Monday, May 4, 2009

Take a hike (and fix-up a trail)

National Trails Day is just over a month away. On Saturday, June 6, organizations all over the country will be working to build and maintain hiking and biking trails, and trail shelters along the way. Scout troupes, conservation groups, state and local governments, the National Park Service, and hiking clubs are looking for individuals and groups interested in serving their communities.
As someone who has volunteered with this sort of work in the past, I can tell you that it's tough but rewarding. Perhaps the most important outcome of doing this is the sense of ownership that trail stewards develop as a result of taking brief responsibility for a piece of land that lots of people enjoy. Jones Mountain Cabin, in the wilds of Shenandoah National Park, seems like an old friend after that long weekend of cleaning out the fireplace, replacing the railings on the front porch, and maintaining the hand tools. There was a lot of hiking, eating, drinking 50 degree spring water, and playing music too, that June weekend. (This image more likely pictures October.)
Many trail clubs and other organizations leading Trail Service Day events accept volunteers with no experience. And (unlike the 2.5 day event I mentioned), most of these service events simply run from the morning to around lunchtime. However, if you have serious landscaping or construction experience, some groups also have projects for those looking for something more involved.
If you're interested in pitching-in, the American Hiking Society offers an event finder:

Image: Jones Mountain Cabin, Shenandoah National Park, VA, shamelessly ripped-off from some hiker's flickr page


E. R. Dunhill said...

On the ride into work this morning, I remembered this article about Jones Mountain Cabin in early summer. I thought it was worth mentioning.

Sue said...

There are some interesting volunteer vacations that involve trail building. I know that portions of the Pine Mountain trail (which will eventually be 120 miles long), have been built by focus coming from around the country to our area (border of Kentucky and Virginia) to camp and work on the trail. Generally food is provided by the sponsoring organization.

E. R. Dunhill said...

I don't know Pine Mountain, but I'm always glad to hear about people building more long trails. I've done section hikes on the AT and the C&O Canal Towpath, and whether I'm backpacking or just day-hiking, it's a very different experience from doing short trails. The firsthand perception of the expansiveness of nature that comes with big trails is at times spiritual, but more often it's like being let-in on some enormous but exclusive inside-joke.
Have you ever worked on a trail crew?

Pat Jenkins said...

a good hike is good for the soul!!!...