On June 2, Woolrich celebrated National Trails Day as an official stop on the Backpacker Get Out More Tour. Tour ambassador Sherri Propster took some time out to reflect on her visit to Woolrich and the indelible contributions of trail volunteers everywhere.

This time of the year the wild seems wilder.  If you take a long walk on a remote footpath you may feel as though you are actually watching as the trail battles the landscape in an attempt to avoid being suffocated by the rapid growth. We have always imagined the trail to be a living and breathing thing, an ever evolving piece of the wild places that they meander though, but the past few weeks on the Get Out More Tour have reinforced to us more so than ever just how alive our nation’s trails are, and just how special the people are who bring them to life.

Many trail users go from start to finish without even a thought of just how the trail came to be.  Trails don’t just happen.  The trails we all get to walk are in reality the physical representation of a long and often challenging path of planning, politics, time, sweat and even tears.

Over the past few weeks the Get Out More Tour has had the pleasure (and the honor) of spending time with a few genuine trail enthusiasts. The trail builders, maintainers, and key players in the politics of trails that represent the lifeblood that flows throughout our nation’s trail systems.

During the Get Out More Tour visit to Woolrich for a National Trails Day Celebration we enjoyed a gathering of caring, giving, and enthusiastic members of the often-unseen organizations that give life to the trails we all enjoy.

Woolrich works with the Pennsylvania Trail Crew, the Mid State Trail Association, the Keystone Trail Association and the Great Eastern Trail Association to provide support and develop partnerships that protect and preserve trails throughout Pennsylvania and the east coast of the United States.  We thought National Trails Day would be a perfect opportunity to celebrate the partnerships that give life to our trails so we attempted to shine a light on the effort and achievement of these great organizations of trail enthusiasts.

While we believe we could never shine a light that is bright enough, we found a very powerful message in the humility that causes many who give themselves to the trail to take comfort in the shadows. Volunteers are a humble group, and those that give to the trail rarely seek rewards greater than those the trail itself provides.  Tom Johnson (President of the Great Eastern Trail Association) shared a quote with us that we believe speaks volumes to the mindset of a trail volunteer.

The quote comes from an article written by Jean Stephenson, a trail volunteer that any volunteer would be proud to emulate, and his article written in 1947 still speaks volumes today.  As Tom put it, “To me this is emblematic of the volunteer spirit of trails.”

He wrote:

“…Some of the older members may remember the Runkle brothers, two old
Pennsylvania-Dutchmen up near Manada Gap.  On a trip there, the party met
one of them working on the Trail.  Surprised, because of his age and feeble
condition, one of the parties made some comment, which was misunderstood by
him.  His reply was ‘No, nobody pays me; and it’s a good thing they don’t.
There isn’t enough money to get me up here on a hot day like this to clear
up a trail.  But it’s got to be done and there’s nobody here to do it butme, so I’ve got to come up here and work on it.  We can’t let the Trail grow
up and disappear and get lost so that those that come after us will never
know it.”

It takes a special mindset to be a volunteer, a mindset that was alive and well within the Runkle Brothers in 1947, and the same mindset that is alive and well today within Tom Johnson.

After spending time with thoughtful volunteers like Tom we have a feeling that the next time we find ourselves sitting quietly on a trail, the sounds we hear will be much more than simply the sigh of the trail as it battles the vegetation. It will now be impossible to listen to the trail without hearing the voices who dreamed up these trails, the shovels that moved the earth to build them, and the heartbeat of the volunteers who breathe life into the paths beneath our feet.  Thank you to all who give life to trails.

See you on the trail,

Sheri and Randy Propster