In the weeks leading up to my writing retreat, I finished reading AWOL on the Appalachian Trail by David Miller.
It was a Goodreads’ Deal. I loved Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods, which hilariously describes his attempt at that journey. What I learned from reading both books was that I’m not going to be doing a long distance hike. It sounded horrible! I like being clean and comfortable, two things that don’t happen on the trail.
On my writing retreat, however, David Miller’s book kept coming to mind as I did mind-clearing hikes. Whenever I saw huge trees that had obviously fallen across the trail, as there were large parts remaining on either side, I was thankful for the upkeep crew who came in with chainsaws to give me safe passage.
On one of the trails near Vikingsholm, there were often bridges over streams and steps carved into boulders.
Before reading AWOL on the Appalachian Trail, I never thought about what was needed to keep the trails usable.
The most amazing case of trail maintenance was at the Donner Memorial State Park Visitor Center. [Author’s note: I love that the Museum was initially called the Emigrants Museum, which was the term that the pioneers called themselves when making the trip to the West Coast. But since no one ever used that generic name, the Park Service gave in and officially did the name change.]
There is a ¾ mile nature trail that is part of the museum grounds and right next to the official monument that happens to be right in the center of where their settlement had been. This trail was completely accessible. When it wasn’t a hard, level compressed earth path, it was a wooden walkway over the marshier bits and highly uneven terrain. Chipmunks, which my grandma always called “ground squirrels” were everywhere and rather chatty when they thought I was getting too close to their stash.
I loved the bridge over what at the time was a tiny stream, but it would certainly have a lot of water during the rainy season. It warmed my heart that everyone regardless of physical abilities would be able to fully appreciate the site. To keep that up and running must require a lot of attention before the beginning of the season. Those are invisible heroes.
I’m glad those workers were at the top of my mind for my trip. While nameless, they were appreciated.