It was about the same time that my palms began to blister from squeezing the lopers closed over blackberry stems, striped maple, etc. after a few very slow miles into the morning. The same time that Todd nicked his leg with the machete as he swung it vigorously at the foliage that encroached on our section of the Appalachian Trail. The same time that the sweat began dripping into my eyes burning them. I was thinking how much I did not like trail work when the twenty-something thru-hiking couple came by.
I was waiting for it. Waiting for it as they picked their way through the severed branches that lined the trail, obvious what it was like just a few minutes ago. But what we saw was an annoyed attitude that the trail maintenance stopped and the briars still continued. The thank you never came.
“You know,” I said to Todd, “I don’t really like trail maintenance.”
My husband said, “You don’t really like any maintenance.”
“You are absolutely right, (I am not a big fan of housework), but I like this even less when it is not appreciated.
We are not good trail maintainers. There are a string of other things we would rather be doing and do them most of the time and tend to let our section go longer than it should. So it was in pretty rough shape today when we climbed up the side of the Blue Mountain to access it. We have to hike about 7-8 miles RT to clip our section. It is a bit remote to reach.
Two years ago, we met some irate overweight men with backpacks, coming towards us as we clipped and whacked. “Why don’t you put the trail over there where it is not rocky?” they asked, with angry voices.
“Are you serious?”
“There are rocks over there too, under that shallow soil,” I told them. “If the trail were relocated over there, in a very short amount of time, it would look like this highway of boulders. The whole ridge is covered with them. It is the nature of the geology of this Tuscarora Sandstone ridge.”
I’ve learned not to expect much in the way of thanks when we are out here.
As our day evolved, we saw more and more people, all of them were middle aged or older and they were all exceedingly grateful. We saw some coming and going as we retraced our steps after we clipped. All of them expounded a second time on how much they appreciated what we did. It made me feel good. It made it feel worth it. It did not make it more fun but that is ok.
As we retraced our steps and walked over all the cut branches, Todd’s chainsaw safely stored in his backpack, me doing hand stretches as my hands went numb from squeezing, I felt good that I spent the last seven hours clearing the trail so the hiker’s ankles don’t get scratched by briars and the tree branches don’t whack their packs…because people told me they truly appreciated what we were doing. I am glad that first young couple was not all we saw on the trail today..
Remember hikers, trail maintainers don’t have to clip trail, saw logs, sweat and give up our time. Two little words is all it takes to make us want to keep doing it.