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Trail Tales

2023 really was the “Year of the Trail” for us at the CCC. 8600+ hours of stewardship, miles of new trail built and maintained, new climbing areas opened, hundreds of steps built, and nearly 1,000 individual volunteers to thank. Active crags like Pilot Mountain and Big Rock saw continued work throughout the year thanks to our awesome volunteer crag stewards. Table Rock, NC got some much needed updates thanks to a multitude of organizations including Wild South, North Carolina Outward Bound, and the Access Fund’s Conservation Team. Our C4 team also completed the 1.4 mile  Buffalo Creek Upper Boulders trail extension, opening 200+ boulder problems and a few dozen new routes. 

With such a rich and productive year in the rearview, we have the exciting challenge of choosing which stories to share. These are just a few to get us started…

2023 saw our C4 team working mainly at Buffalo Creek Park on our Upper Boulders Trail. We worked with several individuals and organized groups throughout the process, close to 500 different faces. Nearly 6 months later, some continue to stand out. 

Discussing our efforts at Buffalo Creek Park would be incomplete without acknowledging the invaluable assistance from Youthworks volunteers. Over eight weeks during the summer, these dedicated participants from the giveback program devoted 2-4 days each week to some of the most challenging trail work at our site. Despite sweltering temperatures averaging 85-90 degrees, and a hike of 1.3 miles from the parking lot to the worksite, often extending beyond 2 miles, these groups of 10-15 youth volunteers, accompanied by their parent counselors, demonstrated exceptional resilience.

Among them, a standout group dubbed "The Swifties" tackled the tasks with impressive determination. Despite encounters with yellow jackets and the physical demands of the work, their enthusiasm never wavered - perhaps fueled by the music accompanying their efforts! Engaging in lively conversations, I learned of their shared passion for stewardship, and Taylor Swift. This prompted a discussion about whether they’d attended Taylor Swift's recent concert in their area. Their response was sheer excitement, as many of them had indeed attended the concert just a few days before heading to NC to volunteer with the CCC. On day three of volunteering, they arrived armed with a list of song titles they believed Taylor Swift would include in her next stewardship inspired album. Energy levels remained high, and the group maintained wide smiles and good spirits throughout the completion of the challenging project. If it wasn’t the soundtrack of Etta James, Valerie June, and Taylor Swift, then I don’t know what was.

In 2023, we struck up a new partnership with James Madison University's Alternative Break Program, where students opt for community service over the typical spring break festivities. Fortunately, we were matched with members of their JMU climbing club, a perfect fit from the start. From the very first of their five days with us, their enthusiasm was what I would describe as “chew bubblegum and kick ass” energy. Their mission was clear: to leave a lasting impact on our trail.

The worksite was 2 miles in, so after introductions and a safety talk we were off with tools in hand. The JMU team immediately dove into bench-cutting fresh trail. Over the next two days, as they became acquainted with each other's strengths and goals, we divided into groups to tackle specific projects. Some focused on connecting our trail to the "Orange Wall" boulder, while others worked on constructing larger staircases. During the following days, we moved unprecedented amounts of dirt and rock. This crew was just built differently and we loved it! 

Undeterred by a rained-out day five, the group demonstrated their commitment to stewardship by assisting the CCC in a project with a partnering organization, Rutherford Outdoor Coalition. There was a large amount of roadside trash threatening a nearby bordering creek in Rutherfordton. The Rutherford Outdoor Coalition crew were thrilled to have a team of eager volunteers there to assist with the cleanup. 

Over their 5 day stint with us, this group of 11 crushers built over 20 steps, bench cut and established over 1/3 of a mile of new trail, and helped clear a significant amount of roadside trash. They also snagged some hard fought FAs on the Buffalo Creek Upper Boulders, including a highball on Disco Biscuits! We shared stories, spots, and strawberries. The group left NC inspired, with ideas and plans of how to make an impact back at their local crags and within their community. They left an undeniable positive impact at Buffalo Creek, and we can’t wait to work with them again!