Monday, January 12, 2015

Reply to Tony...and Ultrarunning

Just got a notification of my high school class reunion, from Tony L, this year's coordinator (I won't tell you the number of the reunion, but it does start with a 4).  We exchanged a couple catching-up emails, in which I mentioned doing trail maintenance, and Tony expressed an interest in learning a bit more.

So here is what I wrote back:


The Appalachian Trail is only 20 min from my house so over the years I spent a lot of time there hiking, and trail running. See, I began recreational running in my late 20s and have been at it since.  When I began to slow down  in my mid-40s I discovered trail running, where you walk most uphills and rough footing areas (roots + rocks), and run the flats and the downhills.  Typically for me that means I run about 3/4 of a given distance and walk 1/4. 

I found there was a whole community of runners who largely stuck to trails. I also found that I could run a 50 mile trail race with no more effort than I used to put into a marathon. Plus I had the added bonus of being in the woods for 10-12 hours! 

Knowing that hiking trails don't magically appear and maintain themselves, after I retired I finally had the time to volunteer as a trail maintainer with the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club.  PATC is responsible for maintaining some 200 miles of the Appalachian Trail plus several hundred additional miles of other trails, to include the Tuscarora Trail (a wilder and more remote experience than the AT). I do some work on the AT but my main "assignment" is as overseer of a backpacker shelter and trail called Reese Hollow, which is a feeder trail to the Tuscarora Trail. 

Each PATC trail is divided into logical chunks of say 2-5 miles, and a volunteer overseer is responsible for that section. We also put together crews for big projects where an individual overseer would be overwhelmed. 

Between April and September I go to my trail about once a month to work for a day. In the summer there's lots of weedwhacking to do to keep it open. Plus any time of the year there are fallen trees across the trail that must be removed. 

Anyway, I do enjoy this work quite a bit. I think that all over PA and indeed the U.S. there are public-private partnerships between say a state park (e.g., Moraine, McConnell's Mill, Raccoon Creek in your area) and a volunteer hiking or mountain biking club to handle trail maintenance. Government budgets for parks keep getting whacked so they are happy to have volunteers come in and contribute labor. 

Anyway...that's probably much more than you wanted to know, but I wanted to give you a thorough answer!  

Take care,

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