SCC Stewardship Director Angie Langevin here with an update on the Denny Cove Stewardship Project!
I know what you are thinking: “Wait, what about Hell’s Kitchen?!” The truth is, while Hell’s Kitchen and Dogwood have been on the forefront of most of our minds this summer as ‘Trail Day Season’ kicks off (and the reality of a full mile of new trail up a “hellish” slope keeps me awake at night), the SCC has also been working hard behind the scenes with the Access Fund Jeep Conservation Team at Denny Cove. REI recently awarded the SCC with a grant to team up with Access Fund’s Chris Wu and Kate Johnson to work on giving the Salad Bar Wall and Buffett Wall trails a “facelift”. (Thanks REI!)
Many Denny Cove fans have noted the erosion and trail flow problems at the newly popular Salad Bar Wall. A seasonal spring runs over the steep path to the Salad Bar, often resulting in a muddy butt-slide for any climber venturing to the iconic orange-lichen (and Ehrin Irvin) speckled face on Denny’s East side. Any Buffet connoisseur has also experienced the unique crumbling shale mounds and has likely kicked off a piece while belaying, hiking to the wall, scoping a project, or being lowered (after sending!). This March, the Access Fund (AF) and SCC met with South Cumberland State Park (SCSP) ranger John Ball to design solutions to some of these issues.
In May, AF and SCC began work to complete Phase 1 of the project that has been colloquially deemed the Buffet/Salad Bar “facelift”. The aims of Phase 1 were: 1. Stage all lumber for the entire project at the base of Buffet Wall. 2. Complete Chris’ “Mega Bridge” and connector trail to the bridge at the Salad Bar Wall. 3. Start construction of a series of retaining structures and stairs at Salad Bar.
Some friends may have politely called our idea “extreme”, “nuts”, or even “crazy”. Why? Well, how would you propose to schlep ~4500 lbs of lumber into the deep wilderness of Denny Cove? We began this project by lowering a generator, tools and countless loads of 16-foot 6x6s, 12x8s, and 4x4s off of the top of the Buffet Wall. We graciously received support from Nellie and Rob who own the newly re-opened Mountain Mart, (BTW- they have amazing burgers, cupcakes, beer and climber essentials, make sure to visit them on your way to Foster Falls or Denny Cove!) SCSP rangers Ryan and Spencer, along with rockstar volunteers like Rachel Prater and Blake Salmony who came out to help (and then we made them jug out…!). With our two Masters degrees AND Blackbelt-Level rigging skills, we managed to lower everything down with no major issues. But before we could even give each other high-fives, we catapulted full steam ahead into work on Chris’ “Mega Bridge”.
Chris spent many sleepless nights drafting and re-drafting ideas for some kind of a platform that would allow climbers to hike, belay, and stash packs near the Salad Bar arete. Chris’ goal was that the platform would also mitigate “buttslide”, stand relatively immune to washout from the seasonal spring, improve climber “flow” through the area, and distill the confusing network of steep “social trails”on the hillside near the Salad Bar.
With a last-minute plot twist, Kate was called out to Washington state to help out Annabelle and Andrea (the AF National Conservation Team). Chris and I were left alone at Denny Cove with only our sweat, blood, tears, Yellow-billed cuckoos, cicadas, and rattlesnakes. We wondered if we’d ever live to tell the tale…
Did we accomplish our lofty aspiration in only 3.5 weeks?! Did we also accomplish the classic perma-dirt-layer or “trail tan” while at Denny Cove?! Heck yes we did! Check out our photos and the new “mega bridge” next time you visit the Salad Bar Wall. This is only the beginning: Phase 2 of the Facelift will happen this fall! Stay tuned for AF Adopt-A-Crag/SCC/REI Trail Days at Denny Cove in October. We will need your help in a BIG way with Phase 2! We can’t wait! Until then…
Angie Langevin, Stewardship Director