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June 1999

Preserving Hiking Trails: Acting Selflessly

What have you done lately for the trails and backcountry you use? Join a Volunteer Vacation and save the trails you love.

But don’t stop there-your support of our trail system shouldn’t be limited to a single day or "vacation." Every local trail group can point to a backlog of maintenance projects, and constantly looks for volunteers to help out. Here on the East Coast, Backpacker staff volunteers to maintain a section of the AT near our offices. Every local trail council and wilderness protection group I’ve talked to has plenty of volunteer needs. Just last week I had the chance to hike the Bay Area Ridge Trail in California and talk to several of the Trail Council officers. It’s a spectacular trail that’s only half complete, with plenty of opportunities for volunteers to help (call 415-391-0697).

Finally, don’t forget the major conservation organizations. The Sierra Club, for example, has both Activist Outings and Service Outings to consider. The Activist program centers on learning about an environment you’re visiting and what you can do after your hike to help keep it protected. The Service program features trail building and maintenance trips similar to AHS Volunteer Vacations. While these trips are more expensive than the AHS versions, if you’re younger than age 25, you may qualify for a Sharon Churchwell Fund stipend, which reduces the cost considerably. To find out more about the Sierra Club offerings, check its Web site at and click on the Trips by Type link.

In short, options abound for those who look. For 10 days last spring, six volunteers who looked suffered through bugs, rain, and some really hard work on Admiralty Island, all to improve the backcountry experiences of people they’ll never meet. And you know what? Not only did we get "feel good" vibes from doing the right thing, but we had a lot of fun in a remarkable place.

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