Hiking is one of the most popular outdoor activities that any nature enthusiast will surely enjoy; walking for miles in the wilderness, enjoying the stroll, and reaching the summit of a hill that promises a panoramic view and perfect picture opportunity as a reward for the effort. Nevertheless, there is something a good portion of us nature enthusiasts do not realize. How did those trails that permit us into the wild get there in the first place? Well, there is a specialized section of every agency (e.g. BLM, National park Service, and Forest Service) that is entirely dedicated to building, maintaining, and finding trails so visitors can enjoy.
Maintaining hiking trails is strenuous work and they are possible thanks to the collective effort of multiple people. This week I had the opportunity to join, with a group of volunteers, the trail building crew of Mt. Rainier National Park in the state of Washington. Decorated with the presence of a majestic active volcano, this park offers a paradisiacal destination for nature lovers. As part of the trail building crew, National Park Service rangers are responsible for maintaining the trails in their designated wilderness areas. This entails removing vegetation and cleaning the paths so people can have easy access to them. In order to complete such task, we were assigned a path that needed much work in particular. We hiked 3 miles into the wilderness to stumble upon a trail that was completely covered by vegetation. With our rudimentary tools, we opened our way through the path. Some of us used special tools for cutting down vegetation, other ones removing plants by hand and yet other ones raking the fallen plants and moving them away from the road.
We spent a total of eight hours altogether, counting hiking time plus work, to clear out what seemed to be only one mile of hiking trail. We had a total of 21 people working to clear out this miniscule portion of the entire 200+ miles of trails within the park. It is mind-blowing to even imagine how much work the crew at Mt. Rainier needs to get involved with on a regular basis. This is an ongoing effort and I have much respect for the people who work at maintaining these trails clean and accessible so that the public can enjoy. Next time I find a trail crew member while in one of my hikes I will surely thank him or her for all their hard work.