Just Pay It – Forward, Backward, Any Direction

The Moment I Realized That Trails Don’t Just Appear

I was about 20 years old.  I. had been backpacking for a year or so when I had a realization.  I was on the AT, going up a beautiful set of stone stairs built into the side of a very steep hill when I realized that this small feature on a very long trail likely took hundreds of hours.  Then I realized that there were almost countless numbers of improvements on the AT ranging from shelters to trail drainage improvements, blazes, springs, signs, privies, and much more.  All of these were built and maintained by volunteers – thousands of them putting in volunteer hours that are counted in the millions of hours over the history of the AT.  Of course, that is just one hiking trail.

You might think I’m a bit slow to have not realized this immediately, but I’ve come to realize how many people seem absolutely clueless about how much work goes into building and maintaining trails.  It is a back-breaking gift to all of us who hike.

Our country is covered in hiking trails maintained by volunteers.  It is an amazing fact.

Volunteering Makes All This Possible

I started joining Trail associations and doing volunteer work once I had this realization. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (http://Appalachiantrail.org) was the first organization I joined.  Since then I have belonged to several trail maintenance clubs and volunteer on a regular basis.  My greatest effort is for a local desert preserve in the Phoenix area.

Profiling Organizations

After a discussion with a good backpacking friend, I decided that I am going to attempt the PCT this year (more on that in a future post).  For now, I want to get reader suggestions on trail clubs and organizations that I should feature in my PCT thru-hike posts here on The Trek.  I will add a small segment of each post that features a local or national organization.  Remember that trails need love well beyond National Trails Day.

Please leave suggestions for organizations I should feature in the comments or by email, [email protected]


Picture by Loren Chandler of me and my dog, Louie, on hike patrol in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.  This desert preserve, over 30,000 acres,  is essentially entirely maintained and wholly monitored by over 800 volunteers through the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy.http://McdowellSonoran

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