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New shelter near Max Patch ready for hikers

A new Appalachian Trail shelter that can sleep 18 backpackers has been built in the Max Patch area of Haywood County.

Volunteers with the Carolina Mountain Club spent two years building the trail shelter. It will replace an old trail shelter in the same vicinity that was frequently getting trashed.

Howard McDonald, leader of the shelter construction crew and past president of the Carolina Mountain Club, said the decision to rebuild the shelter at a new site was made in 2002 when trail volunteers with the club picked up and hauled out almost 30 bags of trash over the course of one year.

The new shelter, known as the Roaring Fork Shelter, is three miles from Lemon Gap heading toward Max Patch in the Harmon Den district of the Pisgah National Forest.

The top logs inside the shelter are also set with 14 pairs of wooden pegs to hang up backpacks. The site boasts a new privy, two water sources, two side benches outside, a sheet-metal covered cooking shelf to one side of the shelter, and seven tent pads in the area. The shelter and one of the tent pads are wheel-chair accessible.

McDonald, 79, of Hendersonville, designed the shelter and led the work crew. The construction was an arduous process. After hauling 76 large logs into the woods — a process that took a few months in and of itself — each one was stripped and shaped before construction could begin.

A core group of about eight volunteers did most of the work preparing the site, digging the privy, making the tent sites and building the shelter. A total of 2,665 man-hours went into the shelter.

“The club owes a great debt of gratitude to McDonald and his team for the tremendous effort which made the completion of this shelter possible. It is a remarkable success,” said Carolina Mountain Club President Gerry McNabb.

The CMC received a grant of $3,900 from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, $400 from the Mountain Marching Mamas of Florida, and another $200 from private donors to pay for materials.

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