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Because of its Wilderness location, rebuilding the historic shelter meant that transportation of building materials, and removal of demolition and construction debris had to be done using non-powered hand tools and pack animals.
The Blood Mountain Shelter on the Appalachian Trail in Georgia was originally constructed from local stone in 1937 for the Georgia State Parks system by Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) workers stationed at Camp Enotah at Vogel State Park. The shelter was transferred to the US Forest Service in a land exchange agreement in 1956. The basic elements of the rooms, window, and doorways of this stone structure remain unchanged, but modifications to the roof and floor have occurred over the years. Unfortunately those seeking comfort during cold nights helped themselves to any easily-removable wooden components such as shutters, window and door frames, sills and lintels to build fires in the stone fireplace. Any replacements met a similar fate! Graffiti, randomly-placed nails, and enthusiastic leaps from the adjacent rock to the easily-damaged wooden roof shakes added to the hiker-related insults to this historic old structure.
The Georgia Appalachian Trail Club (GATC) has been a strong proponent of the retention and maintenance of this historic shelter over the years. The nominated project began in 2010 when the Waterfall Foundation granted GATC enough funding to undertake a complete renovation of the shelter roof and beams. Working in collaboration with the USFS, a proposed plan for the renovations was completed in December 2010. As part of that planning process, a Forest Service archeologist researched the history of the shelter. The findings informed the details of the shelter repair and provided the basis for an application to add the Blood Mountain Shelter to the National Register of Historic Places.
Repairs were designed in keeping with concepts of “minimal intervention” and “replacement-in-kind” that preserved the historic integrity of the structure and at the same time were in keeping with the Wilderness designation of the surrounding area. Wilderness designation also meant that all rehabilitation work had to be accomplished with hand tools and all materials had to be delivered to the site by non-motorized methods. On the shelter, all wooden materials were to be removed and replaced with white oak. The new roof would be fire retardant cedar shakes with a 20 year warranty. Per USFS directives no windows or doors were installed although the frames were replaced. All exposed wood would be coated with Australian timber oil. The fireplace was rocked-in with native material per specifications.
In the spring of 2011 all specifications were agreed on by GATC and the USFS. Over the late spring and summer, bids for the construction and horse packers were invited. A construction company experienced in historically accurate building was identified. The GATC board contracted with Bona Fide Construction of Athens, GA.
Mules packed in construction materials and packed out debris
Because the shelter is in federally designated wilderness area, special arrangements had to be made to bring in the materials by pack animals. Horse Packer Dewey Campbell of Ellijay, GA was brought on board. During August the timbers were kiln dried and in September 2011 the pack animal route was reviewed, scouted, photographed and approved by USFS and GATC.
The on-the-ground work commenced on September 9, 2011. A pack animal route was cleared for about a mile along the Slaughter Creek trail and 1/8 of mile on the A.T. The construction work was completed in 14 days, including 32 round trips by the pack animals. The USFS posted signs closing the shelter to camping during the construction and signs alerting hikers to the use of pack animals during this period. During all pack animal operations GATC volunteers were at trail crossings and at the shelter to alert hikers. After construction, trails and the pack animal route were rehabbed on December 17 by 32 GATC members and guests.
• 45 Different GATC members participated; some contributing multiple days, for a total of 130 work days
• 8 Different USFS personnel visited the project during 14 days of activity
• Others who participated included representatives of the Appalachian Trail Southern Regional Office, Back Country Horsemen Association and the CoTrails Collaboration Group
• 11 days of pack animal activity resulting in 32 round trips from the Slaughter Creek Road to and from the shelter. GATC volunteers loaded and unloaded the pack animals.
• A total of 3,217 volunteer hours over 20 months were contributed toward this project.
• The project came in on budget. The entire project was funded by a grant of the Waterfall Foundation.
• The final day of pack animal activity which included three round trips was given as a gift to GATC by the pack animal provider, Dewey Campbell.
• The contractor, Bona Fide Construction, upon finding twice as many collar beams and joists as priced needed replacement, replaced them at no cost.
This was a long and complex process, involving coordination and planning among public and private entities. The result is a stone shelter with a new roof and beams that resemble the original construction in 1937 and that will hopefully last at least another 75 years. The USFS has submitted the application to place the Blood Mountain Shelter on the National Historic Register and we await the confirmation of that designation.
For more information:
Georgia Appalachian Trail Club