Given that such a huge part of my job is managing the Berkshire Teen Trail Crew and AT Ridgerunners, which are both summer programs, one of the questions I get most often as Regional Trails Coordinator is : "what do you do in the other 9 months?" There are a lot of things that keep me occupied during the other three seasons, but here is the best answer I have been able to give yet:
I dressed up as Santa and did some trail maintenance! I also crunched all the numbers from both the above programs and prepared some snazzy season-end reports in the time since the KCC was abuzz with summer activity. And the numbers were impressive. Berkshire Teen Trail Crew volunteers gave 2,720 hours to the Appalachian Trail and Mt. Greylock, and installed scores of rock-solid drainage and retention structures of wood and rock, undoubtedly leaving the AT in MA in better shape than they found it.
I put the full detailed work stats on the Holiday Card that I just sent out to all the last two seasons' participants. The card, if I may toot my own horn- I may? thank you- is awesome. It features Santa trail work photos. Photos like this:
This card was one of my projects for December. Firstly, I wanted to personally thank all the teens who made last summer a really gratifying experience for me. Folks would show up with 14 extra pairs of socks and on any Sunday I could look out my office window at Tracey or Dena or Brian explaining what this week was going to be like, and see a group of faces displaying various levels of befuddlement. When the crew came back triumphant on Friday marked by the familiar sound of van wheels on the KCC's gravel driveway, I could look out and see an entirely different picture. I'd see dirt stains on the knees, mud streaked across the shirts, and see the crew handling the pulaskis, rockbars, pick mattocks, and shovels like they were old friends. The kids came back with a swagger.
I think BTTC and AMC's Camp Dodge teen trail crews up north are great opportunities for teenagers to... searching for words... just kick it in the woods. I mean I could get all philosophically heavy but really it is just the simple opportunity to camp out with a group of folks for five days and work together and hike and be free of distraction and solve problems and learn trail work and work hard and laugh hard. And that is an important opportunity from my perspective. I wasn't 18 until I was fist exposed to trails and backpacking and the backcountry, and now it is such an important part of my life. I believe in and work for trails in our communities every day, and through BTTC I like the idea that I can expose folks to everything great about AMC, the AT, and trails in general a little earlier on than I was exposed.
Man, is that a little heavy handed sentimentality? How bout another Santa photo, then?
Much better. So you may have heard of the massive ice storm that just swept across New England. It certainly left quite a swath of carnage here on the AT in MA that we will be working to clean up through to next summer, I am sure. You also have likely heard that economic times are hard, which could affect funding for trails at all levels, from federal to state to non-profits like AMC. So I just wanna encourage you to "get out, get dirty, and give back," as we like to say, in 2009. The trails need volunteers. Registration for teen trail crews in summer '09, as well as for volunteer opportunities for adults, is open now at Outdoors.org
Thanks to Adam Brown from the ATC for coming out and taking the Santa photos! Here are a couple more. Happy Holidays and hope to see you on the trail! -Matt