Guest Authors Tina Toole and Shawn Weishaar, North Country Trail Association, Allegheny National Forest Chapter. Photos Courtesy of the authors.

For over a decade, our Chapter has aimed to build an Adirondack-style shelter about every 10 miles along our 100-mile stretch of North Country Trail in the Allegheny National Forest. Last October (2023), with the completion of the Tracy Run North Shelter and the Big Boulders Shelter south of Kellettville, we did it.

Both of these shelters are on National Forest land, so the first step was to get the building sites approved by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). That process involved over a year of collaborating with the USFS and getting National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) studies completed. In the end, appropriate sites were found and approved.

The Tracy Run North Shelter presented a significant challenge. It was sited almost four miles from the nearest road access, and it had to be set back 1,500 feet from the Allegheny Reservoir shoreline. Materials had to be brought in by boat from across the reservoir, then carried over a third of a mile uphill. It took volunteers seven trips ferrying boatloads of supplies, five days of hard work, and countless miles of hiking tools and materials to the site.

Over the first two workdays, five volunteers cached four boatloads of building materials on the lakeshore about one-third of a mile from the shelter site. Then they carried some of the foundation blocks uphill, laid out the footprint of the shelter, and began setting the foundation.

The third day was a scheduled Chapter workday, but the weather was not conducive to boating. Eleven volunteers had to hike four miles into the site with their tools. That cut into build time significantly, but the volunteers still accomplished a great amount of work: They carried those aforementioned four boatloads of cached materials one-third of a mile uphill to the site, and they built the foundation and floor of the shelter. A side trail to the shelter and another down to the water source were also laid out and blazed. At the end of all that, they still had to hike those four miles back out while carrying tools.

On the fourth workday, four volunteers floated in two more boatloads of materials. After hiking the materials and tools to the site, they constructed the walls and main roof of the shelter, installed most of the siding, and built a fire ring. These same volunteers returned the next day with the final boatload of materials, including a picnic table. By the end of this fifth day, the shelter was complete. It was the perfect end to this project.

Our Chapter is deeply appreciative of all the volunteers who helped with this build and who donated the use of their boats. We also extend many thanks to the U.S. Forest Service for their assistance in site selection and approval, and to the United Refining Company of Warren, Pennsylvania, who donated funds for shelter materials.

Join the Chapter for a hike to explore the North Country Trail in the Allegheny National Forest or get involved in their next project: [email protected]