone who regularly visits Lost Cove, all the tons of trash there just breaks my heart. I always “pack out” as much as I can fit in my day pack, but it always seems like just a drop in the ocean.

    That small out building was especially heart breaking.

    And, the thought of lugging all that down to the river is mind boggling!!! That is one steep, rocky stretch.

    Kudos to all of you as well as the rafting folks for doing such an important job.

  2. Dot Dowlin

    As a small girl I used to visit my Grandmother who lived in lost Cove, this is so sad to see a beautiful place where so many people lived in peace and harmony. The trash that you folks took out , God bless you all for that. My Grandma would have a fit if she knew this. And so would the other families.
    At 72 my dream is to go back, but my body says no.
    Looking forward to watch the next trip on the Internet.
    Thank you

    • chadfredb

      Hey Dot, Who was your grandmother? My family was from there. Dad, my Aunt, and Uncle as well as my grandparents were the last to leave. I’ve tried to keep as many photos, articles, etc that I can find on the cove to document its history from circa 1864 to 1958 when it closed.

  3. BackWoodsAng

    A group of us went out in Feb 2016, cold trek that day. The place was very clean, this story of the Raft out the Trash is really inspiring !! Thanks to those who contributed. Ang out.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: