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Thread: That time of year again - Fall hiking

  1. #1
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    That time of year again - Fall hiking

    The fall Equinox officially occurs on the 22nd at 9:31 AM by one source. Its probably been one of the weirder summer hiking seasons on record. I expect many outdoor organizations with field programs hope they never see one like it again.

    I got good news, the ATC is repainting my AT corridor boundary section on the AT in Maine. After 30 plus years since the original survey it was getting a bit hard to find in spots. I actually went out a week ago with paint and started painting, about 2 days later I got the news that a paid crew was starting yesterday.
    Last edited by peakbagger; 09-21-2020 at 04:08 PM.

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    Senior Member Hillwalker's Avatar
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    Ah, the good old days of coming home from the corridor with yellow boundary marking paint all over me and my clothes. I worked with the ATC Boundary Crew for a couple of summers some 10 years ago. As a volunteer it was work you couldn't pay me to do, but it was a lot of fun doing it for free. Here is a picture of my boundary dog during work on Smart's Mountain's boundary section. I was attempting to train him to find buried AT Boundary Monuments by smell.

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    Senior Member Barkingcat's Avatar
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    This stuff, too -- these sorts of posts, like Jazzbo's about exploring the old railway line, and this one, about AT corridor and Hillwalker's pictures...this sort of stuff is what I like about this forum.

    Thanks for this.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hillwalker View Post
    Ah, the good old days of coming home from the corridor with yellow boundary marking paint all over me and my clothes. I worked with the ATC Boundary Crew for a couple of summers some 10 years ago. As a volunteer it was work you couldn't pay me to do, but it was a lot of fun doing it for free. Here is a picture of my boundary dog during work on Smart's Mountain's boundary section. I was attempting to train him to find buried AT Boundary Monuments by smell.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    So that is the technology for finding tablets .

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    Senior Member ChrisB's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by peakbagger View Post
    So that is the technology for finding tablets .
    Dumb Question: Why isn't a more obvious marker used to delineate the right-of-way? Like, say, metal post?
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    The goal for the tablets is not for visibility, it was to install permanently installed points of reference at points about 900 yards apart and at all angles in the property line. The best permanent point is something that will not easily be moved or removed and will last for the long term. The tablets are typically drilled in and bonded to ledge even if that required digging to reach ledge. In areas where ledge is not accessible they do use tablets mounted on iron pipes. In some cases the pipes are tight in the ground but in other places they are loose or just installed in pile of rocks. The tablets are intended to be there long term to allow the property lines to be recreated. One of the "rules" of surveying is "monumentation", physical long term markings on the ground take precedence over plot plans, distances and angles so the monumentation is the highest priority to maintain but not necessarily make obvious to the general public. Especially with current technology, the boundary points can be located with differential GPS to a 1 to 3 centimeters so even if the tablets are buried a determined surveyor with the right gear is going to know where to dig to find the tablet. There are witness trees established nearby each point that give distances and bearings to each tablet. We also are supplied plastic boundary markers to attach to trees that are usually attached at obvious paths and woods road crossings as well as near tablets.

    One of the other things about older surveys is the corners and acreage were very approximate and subject to interpretation. Having a licensed surveyor drive pins or set a tablet sometimes establishes a definite point for what was an indefinite boundary. The same applies with ax blazes and paint spots. If the abutter does not agree,its up to them to hire a surveyor to establish a line and if they dont agree the parties can go to court where the judge decides which surveyors opinion is best supported by the evidence. In the case of the AT relocation in the 1980s it was timber companies selling what to them was low value ridgeline land not that suitable for forestry so when the NPS spent the time and money to research, survey and mark a line I dont expect there was lot of complaints.

    The line was marked when surveyed, with some exceptions, like vertical cliffs, with ax blazed trees painted with yellow markings The trees on the actual line are blazed aligned with the boundary while the trees to the left or right are blazed facing the line. There are couple of problems with painted ax blazed trees, some die, some heal the ax blazes, and paint on bark needs to be renewed. In some places the prior owners gave the lots a "haircut" before they sold the land so suitable mature trees were just not present to mark. These boundaries are rarely cut paths and boundary maintainers are warned not to turn them into paths although some of the pro boundary marking crews seem to have more latitude and cut quite a swath. Given that the vast majority of the AT in Maine is rural woodland the abutters are mostly wood lot owners and in theory responsible for assuring that they only cut on their own land. In areas with more population and higher value lands near ponds and rivers, the line is more aggressively maintained and monitored. The AT in Maine is roughly 281 miles out of 2200 miles for the total trail (12.7%) and is definitely the most rural with the least population base so getting volunteers to just cover the trail maintenance let alone the north and south boundaries is a major challenge. ATC does on occasion fund paid crews and there are volunteer college crews that do repainting but they are definitely in catch up mode. The federal government paid for the initial survey but the ATC and its delegated partner MATC for most of Maine (north of Grafton Notch) are responsible to maintain the corridor. The corridor monitors are supposed to walk the lines yearly and keep an eye out for trespass but given the ruggedness of my section its taken me several years just to locate the line in the woods. I also lost access to one of my access points for several years so half of my section required hiking up and over a mountain in the AM and the PM to even get to my boundaries which meant only 3 or 4 hours or actual fieldwork. I was just starting to get to the point where I could start repainting blazes and after 30 years the paint and blazes are very hard to find especially solo.
    Last edited by peakbagger; 09-22-2020 at 09:47 PM.

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    Last edited by Hillwalker; 09-23-2020 at 07:31 AM.

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    Senior Member skiguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by peakbagger View Post
    The goal for the tablets is not for visibility, it was to install permanently installed points of reference at points about 900 yards apart and at all angles in the property line. The best permanent point is something that will not easily be moved or removed and will last for the long term. The tablets are typically drilled in and bonded to ledge even if that required digging to reach ledge. In areas where ledge is not accessible they do use tablets mounted on iron pipes. In some cases the pipes are tight in the ground but in other places they are loose or just installed in pile of rocks. The tablets are intended to be there long term to allow the property lines to be recreated. One of the "rules" of surveying is "monumentation", physical long term markings on the ground take precedence over plot plans, distances and angles so the monumentation is the highest priority to maintain but not necessarily make obvious to the general public. Especially with current technology, the boundary points can be located with differential GPS to a 1 to 3 centimeters so even if the tablets are buried a determined surveyor with the right gear is going to know where to dig to find the tablet. There are witness trees established nearby each point that give distances and bearings to each tablet. We also are supplied plastic boundary markers to attach to trees that are usually attached at obvious paths and woods road crossings as well as near tablets.

    One of the other things about older surveys is the corners and acreage were very approximate and subject to interpretation. Having a licensed surveyor drive pins or set a tablet sometimes establishes a definite point for what was an indefinite boundary. The same applies with ax blazes and paint spots. If the abutter does not agree,its up to them to hire a surveyor to establish a line and if they dont agree the parties can go to court where the judge decides which surveyors opinion is best supported by the evidence. In the case of the AT relocation in the 1980s it was timber companies selling what to them was low value ridgeline land not that suitable for forestry so when the NPS spent the time and money to research, survey and mark a line I dont expect there was lot of complaints.

    The line was marked when surveyed, with some exceptions, like vertical cliffs, with ax blazed trees painted with yellow markings The trees on the actual line are blazed aligned with the boundary while the trees to the left or right are blazed facing the line. There are couple of problems with painted ax blazed trees, some die, some heal the ax blazes, and paint on bark needs to be renewed. In some places the prior owners gave the lots a "haircut" before they sold the land so suitable mature trees were just not present to mark. These boundaries are rarely cut paths and boundary maintainers are warned not to turn them into paths although some of the pro boundary marking crews seem to have more latitude and cut quite a swath. Given that the vast majority of the AT in Maine is rural woodland the abutters are mostly wood lot owners and in theory responsible for assuring that they only cut on their own land. In areas with more population and higher value lands near ponds and rivers, the line is more aggressively maintained and monitored. The AT in Maine is roughly 281 miles out of 2200 miles for the total trail (12.7%) and is definitely the most rural with the least population base so getting volunteers to just cover the trail maintenance let alone the north and south boundaries is a major challenge. ATC does on occasion fund paid crews and there are volunteer college crews that do repainting but they are definitely in catch up mode. The federal government paid for the initial survey but the ATC and its delegated partner MATC for most of Maine (north of Grafton Notch) are responsible to maintain the corridor. The corridor monitors are supposed to walk the lines yearly and keep an eye out for trespass but given the ruggedness of my section its taken me several years just to locate the line in the woods. I also lost access to one of my access points for several years so half of my section required hiking up and over a mountain in the AM and the PM to even get to my boundaries which meant only 3 or 4 hours or actual fieldwork. I was just starting to get to the point where I could start repainting blazes and after 30 years the paint and blazes are very hard to find especially solo.
    Very interesting. Kudos to you with all the effort towards the cause. A friend of mine has been a surveyor for a long time now. I remember when he was going to school to get all his accreditations to become a certified surveyor. One time having a discussion with him about navigating with Map and Compass his response was. Bjorn Kjellstrom's book "Be an Expert with Map and Compass" was like studying for a class on Surveying 101.
    "I'm getting up and going to work everyday and I am stoked. That does not suck!"__Shane McConkey

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    I worked for an old time surveyor during college in the nineteen eighties. He was near retirement. We worked for a utility and did surveys and deed research on occasion. We used old fashioned steel tapes and transits as he did not trust the modern surveying stations that were just coming out. Later on while working up in Berlin I got my hands on a total surveying station with electronic distance measurement. I picked up one on Ebay several years ago and mess around with it on occasion for my own projects. I never had a license so I cannot survey boundaries but I can do site work. Its primitive to the units used these days but still beats the heck out of dealing with steel tapes especially on a slope.

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    Quote Originally Posted by peakbagger View Post
    I worked for an old time surveyor during college in the nineteen eighties. He was near retirement. We worked for a utility and did surveys and deed research on occasion. We used old fashioned steel tapes and transits as he did not trust the modern surveying stations that were just coming out. Later on while working up in Berlin I got my hands on a total surveying station with electronic distance measurement. I picked up one on Ebay several years ago and mess around with it on occasion for my own projects. I never had a license so I cannot survey boundaries but I can do site work. Its primitive to the units used these days but still beats the heck out of dealing with steel tapes especially on a slope.
    We had to get our plot surveyed as part of a getting a perimeter fence installed and for a zoning variance for a second story addition on the house.

    It was a father and his teenage son, working on the weekend, with what I assumed was equipment from the father's regular job. Now I wonder if it was his personal gear.

    Anyways, the survey wasn't cheap but still a huge savings over what the companies in the "yellow pages" were quoting.

    They spent most of the morning locating the ground references. Once they had those points, they completed the survey and planted the stakes very quickly.

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    Warning thread drift- A former coworker who was a surveyor did a quick survey for a friend of mine. I did the research and a lot of the leg work. He gave them a deal off his normal rate and we did the field work and drove the new corner pins. About a week later two abutting neighbors started to raise heck. They thought the pins were off five feet on their land. They threatened to bring in a surveyor and my coworker was not happy as he didn't include the time to defend his survey in his price. Luckily both surveyors figured it out quickly (the neighbors were wrong). But every survey is a potential can of worm as its based on the accuracy of past surveys. Generally the approach is leave "sleeping dogs lie".

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    Quote Originally Posted by peakbagger View Post
    ...One of the other things about older surveys is the corners and acreage were very approximate and subject to interpretation.....
    I happened to be searching for an old story in Paul Doherty's Smoke From a Thousand Campfires yesterday and numerous subjects caught my interest for reread; amongst them the story of him working with Howard Woodward of Berlin who was an old school timber cruiser and surveyor. Paul recalled a story from Howard when he was an apprentice surveyor where the old-timer mentor said to him at the end of a chain run where a corner should be set "stretch out a little Howard, give 'em a little more."

    I appreciate Hillwalker and Peakbagger's time and appreciation for following boundary lines. It has always been one of my favorite hiking sports as it forces a challenge on you to follow a line over whatever the terrain presents. When I worked for the state I enjoyed conversing with the DRED land surveyors about certain boundary lines that went through some interesting terrain and I wondered how they could keep their paint can upright. The ledges at Bears Den and Potholes in Gilsum and the state boundary below the upper reaches of Cascade Link on Monadnock being memorable.

    The epic surveying story of course being the Monument Line Survey in Maine as chronicled in Waterman's Forest & Crag. I was so fascinated by this story and wanting to relate to the actual terrain that I attempted to find traces the last time (maybe that little old cairn?) I was in Baxter camping in the Northwest Basin. So much so that I had planned to photocopy the chapter but didn't, going to read the chapter just before hitting the trail, to oh heck I'll just bring the damn book as it will be something good to read.

    It can be really hard to maintain your boundaries and corners. I had no idea what I owned for a few years wandering around our forest even though it had been surveyed around 10 years prior. Of 6 corners I could only find 2 pins and the rumor was the surveyor was having a drinking problem at that time. We added a few acres from an abutter last year so had a new survey done the fall prior. When all the points were laid out on a plat including a few from the joyful surveyor- it was discovered that the joyful surveyor had produced and blazed some very curved lines. Just 2 years later I have lost some of my best boundary trees to wind-throw and one corner witness. The ax blazes in some places are already healing over and difficult to spot.

  13. #13
    Senior Member skiguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew View Post
    I happened to be searching for an old story in Paul Doherty's Smoke From a Thousand Campfires yesterday and numerous subjects caught my interest for reread; amongst them the story of him working with Howard Woodward of Berlin who was an old school timber cruiser and surveyor. Paul recalled a story from Howard when he was an apprentice surveyor where the old-timer mentor said to him at the end of a chain run where a corner should be set "stretch out a little Howard, give 'em a little more."

    I appreciate Hillwalker and Peakbagger's time and appreciation for following boundary lines. It has always been one of my favorite hiking sports as it forces a challenge on you to follow a line over whatever the terrain presents. When I worked for the state I enjoyed conversing with the DRED land surveyors about certain boundary lines that went through some interesting terrain and I wondered how they could keep their paint can upright. The ledges at Bears Den and Potholes in Gilsum and the state boundary below the upper reaches of Cascade Link on Monadnock being memorable.

    The epic surveying story of course being the Monument Line Survey in Maine as chronicled in Waterman's Forest & Crag. I was so fascinated by this story and wanting to relate to the actual terrain that I attempted to find traces the last time (maybe that little old cairn?) I was in Baxter camping in the Northwest Basin. So much so that I had planned to photocopy the chapter but didn't, going to read the chapter just before hitting the trail, to oh heck I'll just bring the damn book as it will be something good to read.

    It can be really hard to maintain your boundaries and corners. I had no idea what I owned for a few years wandering around our forest even though it had been surveyed around 10 years prior. Of 6 corners I could only find 2 pins and the rumor was the surveyor was having a drinking problem at that time. We added a few acres from an abutter last year so had a new survey done the fall prior. When all the points were laid out on a plat including a few from the joyful surveyor- it was discovered that the joyful surveyor had produced and blazed some very curved lines. Just 2 years later I have lost some of my best boundary trees to wind-throw and one corner witness. The ax blazes in some places are already healing over and difficult to spot.
    Thank you for mentioning the reference to Forest and Crag. Hard to fathom what that must have been like. No doubt a Wilderness experience. As far as surveys go it can be feast or famine. I if you live in New Hampshire you can look at the NH cooperative extension’s website on proper surveying and marking techniques. Not every land owner is abreast of these guidelines and can quickly become a midnight cowboy with a paint can. Know where you stand. Especially if you get involved with Current Use.
    Last edited by skiguy; 09-25-2020 at 01:00 PM.
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    Senior Member Salty's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hillwalker View Post
    As a volunteer it was work you couldn't pay me to do, but it was a lot of fun doing it for free.
    The may be the best quote concerning volunteering in the forest I've ever had the pleasure coming across!

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    Thumbs up

    Quote Originally Posted by Hillwalker View Post
    That was very informative. Thanks for posting.

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