M-DTS Blast from the Past- Part 2

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The 40th Anniversary of the Mason-Dixon Trail System is coming up in 2019. While it may be a bit early to start celebrating that event I wanted to try
Jim Hooper at home on 9-20-2016
  Jim Hooper at home on 9-20-2016
and gather as much information about the history of the Mason-Dixon Trail as I could. So for part 2 of this series I sat down with Jim Hooper, one of the early members of the M-DTS, to pick his brain about the early days of this organization.

Jim Hooper is currently the Immediate Past President or President Emeritus of the Mason-Dixon Trail System. He originally was and still is a member of the York Hiking Club. His position there was House Chairman. Jim, along with Ron Gray and Bernie Frick (who was president of the YHC at the time) attended their first Mason-Dixon Trail System meeting in November, 1979. Jim's earliest memories of the M-DT were of scouting a route for the trail between Green Branch and Cuff's Run along the western banks of the Susquehanna River in PA (2016 M-DT Map 4).

One of the early weekend meetings of the M-DTS took place at the York Hiking
Early loppers, pulaski and weed whacker
  Early loppers, pulaski and weed whacker
Club cabin, which is located between Urey Overlook and Otter Creek Campground near Airville, PA. I asked him why this cabin was sometimes called the John Paul Jones or JPJ Cabin. He said that the cabin was formerly used by a group called the Sea Scouts. The YHC started using the cabin in 1938 or 1939.

Next we talked about some of the past presidents of the M-DTS. Robert Yost was it's first president in the early 1980's. Dick Tobias was president in the mid 1980's. Kay Way was president in the late 1980's. Rick Maerker was president in the mid 1990's. Jim Hooper was president in the late 1990's. Tony Belfiglio was president in the early 2000's. And Jim Hooper again was president from the early 2000's through 2014.

Some miscellanious tidbits that Jim mentioned included that Ron Gray did the
Early tools used by the M-DTS
  Early tools used by the M-DTS
majority of the trail building along the west bank of the Susquehanna River. He was also assisted by Richard Winemiller. This author got his first taste of "road blazing" by sitting on the tailgate of Richard's big Plymouth station wagon some time in the late 1990's and when Richard stopped the vehicle, I would paint a blaze between I83 and Pinchot State Park, PA. Ironically, I did the same thing with Ron Gray just recently in 2016. And when Jim retired in 2002 he formed the Thursday Work Crew, which has done most of the relocations and greatly improved the treadway.

I asked Jim what were some of the greatest challenges of the M-DTS. Jim mentioned gaps in the early trail that had to be filled in as well as subsequent trail closures. An example was the annual trail closure between SGL83 and Bare RD in PA. The Mason-Dixon Trail is dependent upon the generousity of land owners along it's route to keep it open. Also, occassional bad storms caused numerous blowdowns on the trail, which neccesitated many hours and pieces of equipment to clear the trail.

Finally, Jim showed me some of the early tools that the M-DTS used that were stored in the basement of his barn. These items included one of the club's first chain saws, which did not include a braking mechanism, a manual weed whacker, a pulaski and a well used set of rusty loppers. He also still has the original winch that the club used to relocate a section of the M-DT between Apollo Park and Cuffs Run, PA. This was a difficult task as they had to relocate the
Early winch used by the M-DTS
  Early winch used by the M-DTS
trail half way down the rocky bank along the Susquehanna River. This section is an engineering marvel as the trail is perfectly level along the steep west bank of the river and, thanks to this winch (and Ron Gray), all of the big rocks along this section of trail are off to the side.

Our current M-DTS president Tim Schmidt remarked in the March, 2016 M-DTS Newsletter that Jim Hooper was one of the driving forces in getting the Mason-Dixon Trail off of roads in these areas: PA State Game Land 242, Murphy.s Hollow, PA, Grace Plateau, PA, High Point, PA, Native Lands, PA, Otter Creek, PA, Perry Point, MD, Tri-State Marker , PA, MD and DE. and State Line Woods, PA. So if you are hiking in one of these areas, think about and thank Jim Hooper.

We hope to have more articles like this between now and our 40th Anniversary in 2019.

                                                                                                                     - Mike Calabrese

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M-DTS Blast from the Past- Part 3 >

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