Take care of the trail and it will take care of you
A common saying among hikers is that “the trail gives you what you need.” Wouldn’t it be great if, in return, we could all give the trail what it needs?!
Recently, some of my good friends over at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy let me in on a new trail initiative called Trail Karma. It is a very organic way to recognize the different people, places, and means connected to trail stewardship.
It all starts with a good deed and a small metal necklace that bears the Appalachian Trail logo. When someone who is wearing a trail karma necklace sees another individual giving back to the trail, that person will take his or her necklace off and pass it along with gratitude... and so on and so forth, for all perpetuity. Isn’t that cool?!
You can even keep track of where (and wear) these necklaces have been by searching the hashtag for the specific trail karma necklace or following the journey at www.trailkarma.com You might have to be patient as these small tokens of appreciation are just starting their journey. But, trust me, they are out there!
Just this past Friday, I had the privilege of traveling up to Erwin, TN and giving Don Miskill (aka the “Captain”) trail karma necklace #TK059. Don is a trail maintainer from Maine who has worked with trail crews from the Maine Appalachian Trail Club and LL Bean for many years. Even now - on his thru-hike – he confesses to stopping and clearing brush or bramble along the trail. Along with the necklace, I also brought him some bagels and coffee. Just goes to show, “if you take care of the Trail, the Trail will take care of you. That’s Trail Karma” – www.trailkarma.com
Trail maintenance is an awesome way to give back to the trail, but it is not the only way. Here are some other ideas for giving back.
Share the Love: Expose new hikers to the wonders of the Appalachian Trail. Conservation starts with an emotional connection to the outdoors. Take friends and family with you when you go hiking and allow it to be their hike, too. In other words, be a facilitator, not a drill sergeant. Let your friends set the pace and explore the meadows and creeks, and allow your husband (hmm, hmm, Brew David) to take too many pictures and learn to set-up camp – even if he does NOT do it the way you would want.
Ready to step it up a notch? Why don’t you try to connect with an underserved population who wants to spend time outdoors. They might be looking for volunteer guides. Maybe you can help?
Share the Knowledge: People love to hear A.T. talks. Trust me. I have gotten to a point where I give trail talks as part of my livelihood, but before I ever accepted a cent for a presentation I put on numerous programs for rotary clubs, churches, and schools.
As a hiker, it is so fun to share your stories. Fielding trail questions from a kindergarten class will make your day! Plus, it is easy and fun to incorporate some Leave No Trace Principles into the talk so that those who hear you speak have a better idea of how to take care of the trail when they take a hike.
Share the Fun-ds: Are you a member of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy? Are you a member of your local trail club? Typically, for less than a month-long pass at a fitness gym, you can obtain a year-long membership that supports the ongoing efforts to protect and preserve the Appalachian Trail.
Money is one of the quickest and best ways to give back to the trail. Maybe you don’t have a lot of funds right now - or maybe you do?! The ATC graciously accepts donations of all sizes and you will have peace of mind knowing that every cent goes toward the good of the trail.
There are many other ways to help the Appalachian Trail and I look forward to reading about the different ways that different folks of different ages and different means are giving back to the trail at www.TrailKarma.com