Praise for the Trail Crews, Volunteers, and Trail Angels
As the hiking season gets into full swing with people already on the Triple Crown trails or the Discovery Trail in the United States, on the various Caminos and GR trails across Europe, and with many more preparing to head out on the Bruce Trail, East Coast Trail, and Sunshine Coast Trail here in Canada, we thought it would be a good time to pause and send out a cosmic thank you. If you are anything like me you have likely spent weeks, months, or even longer planning your trek this year and now that it is so much closer to being underway it is so easy to get caught up with those last-minute preparations and planning. Once you are off on the trail, it is similarly easy to get caught up in the excitement of trekking—walking the countryside, meeting new people, seeing new landscapes—or building your life list of birds.
But all of this is only possible because of the trail organizations that protect and organize everything, volunteers who maintain the trails and trail angels who save us and lift us up when we most need it. Whether on the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, The Great Trail / Trans Canada Trail, Ontario’s Bruce Trail, Newfoundland’s East Coast Trail, B.C.’s Sunshine Coast Trail in Canada, or the Camino de Santiago in Europe, all of these pathways exist because of the dedication and hard word of those individuals who many of us might never meet but without whom we would never be able to trek.
One thing I learned while working as a land steward on the Bruce Trail was that people are more likely to message or email a complaint and a critique than a compliment. As such, it seems that while so many of us hike these trail systems and love them, we often do not take the time to put out a thanks. Certainly this is not true of all people—any survey of The Trek postings or Facebook forums on thru-hiking trails proves just how much everyone loves to get out there and do their thing and openly appreciate the work of trail groups and their volunteers. But as the trail season kicks into high gear, as people get ready to get to start trekking, as the online critiques begin to pile up, it seem appropriate to shift the gear and begin by first remembering who made this all possible and begin by thanking the volunteers, trail angels, and local nature interpreters who make the experiences so much more awesome.
So as you hike—and follow Leave No Trace principles—take a moment and thank those organizations that have made all of this possible by protecting the land, developing and maintaining the trail systems, putting up signage, cleaning up trail side garbage, building bridges, establishing boardwalks, fixing washouts. The list of what they do is truly massive.
At times they resupply us, they transport us, they help us, they comfort us, they advise us, and they listen to us. All because they love trails and nature too. Yes, we each hike the trail ourselves, and yes, we all hike our own hike, but remember that we can do that because they have done such a great job beforehand. So today, this weekend, or before you hit the trails, remember to take a moment to thank the organizations, the volunteers, and the trail angels we all rely on—they are the heart and soul of the trekker society. The next time you see a volunteer on the trail or are aided by a trail angel, remember to say thank you—they might not be out there for the praise—but they sure as heck to deserve to hear it.
For our part, I just want to say thank you so much for your hard work, your quiet dedication, and your assistance. Without you there simply would not be any trails for all of us to enjoy. For this you have our heartfelt thanks. My coming three-year hike would not be possible without you.
See you on the trail.
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