VetsWork: An Invitation to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy

Travis-Stanley-Header

            Hello Members and Friends of the Mt. Adam Institute.

I am writing this blog to invite you all over to the East Coast for some spring, summer, and fall adventures with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC).  If you have never been this will be a great opportunity to see some of the culture and a whole lot of the outdoors while volunteering with a Trail Crew on the Appalachian Trail (AT). If you are studying Outdoor Recreation/Tourism or interested in learning trail maintenance skills or if you are just interested in specific regions of the East Coast to better understand the people and culture, please read on.

I’d like to start by sharing my experiences this summer working with the ATC. Post World War II, more and more people have been looking for training and education in specific skill sets with the hope of leading to a career with long lasting employment. Over ten years ago, I decided to take a different approach and improve my general skills in a multitude of disciplines. Philosophically, this leads towards self-reliance. One of the top reasons for enlisting in the United States Navy as a Battlefield Medic was to improve my skills as a Basic Infantryman. I was fortunate to have my first duty station with the 2nd Marine Division.

As my first and only enlistment ended, I decided that my next focus would be outdoor recreation, particularly the tools and hands on skills needed to understand and change the outdoor environment. I predict that as our service economy continues to grow, outdoor recreation will continue to grow just as quickly. Thanks to the Mt. Adams Institute VetsWork AmeriCorps program, I was able to link up with the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests and the Central and Southwestern Region of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. As you know from my previous blogs, I have been learning more and more about trail building.

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I was able to work with the Konnarock Trail Crew several times in 2015. I left with a very positive experience. The biggest thing was how motivated the volunteers are. The conditions are not easy and at times the camping is primitive, but even on the last day, folks have high moral. A couple of things lead to this. 1. Alumni volunteers come back for additional seasons and help new recruits learn. 2. The trail crew staff are motivated and well trained and know how to balance productivity with keeping spirits up.

After a couple of days in the field you start to see the progress your crew has been making and you start to pick up on what needs to be done. You also begin to understand how building and renovating the AT is not a weekly accomplishment, and not even a yearly one. Some projects take many years to complete. This allows you to understand how the AT is ever changing and is a legacy that has spanned generations.

For me, the best thing about Konnarock is learning new skills and not having to pay for the training. The ample food and water provided is great. I hope to take these skills and help trail clubs and communities better improve their natural resources in the future. The next great thing is the physical activity. I believe positive stress helps you grow. Also, you appreciate how easy things have gotten for most Americans in the last three generations. After a good 8 hour workday I enjoy the evening much more than if it was unproductive.

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Top 5 Reasons to Join Konnarock:

  1. Weeklong trip with food, tools, & equipment provided at no cost
  2. Two nights at the base camp in Sugar Grove, VA with delicious home-cooked meals
  3. Opportunity to learn about trail construction and maintenance from AT professionals
  4. Awesome resume builder
  5. Great outdoor adventures and long lasting friendships

There are 6 Trail Clubs to pick from and each is a little different, so I encourage you to explore the links below to decide out which crew you would like to join. There are a lot of highs and lows while volunteering with a trail crew. Granted, the lows will make the highs so much greater.

If you have any questions about any of the 6 Trail Crews, contact me at crews@appalachiantrail.org.

After my 10.5 month VetsWork internship ends, I will come in once a week and volunteer at the office to help out with onboarding of volunteers. Furthermore, I will be at several work hikes with Konnarock in 2016 and hope to see you out there!

April 27th– August 3rd. Konnarock Trail Crew (Northern Georgia-Central Virginia)

 The Konnarock Trail Crew is ATC’s largest and longest-running volunteer trail crew, founded in 1983 and named after its original base camp in southwest Virginia. The crews work on the Appalachian Trail from Rockfish Gap, near Waynesboro, Virginia, to the Trail’s southern terminus at Springer Mountain in Georgia. For more information about Konnarock contact me at crews@appalachiantrail.org.

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June 6th– August 9th. Smokies Wilderness Elite Appalachian Trail Crew (Great Smoky Mtns National Park)

The Smokies Wilderness Elite Appalachian Trail (SWEAT) Crew is something completely different from other ATC Trail Crews. SWEAT Crew focuses on difficult trail problems that occur deep in the backcountry, using the tools they carry in and natural materials that they find.“Elite” is the operative word. The crew is mobile, backpacking 6 – 11 miles over difficult terrain to reach
their variable work sites. Pack weight can be as much as
55-65 lbs. and hand-carrying tools may also be required. Experienced backpackers with recent trip
reports are welcome to apply for this strenuous crew, while less-experienced hikers are encouraged to try a week of Konnarock first. For more info contact, cbinder@appalachiantrail.org

June 8th-August 17th.   Maine Trail Crew (Maine)

The Maine Trail Crew will have 9 sessions this year. Projects are located along 267 miles of the Appalachian Trail in the scenic Maine woods, and most involve trail reconstruction and rockwork. Camping conditions vary by project. For more information about the Maine Trail Crew in 2016, contact Holly Sheehan at matc@gwi.net.

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July 1st– August 26th. Volunteer Long Trail Patrol. (Vermont)

The Volunteer Long Trail Patrol (VLTP) works on heavy construction projects on hiking trails in Vermont, including the coaligned Appalachian Trail and Long Trail. This year there will be six summer sessions of VLTP. Contact the Green Mountain Club at gmc@greenmountainclub.org.

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August 27th– October 22nd. Rocky Top Crew (Great Smoky Mtns National Park)

The Rocky Top Crew works each year on the badly damaged section of Trail shared by hikers and horsemen in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. With help from volunteer horsemen, the crew packs into a remote site for eight days of backcountry camping and major trail reconstruction. The Rocky Top Crew is a great opportunity for experienced backpackers to enjoy autumn in the Smoky Mountains from a different perspective. For more info, please contact, cbinder@appalachiantrail.org

Sept 1st– October 24th. Mid-Atlantic Trail Crew ( Central Virginia to the New York-Connecticut State Line.

The Mid-Atlantic Trail Crew works on the Appalachian Trail from Rockfish Gap in Virginia to the New York-Connecticut state line. For more information contact Bob Sickley at bsickley@appalachiantrail.org.

Thank you for reading.

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