Trails Volunteer of the Month - September 2008

Donna Brigley

I slung my pocketbook over my shoulder and hiked up Tuckerman Ravine Trail to Hermit Lake. It was twenty-five years ago, and I had taken a wrong turn and ended up at what then was called “Pinkham Notch Camp.” I never knew that trails existed in the mountains of New Hampshire, where I had recently moved. The scenery was spectacular and I was hooked! I purchased a trail map back at PNVC and began to redline all the trails. After a few years of weekend hikes, I found the AMC White Mountain Guide and realized that I had already hiked most of the 4000 footers. I finished the list and repeated the peaks in winter during the 1990s. Next, I discovered the Appalachian Trail, where, in 1995, I hiked the first 500 miles during my fourth and fifth months of pregnancy. For a girl who had never done anything athletic in her life, hiking and backpacking became my passion. Ninety-nine percent of the time, I hiked alone, and I grew quite comfortable in the woods, whether in a winter whiteout above treeline, or sleeping at 5000’ with only a can of Redi Whip.

The quote in the back of the White Mountain Guide, “the Committee strongly urges all hikers who make considerable use of the trails to contribute to their maintenance in some way,” stirred my interest in trail maintenance. In 1993, I adopted the remote North Twin Spur and soon became the AMC Region Leader for the Pemigewasset. I also became the editor of “Adoption Papers” the newsletter of the AMC Adopt-a-Trail Program, and over time, I served on the AMC Trails Committee, became a NH Chapter trip leader, and participated in various other committees and factions within the AMC. After I graduated from college, in 2005, I needed to scale down some of my volunteer activities. I relinquished some of my duties, including my Pemi Region Leader position. In 2007, when Ron and Rita Rivard retired from Southern Presies Region Leadership, I agreed to take on the Region, excited about seeing some new terrain in detail.

In addition to being the Southern Presies Region Leader, I, along with my boyfriend, Jay, and my son Ethan, currently maintain a 1.5 mile chunk of the Twinway from Zealand Trail to Zeacliff Trail. This section contains the place where Jay and I first met as two solo backpackers, fifteen years ago. My son, who just turned 13, is an expert waterbar cleaner and recently finished the 4000 footers. He has also backpacked extensively and he hikes as a completely self-contained entity, without the fear of being caught alone in the woods without some necessary piece of gear.

Nothing makes me more appreciative of AMC-maintained trails than hiking in other parts of the world. Most hikers who only hike in the Whites have no idea how lucky they are to have WWBs, a crew to take out blowdowns, and a network of scenic trails that can be easily followed and linked to form a trip of virtually any length. I believe that trail maintenance is an absolute obligation for peakbraggers who are out using the trails every weekend. If each of us takes on the responsibility for just one small piece of trail, we can keep the Whites one of the best places to hike on earth.

Thank you - Donna