Got More Than I Gave - National Trails Day

I've always found relaxation on trails and hiking, so I felt I should give back somehow. National Trail Day seemed like as good a time to thank the trails as any, and to be honest the free lodging and BBQ stopped any thoughts of putting it off another year! I arrived Saturday morning at Camp Dodge to the most delicious freshly made chocolate chip muffins - they must have known a chocoholic was coming.

We met at the tool shed at 9 am to learn how to use all the tools and hear where we would be working. Some volunteers had come in just for the day, driving over 3 hours each way! Others had been vacationing for the week and gave thanks for the beauty they had experienced by helping for the day. Some high school kids were volunteering as part of a school project on helping the community; I'm sure they will receive a great grade with all the photos they took and the ones we sent them.

A quick drive to Pinkham Notch Visitor Center and we were off to hike a mile up Old Jackson Road AT with supplies. One mile isn't much for most of us who have hiked, but adding big, heavy and sharp tools made the hike a little more of a challenge. Our destination was a rotting bog bridge to be demolished and rebuilt, which sounded like fun to me! We were broken into a few groups and switched jobs so that everyone could try brush clearing, water bar clean-outs and bridge work. The brush clearing and water bar clean- out crew were able to hike at least another mile up the trail where we enjoyed beautiful brook crossings. To me it was a bonus to get a short hike in while working.

My group of new friends (everyone was very friendly) worked on building the new bridge. Though we were told it was rough construction and didn't have to be perfect there was a lot involved in the building of the bridge. Boards needed to be spaced so the water could drain, but kid's small feet wouldn't get caught between any boards. It needed to be centered in the trail and leveled, which took time to figure out. In the end our group fully completed only one section of bridge, clearly we were so proud that we took pictures laying on the bridge! Another section was nearly complete when we had to switch to another job.

Back at Camp Dodge a great BBQ was enjoyed by all the hungry volunteers. A raffle that had more winners than I've ever seen was such a nice way to thank the volunteers. The crew were a great group of people that clearly work hard and truly love what they do.

It was a day of hard work, but it was extremely satisfying to improve a trail and give back for others to enjoy. We encountered very few hikers on the trails but those we did thanked us for our work. The trail crews that do this work regularly, without reward of a BBQ and raffle really do deserve the thanks!

Submitted by Cathy Merrifield