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  1. #1

    Default A Better Way to Give Back

    Just had to share this blog post by Mountain Crossings for those who are thinking about the trail magic they will do this summer or fall. Instinctively, almost all of us think about doing the more conventional kind of trail magic as the first way of giving back when we finish a thru-hike, but there are other ways that are vitally important and incredibly rewarding:

    Outdoor Gear and Expertise on the Appalachian Trail

    Posted on April 27, 2016 by mountaincrossingsatneelsgap
    The Appalachian Trail has a strong pull on the lives of those who experience it. Whether you live close and its a part of your community or you are a section hiker or former thru hiker whose life was changed by your hike, so many who experience the AT feel a need to give back in some way. For many, the first thought is trail magic. This is great fun for those who who provide it, as well as those who reap the rewards, but in many ways Trail Magic and Hiker Feeds can be unintentionally detrimental to the trail when Leave No Trace practices are not followed. If you are looking for a better way to give back, one that has a hugely positive affect on the trail, consider these ways below!


    Trail Maintenance is THE BEST way to give back to the Appalachian Trail! Itís like giving your mom a spa day for Motherís Day! Unfortunately, trail maintenance is not nearly as large on the radar as hiker feeds and trail magic because it requires a LOT of hard work!! It also takes a lot of knowledge and planning to properly be effective. Thankfully, there are groups out there that make the barrier to entry far easier for those of us who are willing to get dirty for anywhere from a day, to a week, to a summer!

    The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is obviously knee deep in trail management! The ATC heads up six major volunteer groups that take on large scale projects on trail and they also support 31 local trail clubs along the entire AT. Their trail management page gives an excellent rundown of what life is like for trail crews, a great breakdown of all the major crews along the AT and even has an online test to help you figure out which of the six majors trail crews is best for you!

    Which trail crew is right for you?!

    Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards (also known as SAWS) is a group who makes it easy to get involved in taking care of trails all throughout the beautiful southern Appalachian mountains. They not only employee year round folks to lead volunteer groups and ofter extended volunteer trail maintenance opportunities, they also set up trail work days in which you can grab a backpack full of snacks, a pair of boots and join them for a day of maintenance! Coming up on April 30th, they have a work day at Hemp Top Trailhead at Dally Gap in the Cohutta Wilderness in GA and on May 7th there is a work day at Rock Creek Trail in the Little Frog Wilderness in TN. SAWS provides all the needed tools for the work day.

    Even current thru hikers can get in on giving back to the AT through trail maintenance by participating in Hard Core at Trail Days in Damascus, Virginia! You can sign up with Bob Peoples at the ATC booth during Trail Days and spend a few days working in the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area. If you miss this opportunity and find yourself at the end of your hike and not wanting to go home just quite yet (a typical thru hiker problem), consider jumping on to the Rocky Top Trail Crew or the Mid-Atlantic Trail Crew, both of which start up work about the time many northbound thru hikers are finishing up.


    If digging in the dirt isnít your cup of tea or if you canít work it into your schedule, there are still tons of ways to give back to the trail! Donating to the ATC or becoming a member supports an awesome organization that is doing incredible things for our beloved Appalachian Trail.

    Caring for the AT can even be as simple as picking up trash whenever you are out on a day hike. Whether you are hiking on the AT or not, the spirit of LNT is needed on every trail. This is a way current thru hikers can make a HUGE impact while hiking! Mountain Crossings employees have vowed to pick up trash every time we go out hiking this season and have collectively packed out over 300 lbs. of trash in an effort to keep our home healthy!

    The Appalachian Trail is held together by 31 hardworking local trail clubs up and down the east coast. Even if you are unable to help them work on the trail, there is still much support that can be offered to help these clubs and in turn, help the AT! Consider looking up your local AT trail club and asking what their current needs are.

    For those who live in or near trail towns along the AT, you have a unique opportunity to help individual hikers as they travel north. Paying for a meal for a hiker will blow their mind! Giving a hiker a ride into or out of town will make their day! For those specifically living near the parts of the trail that are currently experiencing fire closures, giving a hiker a ride can be a make or break situation.

    Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 1.11.35 PM
    Due to the low humidity and low rainfall so far this spring, there are several wildfires on the AT, such as the Rocky Mountain Fire in the Shenandoah National Park.

    For us all, whether thru hiking, section hiking, weekend hiking or day hiking, being diligent about LNT practices and speaking up against the abuse of the trail is the biggest and easiest way to give back to the Appalachian Trail. Speaking up against poor bathroom practices, burning trash, littering and other detrimental actions seen while on trail will go far to help correct poor behavior and educate those around you. Be nice! But be firm when you see misuse of the Appalachian trail!! We want this beautiful corridor of land to be healthy and open to the loving public for a long, long time to come!!

  2. #2
    Registered User
    Join Date
    West Palm Beach, Florida


    Trail Magic and Hiker Feeds can be unintentionally detrimental to the trail

    Mountain Crossings was a zoo. Neel gap, as Willard informed me, finds itself along a motorcycle route known as The Dragon, and there must have been forty or more bikers and their bikes in the lot. A church group, to our joy, was making free burgers and offering to talk about Christ! We just took them up on the burgers.
    Portage's 2016 Appalachian Trail Journal

    We arrived at Neel Gap right around noon to a pleasant surprise of Trail Magic. Burgers and Grape Soda.
    Croc 'n' Roll's 2016 Appalachian Trail Journal
    The trouble I have with campfires are the folks that carry a bottle in one hand and a Bible in the other.
    You never know which one is talking.

  3. #3


    Excellent post and thread topic! Much thanks to Laurie.

    This is a thread topic of primary importance aimed at elevating awareness and action having far reaching implications beyond much of the minutiae micro analyzed here on WB.

    How will we each contribute? How will each of us make hiking a better activity for not only ourselves but for others too?

  4. #4
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Bedford, MA


    For those in NY, NJ, PA, CT, etc. -- there's an annual work party based at the RPH shelter in New York. Usually a long weekend in mid-July. Camping is right at the site, and great food is provided. Lou brings cheesecake. Hard physical work with other volunteers is good clean fun. Trail work is very satisfying. Give it a try, if you haven't already.

  5. #5
    Getting out as much as I can..which is never enough. :) Mags's Avatar
    Join Date
    Colorado Plateau


    Giving backing ideas:

    * Trail work of course

    * Financial donations if you can

    * Envelope stuffing/clerical work/mailing letters.

    * Work in kind. I do IT work for the CDTC on occasion. Many of us have skill sets that could be put to use for outdoor orgs.

    * Presentations. Get the word out. Invite the local outdoor org/trail group/open space group to the presentation. Give the m a chance to speak. Many times there is a raffle with donated schwag and those proceeds go to the outdoor group. Does not have to be presentation on a mega big hike. We all have outdoor skill sets to share. Family backpacking? Know lightweight backpacking? Backpacking with scouts? Etc. I once saw a wonderful presentation on animal tracks in the Boulder Open Space by two enthusiastic volunteers. There was a a raffle. And the proceeds went to the local volunteer group for the Boulder open space.

    If you can't volunteer for the ATC, or an AT maintaining club, there are plenty of local parks, local wilderness orgs, open space orgs, etc in your area that could use the help.

    To add to what Rafe said above, the work trips are often in gorgeous areas with fantastic food, too.

    Pineapple upside down cake served at 11k feet.

    The view from the "office" one day
    Last edited by Mags; 04-29-2016 at 20:28.
    Paul "Mags" Magnanti
    Twitter: @pmagsco
    Facebook: pmagsblog

    The true harvest of my life is intangible...a little stardust caught,a portion of the rainbow I have clutched -Thoreau

  6. #6
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Hanover, NH


    What a great thread this is, lots of good ideas. One more: If you want to help out folks new to the Trail, spend time here on Whiteblaze and on other sites, and make a particular effort to help the new folks with their questions and problems. Some positive, friendly, well-reasoned advice can mean a great deal to the prospective hikers and is a great way to give back something truly useful, especially on a website that unfortunately, is not always the most welcoming or friendly place for the new guys. But offering a smile and a helping hand is a wonderful thing to do if you have the time.

  7. #7


    The first couple of years after our thruhike, we did a bit of trail magic, bringing food and drink to hikers on the trail or slackpacking people from hostel to road-crossing. We quickly found out that by the time they reached PA, many of the hikers had seen so much trail magic it no longer meant much. Some hikers were running into trail feeds almost every day.

    We decided to find other ways to give back. In our case, we found a trail club that needed volunteers. We went on group work trips and adopted a section of trail. It wasn't the AT, but it was on other trails that badly needed work. We enjoyed hiking and exploring trails all over PA and worked with some great people. We found that hikers who ran into us on the trail generally appreciated the work we were doing, especially after traversing a section that hadn't seen any maintenance in a while. Backpacking a trail that we had worked on was always a pleasure, since we could see the difference we were making. I definitely recommend it.

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