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A years-long project to rehabilitate Appalachian Trail shelters in Great Smoky Mountains National Park has concluded with the completion of shelter reconstruction at Laurel Gap, the various groups involved report.
The Laurel Gap shelter, near the intersection of the Sterling Ridge and Balsam Mountain trails, is the 15th AT shelter rehabbed since 1999, according to The Daily Times in Maryville, Tennessee.
The project provided the shelters with improved natural lighting, a cooking area to separate food odors from the sleeping space, improved bunk access, new roofs and masonry repair, the removal of chain-link fences, and drainage improvements, the newspaper said.
More than 250 three-walled shelters are spaced about a day's hike apart from one another on the Appalachian Trail. In Great Smoky Mountains National Park, AT hikers are required to camp in the shelters.
The ATC points out that "shelters can be grimy and rodent-infested when hikers don't clean up after themselves, and they may be crowded." On the other hand, "shelters are the best places to stay dry in wet weather, ... they are often a good place to meet and talk with other hikers, and most have privies and water sources nearby. But ... more importantly, staying at shelters reduces hiker impact on the Trail environment."
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