Monday, February 2, 2015

23. Trail Crews

The Appalachian Trail did not simply spring into existence like a daisy from the snow. It took an immense amount of work, and continues to require continuous work every single year to keep it walkable as well as healthy for the surrounding environment. The real heroes of the Appalachian Trail are not the ones that hike it, but the ones that keep it alive.

Each season brings new growth and erosion. Every weather event brings with it the possibility that the trail will need to be rerouted. New switchbacks are being put into the mountains all the time, to keep the natural health of the forest. When the trail was originally created, most of the routes took hikers straight up and down mountains, with no curves in the path. This made for some truly beastly hikers, but in the long run this type of trail design has the potential to really hurt the land.

When it rains, if there is a trail running straight down a mountain, the water will naturally funnel itself down the trail, pulling down surrounding dirt and foliage quicker. Furthermore, even though hikers mean well, if they encounter a trail that is just a waterfall, they will walk on the edge of the trail to avoid getting their feet soaked, which just further serves to widen the path of erosion. Therefore switchbacks are actually better for the health of a mountain, even though it technically covers more ground.

If you haven't ever done any trail maintenance, it can be incredibly easy to take it for granted. Before I did any of my own maintenance, I knew that it probably took a lot of work, but I didn't know exactly how MUCH work. It takes A LOT. Trail maintenance is entirely voluntary, unpaid, backbreaking work, done by people who get hardly anything in return except the simple satisfaction of a job well done. The workers hike in all their own tools, work in the sweltering heat covered in bugs, and receive no thanks and no reward. Unfortunately a lot of people who hike the trail don't know how much work goes into keeping the trail functional, and they take it for granted.

If you live within striking distance of the AT, I highly recommend doing some research in regard to your local trail crew. If you can't volunteer your time (which is totally understandable!!), then at least donating some money to the cause can really make a world of difference. Or, if anything, just hiking in a box of donuts to a trail crew while they're working, and then taking the box away when they're done.

How wonderful and beautiful is it that something like the Appalachian Trail exists solely due to the unfailing kindness and goodwill of people?

I like to remind myself of this when I encounter doodooheads.

Love,
Clever Girl

P.S. You can find a great listing of all the crews for the AT here, on the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Website!
http://www.appalachiantrail.org/what-we-do/trail-management-support/trail-crews

3 comments:

  1. Hooray for trail crews! Their work is superb. Look at some of Dump Truck's photos of places like New Jersey with all the long wooden walkways, or the White Mountains with the stone cairns, to get a sense of how much work they do. Bravo! And...doom to the doodooheads.

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  2. Hooray for trail crews! Their work is superb. Look at some of Dump Truck's photos of places like New Jersey with all the long wooden walkways, or the White Mountains with the stone cairns, to get a sense of how much work they do. Bravo! And...doom to the doodooheads.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I worked on a trail crew for years. Thanks for the shout Out.

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