Appalachian Trail Conservancy

SidehillBeth Critton and Bob Proudman
Hardening Soggy Tread with 
Puncheon or Bog Bridging 

By Bob Proudman and Beth Critton
“Very few critters like to get their feet wet,” according the Forest Service’s Trail Construction and Maintenance Notebook.
This month we want to explore wet trail, and some structures that Appalachian Trail builders plan and install so hikers can avoid wet feet.  Yep, it’s as plain and simple as that! 
Indeed, if the A.T. passes through a bog or swamp, hikers will broaden the trail to avoid mud and deepening puddles, widening the tread and damaging soils and plant life as they pick their way through the muck, sometimes over a widespread area.
All trail work depends on what water does at the site:
  1. Flowing water moves downhill on slopes and sidehills, causing sheet-erosion and forming into rivulets, gullies, brooks, and streams.
  2. Standing water puddles, ponds, or creates swamps and wetlands by not moving or draining at all, or moving very slowly across flat areas in valley crossings or along flat, mountaintop bogs.
In A.T. parlance, bog bridging is the same as “puncheon”—that unusual word meaning a split-log or heavy slab of timber. An alternative is to build raised treadway or “turnpike” using native soil material and occasionally geotextile cloth. However, we will leave that for a future article.

Above, basic puncheon (A.T. Design, Construction, and Maintenance, 2nd edition, 2000)

Log or lumber bog bridges averaging eight feet in length and placed end-to-end can make even the soggiest trail sections accessible and pleasant, as well as protecting wetlands. They are often the best management practice in wet valley crossings or mountaintop bogs. And, they are interesting and fun to use, clomping along above the water and mud. As a hike leader, Beth enjoyed scheduling mid-day breaks as “luncheon on a puncheon!”

Occasionally, when a new beaver colony takes up residence, bog bridging may be essential to continue using a trail segment inundated by our furry, pond-loving friends. Once, when beaver-flooded waters became seasonally deeper, Bob had to cable a dozen puncheons together in a daisy-chain, using steel cables to prevent (or at least restrain) the bridges from floating away.
Several techniques are used. Native log puncheon may be harvested from available, rot-resistant trees near the site (agency policies allowing). They are topped and spiked to sill- or base-logs and placed end-to-end, sometimes numbering dozens in succession. Be sure to know your trees and choose appropriately before committing.
In the 1970s, Bob’s Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) Trail Crew in the White Mountains used spruce and fir trees, the only available species along high mountain bogs there, and even pounded in a “Golden Spike” to commemorate completing its first traverse of dozens of miles of Mahoosuc bogs in 1976.
Harvesting locally had impacts and limitations, however. Today, much of AMC’s puncheon is made of rough-cut, rot-resistant, dimensional tamarack or larch on cedar base-logs airlifted into the site.  While a topped, native fir bridge may last seven to ten years, a dimensional bridge on cedar-tamarack should last 20 to 25 years.
Which are ATC’s wettest regions, and which have the greatest amount of puncheon or bog bridging?
Mountain Club of Maryland puncheon project in Pennsylvania (Photo by Thurston Griggs)

Except for the Ceres-Nebo boardwalk in the Piedmont A.T. Hikers’ section in Virginia, all but about 300 feet of puncheon inventoried along the A.T. is found either in the Mid-Atlantic region or in New England, with the greatest total way up north. From New York to Katahdin, poorly drained soils predominate in those formerly glaciated regions, where peat bogs and mucks sit on top of glacially compressed “hardpans” that hold water in swamps and wetlands. Indeed, in the NPS Appalachian Trail asset inventory, puncheon now totals in the thousands of linear feet, and increases annually, in the six northernmost states.
As always, we invite your questions and comments.

Beth Critton is Chair of the Stewardship Council
Bob Proudman is now an ATC consultant contributing to The Register. 

Welcome Keystone Trails Association!

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is pleased to welcome the Keystone Trails Association (KTA) to an elite group—the 31 Appalachian Trail maintaining clubs!

KTA now has responsibility for the Pennsylvania A.T. section between Lehigh Furnace Gap and Little Gap that was previously maintained by the Philadelphia Trail Club, which found its priorities had changed over the years and voluntarily relinquished that Trail assignment. 

KTA Secretary Jim Foster said in a recent KTA newsletter, "In a sense, maintaining a section of the AT is a return to KTA’s roots. KTA was founded 60 years ago in part to supervise the maintenance of the AT in Pennsylvania. KTA volunteers have jumped right in and have been out working on the A.T., maintaining the A.T. corridor, and recruiting volunteers."

KTA, a volunteer-directed, public service organization is a federation of membership organizations and individuals dedicated to providing, preserving, protecting and promoting recreational hiking trails and hiking opportunities in Pennsylvania, and to representing and advocating the interests and concerns of the Pennsylvania hiking community.  

Webinars for A.T. Club Leaders
Cooperative Management: A.T. Club presidents and active A.T. volunteers are invited to attend an online meeting on July 13 at 12:00 p.m. with Appalachian National Scenic Trail Superintendent Wendy Janssen and ATC Executive Director Ron Tipton.  The registration deadline is noon on Wednesday, July 6. RSVP today.

Biennial Task Force Webinar: Club leaders should look for an email inviting them to participate in a webinar and provide feedback on recommended changes to the ATC Biennial model. The webinars are scheduled for Mon. July 25 and Thurs. July 28 at 6:15 p.m. each evenings. While clubs may have more than one member participate, only one person from each club may serve as its spokesperson.
Social Media Webinar: ATC is hosting this one-hour webinar on August 4 at 6:30 p.m. to showcase the range of different social media platforms available that can be used in many beneficial ways by A.T. Clubs. Organized by ATC intern Natrieifia Miller, it will highlight club success stories, share insights into new platforms, and answer questions you might have about how social media can work best for you. Participants should RSVP to participate in real-time or to receive the recording of this webinar. RSVPs are requested by Monday, August 1.

Be Tick Smart

Lyme disease and other serious or even fatal illnesses can be carried by deer ticks, wood ticks, and Lone Star ticks found in various areas along the Trail. More than one infection can be transmitted in a single bite. Deer ticks and their tiny nymphs are the primary carriers of Lyme disease.

Keeping plant growth cut back along the footpath will help reduce the likelihood of hikers picking up ticks while walking on the A.T.  Be sure and protect yourself while working on the Trail:
  • Use insect repellent that contains 20 to 30 percent DEET on exposed skin.
  • Treat shoes and clothing with permethrin, which repels or kills on contact. Treated bug-net pants over shorts are effective and allow for ventilation on warm, humid days. 
  • Wear light-colored clothing, making it easier to spot ticks.
  • Check for ticks daily. Remove any embedded ticks using tweezers or a tick key to lift under the mouth parts in a slow, steady pull.
  • Once inside, put clothes in the dryer on high heat for 60 minutes to kill any remaining ticks.
Even if you are not aware of having been bitten, be aware of symptoms of tick-borne illness and seek medical attention. Early symptoms usually occur within in one to three weeks of a bite and include:
  • rash
  • fatigue
  • fever/chills
  • headache
  • muscle/body aches
(Photo by Janet Thigpen)      

Try as they might, trail designers cannot always avoid routing the trail over poorly drained terrain that, at least seasonally, suffers from standing or slow-moving water... Hikers bypass the soggy spots, widening the treadway and wearing new pathways through the woods. (Appalachian Trail Design, Construction, and Maintenance, 2nd Edition, 2000)

Raised boardwalk in Maine
(Photo by Stan Moody, MATC)

Techniques trail builders can use in these areas include bog bridging or puncheon (discussed in this issue), raised turnpike, and boardwalk, which we will address in future articles.
Photo by Dan Innamorato 
Left to right: Larry Luxenberg, Maurice J. Forrester, Jr., Horace L. Kephart (grandson of Horace Kephart), Ron Tipton (accepting for Arch Nichols)

A.T. Hall of Fame Inducts Four

On June 3, the Appalachian Trail Museum inducted four people into the Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame.

Maurice Forrester, Jr., has spent his adult life advocating for and documenting the Appalachian Trail, as well as other trails in his native Pennsylvania. He is an author and former editor of ATC's newsletter and the Pennsylvania Guidebook. He served ATC as a Board member and as treasurer, and was a founding director of the A.T. Museum.

Horace Kephart was a leader in the movement to preserve America's wild spaces through the formation of the national parks. He advocated for preservation of the mountainous wilderness along the Tennessee-North Carolina border, which became the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and played a major role in laying out the route of the A.T. through the Smokies.

Larry Luxenberg is founder and president of the Appalachian Trail Museum  He has been involved with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association, the American Hiking Society, and many other trail groups. His decades-long dream to open a museum devoted to America's most famous long -hiking trail was realized with the opening of the museum in 2010.

Arch Nichols was a U.S. Forest Service official who was given responsibility for a new route for the A.T. through North Carolina in the 1940s. He advocated for the preservation Max Patch, Hump Mountain, and the Highlands of Roan. He also served on ATC’s Board of Managers longer than anyone else, nearly 40 years. 

(Excerpted from A.T. Museum website. Read more about the honorees' contributions to the Appalachian Trail here.)

Join the Celebration! 

The National Park Service turns 100 on August 25, 2016.

The centennial will kick off a second century of stewardship of America's national parks and engaging communities through recreation, conservation, and historic preservation programs.

Find out more here, and join the celebration!

Hike 100 

Celebrate the National Park Service Centennial on the Appalachian Trail.

Anyone who hikes 100 miles by December 31, with at least one hike on the Appalachian Trail, is eligible to receive the limited edition decal pictured above. 

Get more information and download a registration form and a hiking log on the Appalachian National Scenic Trail website.

See you on the Trail!

Share the Wealth...

of information found in The Register. 

From A.T. management policies to current issues to training opportunities and safety information, The Register is intended for Trail volunteers and managers.

Please forward this issue to Trail maintainers and anyone interested in the stewardship of the Trail and encourage them to subscribe by sending their first and last names and email address

The Register began as a printed newsletter, then moved online, and is now emailed monthly. The image above is from the April 1978 inaugural issue. Email issues are posted in the Trail Club Toolkit and can be found here.

Toolkit for Trail Clubs

A.T. club managers and volunteers - this web page is for you! 

From back issues of The Register  to a maintainer reference library, ATC policies, local management planning, information on managing volunteers, and more—the Toolkit is the best place to find resources quickly.

Life Cycle of a Deer Tick

Ticks find their hosts by detecting animals´ breath and body odors, or by sensing body heat, moisture, and vibrations…In addition, ticks pick a place to wait by identifying well-used paths. Then they wait for a host, resting on the tips of grasses and shrubs. Ticks can't fly or jump, but many tick species wait in a position known as "questing."

While questing, ticks hold onto leaves and grass by their third and fourth pair of legs. They hold the first pair of legs outstretched, waiting to climb on to the host. When a host brushes the spot where a tick is waiting, it quickly climbs aboard. 

From the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):

Volunteers of the Month

Power couple Bob Snyder and Mary Berryhill were recognized recently by the AMC-Berkshire Chapter for more than two decades of monitoring the Appalachian Trail corridor in Massachusetts—27 years for Bob and 22 for Mary. They continue to work as Trail maintainers and as natural heritage monitors.

Their relationship began on the Trail, and it has been a constant in their lives ever since.
(Read more about Mary and Bob here)

2016 ATC Meetings

ATC Volunteer Leadership Meeting
August 26-28
Shepherdstown, WV

Central and Southwest Virginia Regional Partnership Committee
October 1

Southern Regional Partnership Committee
October 15
Soak Ash Creek Crew Basecamp, 
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
New England Regional Partnership Committee
Meeting and Hike

October 21-22
Crawford Notch, NH

Mid-Atlantic Regional Partnership Committee
October 22
Hamburg, PA

ATC Stewardship Council
October 27-29
Harpers Ferry, WV

ATC Board of Directors
October 28-29
Harpers Ferry, WV

The Register  is published by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy for the volunteers of the Appalachian Trail, their agency partners, and others interested in the stewardship of the Trail.

Appalachian Trail Conservancy
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy mission is to preserve and manage the Appalachian Trailensuring that its vast natural beauty and priceless cultural heritage can be shared and enjoyed today, tomorrow, and for centuries to come. To become a member, volunteer, or learn more, visit
Our mailing address is:
ATC Headquarters
799 Washington St, PO Box 807
Harpers Ferry, WV 25425

Copyright © 2016  |  All rights reserved.