Three to four times a year, typically during the month of June, volunteers of the Keystone Trail Association spend 6 days a week building and maintaining trails around Pennsylvania. The Keystone Trails Association (www.kta-hike.org) is an alliance of organizations and individuals who share a common interest in hiking in Pennsylvania and neighboring states. Apart from conducting guided hikes (Prowl the Sproul) and maintaining trails (Trail Crews and Trail Care weekends), the KTA protects hiking trail lands through support and advocacy and educates the public in the responsible use of trails and the natural environment. An excellent way for you to give back to the trails that we all enjoy is to join the Keystone Trail Association. You can also help by volunteering to participate on one of their Trail Care weekends or one of their week long Trail Crews. The week long Trail Crews begin on Tuesday and run to Sunday. You can volunteer for the entire week or just an afternoon. In 2007, KTA conducted trail crews to improve and expand the Chuck Keiper Trail, Pinchot Trail, and the Mid State Trail. I had the honor and pleasure to participate, if only for a couple of days, on the trail crew for the Mid State Trail.
I attended my first KTA trail crew in 2007. This was the last Trail Crew of the summer and was in Tioga county as the KTA and the Mid State Trail Association (www.hike-mst.org) worked on extending the Mid State Trail northward of Morris, PA. Work on this trail extension started on Tuesday and was well under way when I arrived Thursday evening.
After arriving at the Twin Stream Campground, the KTA Trail Crew headquarters in Morris, I signed in and set up my tent. I had arrived just after dinner and had an opportunity to meet others as they began to gather around a camp fire. Shortly after 9:00, most of the volunteers were exhausted after a hard days work, so I headed off to bed as well.
Friday morning brought an excellent breakfast, cooked on site. After filling my stomach I packed a brown bag lunch (PB&J) and received my marching orders. We were heading out to a section of trail that was already cleared earlier in the week. Our job was to finish painting orange blazes along the trail as well as lopping limbs off trees so that you could see the blazes.
We finished up the lopping and blazing of this new section of trail just before lunch. After eating our lunch we headed over to a section of trail that was cleared last summer. The trail, not yet open to hikers, had not seen any activity for over 12 months, and this was evident when we started down it. We pruned tree limbs as well as reblazed the trail. We hiked a little over 2 miles before turning around and heading back to the truck.
We returned to the campground around 4:00PM. We had maintained, cleared and walked over 7 miles of trail. After a change of clothes, others began to filter in. By 6:00 everyone was in from the trail and we sat down for that evenings meal. Once again it was a filling and very tasty meal. If you think that working on a trail crew is a good way to loose weight, think again. The exercise helps tone and build muscles, as well as keeping you physically fit, but any calories that you burnt off during the day are quickly replenished at the evening meal.
After dinner and clean-up, everyone headed to the campfire. We discussed the days activities, what was completed, and what still had to be done. It wasn't long before the marshmallows appeared and a lot of people were toasting them on the open fire. It was nice to have the chance to socialize with everyone. I think I may have been one of the first to head off to bed, being exhausted after a hard day's work.
The next morning was very similar to the last. After waking and eating a huge breakfast, lunches were packed, marching orders received, and everyone started heading back out to the trail. Today I had two main duties. The first was to hike the three mile section of trail that we worked on yesterday. I would have my GPS with me and we wanted to get a good GPS track for updating the Mid State Trail maps. My second would be assisting in blazing and lopping an adjacent section of the trail.
On this day we started early and didn't get back to camp until after 5:30PM. I had hiked about 14 miles, gathering GPS data, and pruning trees so that the blazes could be seen. Upon our arrival back at camp, we cleaned up for dinner. Directly after dinner, the Mid State Trail Association held their summer meeting. After the meeting I broke camp, said my goodbyes to everyone, and headed home. I was looking forward to a warm shower and comfortable bed. I was worn down a bit from the two days of trail work. The work was hard, but I felt good, getting some much need physical activity, and knowing that I helped create something that hikers will enjoy for many, many years to come.