Volunteers help build a better Appalachian Trail

ELLIOTSVILLE TOWNSHIP, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Visitors from across the country and throughout the world make the journey to Maine to hike the Appalachian Trail, and they have volunteers from just as far a field to thank for the trail's upkeep.

"If you are hiking, you'd rather not have mud up to your ankle every step you are taking," stated Ron Dobra, a sort of volunteer district manager for a sixty mile section of the AT. "You'd rather not be falling down in this slop."

Dobra, who also volunteers to maintain his own three mile section of trail for the Maine Appalachian Trail Club, is helping to oversee work being done by a trail crew on the trail towards the summit of Barren Mountain.

"These guys are hardening the trail so that it doesn't wash away anymore than it has," he explained. "A lot of people have never done this kind of thing at all, and it is tough work up there."

The trail crew, which consists of a couple paid seasonal staff and a team of volunteers, will spend three weeks on this section of trail, building steps to keep hikers from having to trudge through mud.

"It is challenging, but it is really fun," said crew leader, Hilary Dees. "I get to sleep outside every night, so I get paid to camp, first off, and get paid to work out and do physical labor, and then this is engineering only without the degree."

While she gets a small stipend, most of the volunteers pay their way to Maine and spend days hard at work to earn their room and board.

"It's my choice and it's what I want to do," stated Maggie Baker, who flew to Maine from England to help out.

"It kind of is part of pushing myself, and obviously I do find it quite challenging," she said. "I'm 58, and I find the physical aspects of it quite hard to deal with, but that is part of it, pushing myself."

She has come to the States nearly half a dozen times to work on various trail building projects. This week in the 100 Mile Wilderness is her first visit to the Pine Tree State.

"I actually don't know where I am at the moment," she admitted. "I have absolutely no idea."

But what she does know is she enjoys the physical labor, the scenic beauty and the knowledge that her work will be appreciated by hikers for decades to come.

"People will tread those steps and have a better experience walking along the trail because of that," said baker. "That's a real sense of achievement."

The Maine Appalachian Trail Club helps protect and maintain 267 miles of the Appalachian Trail. The all-volunteer organization helped coordinate several trail building projects last year with the help of nearly 400 volunteers.


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