Article Published: Aug. 22, 2012 | Modified: Aug. 22, 2012
The woods are taut with the teal green color of late summer.
Queen Anne’s Lace, spicy goldenrod and plumes of thistle are parted in the woods at the tip of Elk Knob State Park near Todd.
Down the mossy hill from the Summit Trail, ranger and superintendent Larry Trivette is benching, scraping away dirt and moss to uncover the ground’s surface of the park’s new trail – Beech Tree trail.
Until mid-November and restarting on the first of April, volunteers are invited to assist the Elk Knob staff on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Elk Knob State Park was established in 2004, and Trivette, a ranger since 1980, has been employed there since. Shortly after, in January 2006, the park’s first trail, the “Summit,” was started. The 1.9-mile trail took five and a half years to complete with the help of church groups, fraternities, sororities, visiting families and locals.
“I remember there was a group from an Episcopal school that came in,” Trivette said, “and there was this little boy, no more than 10 or 12 years old, who picked out a rock he wanted to uproot, this good sized rock, but with a little help, he got it. Two weeks later, he brought his dad back to show him ‘his rock.’”
Trivette said the volunteers saved the park hundreds of thousands of dollars. “There’s no way we would have finished in that time without them,” he said.
“It was a labor of love,” ranger Ray Roberts said with a laugh, as he dug rocks and roots out of the new trail with a sledgehammer.
The Beech Tree trail has an expected completion date of summer 2013, weather willing. It will loop one mile with an entrance at the picnic tables and bathroom, a 500-foot drive from the Summit trail parking lot.
“We wanted to build this trail specifically for people who can’t access the summit or want to do a shorter easier walk,” he said. “It’s good for small children, senior citizens, mothers with strollers, and, if we get funding from the state, we’re going to pave the first 100 yards, so it can be wheelchair accessible.”
Since trail construction began on July 1, it has seen 10 volunteers, but those involved are passionate about its swift completion, and the visualization of an anticipated trail that connects Watauga County peaks and parks.
Brenda Sigmon from Catawba County is a seasoned hiker and volunteer who helped for the first time at Beech Tree trail on Saturday, Aug. 18.
“I think this is important, because we’re getting so disconnected from nature now, and it’s doing bad things to us and our children,” she said.
Once the trail is completed, it will be one of many spreading “Kids’ Track Trails” dug at state parks.
Elk Knob also opened “Back Country Camping Hike” on Aug. 17 for hikers.
“The local folks embraced this place, because it’s a protected area instead of developed homes,” Trivette said. “There are families that have lived in this area for generations, and sold land to us for much less than they would have to a developer, because they don’t want to see any more ‘No Trespassing’ signs or entrance gates.”
Rangers Trivette and Roberts invite the public to Elk Knob’s eighth free community potluck dinner and craft session on Sept. 8, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
To donate to Elk Knob, visit Friends of High Country State Parks at http://friendsofhcsp.wordpress.com
. For more information on Elk Knob and volunteering, call (828) 297-7261.