…that was the question facing two trails volunteers as they stood at a perennially wet area on the Tucker Trail, now unusually dry from drought, and contemplated whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the water and muck of outrageous marshiness, or to take volunteer arms against a quagmire of mud, and, by spanning it, surmount it?
While hikers on the Tucker Trail had been picking their way across slippery rocks and logs for decades, a recently arrived trails supporter asked whether a bridge would be a good idea. Since the Tucker Trail is a branch of the Appalachian Trail system, the question required consultation and approval of the adopter of that segment and the adviser for trail adopters in this region. The word came back that a bog bridge made of non-pressure-treated materials would be fine.
After some discussion of how to pay for the necessary materials, the solution came via a generous donor and the re-use of materials that previously constituted a temporary bridge on the Ballard Trail. Shortly thereafter, one of the Norwich Trails work leaders staged the necessary materials just inside the gate at the entrance to the Tucker Trail.
The challenge for building the bog bridge was two-fold: first, portering the materials to the worksite and, second, constructing the bridge. A call for volunteers resulted in ten people responding, including three youngsters. The crew mustered at 8 am on Sunday, September 18th, and carpooled to the trailhead on Happy Hill Road.
Many hands made light the work with each carrying what they could in two sorties up the ¾-mile stretch to the bog from the staging area.
Once the materials were at the site, there was discussion about the degree to which the new bridge should be aligned with the existing trail, or whether its position would cause the trail to adapt. Sketching in the alignment with the stringers helped decide the height of the end and middle abutments to achieve a level deck with two spans, supported at both ends and in the middle.
Satisfied with the installation of the stringers, the pre-cut decking went on quickly with two self-drilling screws on either end of each plank. One architectural challenge was that the stringers overlapped, creating a question of how to align the decking. The solution was to make the deck flush with the stringer closest to the outside of the bridge, which meant a small overhang on opposing sides at opposite ends approaching the middle, and no overhang in the middle.
The construction crew completed its work and packed out the tools and leftover materials at 11 am.
The participants were:
- Jim Faughnan (work co-leader)
- Stephen Flanders
- Greg with three kids
- Peter Griggs
- Tom Griggs
- Nick Krembs (work co-leader)
- Cody Williams
Thanks go to Cathie Redpath for her generous financial support purchasing the new lumber used.
Story and photos by Stephen Flanders