Being able to experience all that the mountains have to offer is an honor and privilege, but sometimes it can be easy to take for granted the forests that we walk through and the trails that we use to enjoy them. Trail cleanliness doesn’t happen all on its own. Sure, double checking to make certain to pack out what you pack in goes a long way, but there are other trail-related maintenance needs that require just a little extra help. And that’s where volunteers come into play.
Since the inception of the Appalachian Trail, it was always a known fact that someone would need to take on the responsibility of maintaining and caring for the Trail regularly. It didn’t take long before a group of hikers decided to accept the challenge, tasking themselves with being the official caregivers of the Appalachian Trail. Now, there are thousands of volunteers — often referred to as Trail Stewards — who devote more than 200,000 hours of labor and love each year to taking care of the Trail so that future generations can continue to enjoy all of its wonder.
Thanks to those who continuously donate their time, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy is celebrating its 50th Anniversary of being one of the country’s first National Scenic Trails. Spurred by the National Trails System Act of 1968, the National Scenic Trails and National Recreation Trails were formed. And just a decade later, in 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed a law that would create and protect National Historic Trails as well. Now, there are 11 National Scenic Trails within the National Trails System, the Appalachian Trail being the most iconic of them all.
To celebrate this great success and quarter of a century long effort of preservation and conservation, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, along with the Pacific Crest Trail Association, will be hosting a virtual celebration that will be broadcast live on Oct. 2, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. EST. The broadcast will feature the author of the best-selling memoir “Wild,” Cheryl Strayed, as the headlining speaker and adventurer Jennifer Pharr-Davis will be hosting the event, along with guest talks from ATC President and CEO Suzanne Dixon, PCTA Executive Director and CEO Liz Bergeron, and Astronomer Dr. Tyler Nordgern. It’s promised to be an incredible event you won’t want to miss.
For more information about the celebration and the National Trails System Act, visit www.atpct50.org.
And if you’re wanting to do more than just hear about conservation efforts and became an active participant in preserving the beauty of the Appalachian Trail, check out the ATC’s website to find volunteer opportunities near you. Whether it’s removing trash from the trail by yourself, meeting up with a local trail club to keep tabs on area sections of the trail , or hopping on with a Trail Crew working on the barebones of the trail, every effort big or small is one step in the right direction toward preserving our public lands.
Shout out to all you already lending a helping hand out on the trails. We can never thank you enough. Keep on, keeping on!
Happy Trekking, Happy Maintaining!