An Ode to Trail Maintainers

Trailsmen, stewards, guardians of green,
In silent service, rarely seen.
With hands that mend the trail’s worn face,
You guide our wanderlust’s embrace.

Through forests deep and mountains high,
Ensuring paths remain clear and dry,
A labor of love, though often hard,
Your efforts are kept in high regard.

You carve the trails where footsteps merge,
With nature’s chorus, harmonies emerge.
In every stone and bridge you lay,
A story of care, that guides our way.

Here’s to you, who keep the wilds tame,
In every season, through snow and rain.
Trailsmen, stewards, without your flame,
Our journeys could not be the same.

Your work, a beacon, calls us near,
To guard the beauty we hold dear.
In unity, our efforts blend,
To trails and tales that never end.

At this stage of my life I think a lot about maintenance.

What does it take just to maintain something? Regular and ideally consistent effort keeps things in good working order. Heck it might even improve it. Cars need oil changes, lawns need mowing, phones need software updates. Your health needs maintenance, your relationships need maintenance. It is an active process that requires time and energy.

But that time and energy pays you back, it can even multiply.

The weather of the past few months has had me appreciating all the work that goes into a trail to keep it hikeable. And we’ve been impacted quite a bit by heavy rains and winds, flooding, and more trees down than you can shake a branch at.

You know when you’ve been impacted. A tree has fallen and blocks your way. Blazes have faded and you’re not sure where to go. A rotten old bridge feels unsafe to cross. You have to keep stepping over fallen limbs or one hangs dangerously above your head.

The vast majority of correcting this is all volunteer work. Trail crews, work parties, and stewards that perform the necessary maintenance tasks with their free time and energy.

But it’s magic, each individual impact multiplies, transforming and opening the way for countless hikers, trail runners, bird watchers, and good old fashioned nature enjoyers. The better kept the trail, the less you notice it, and the more you can just be present out there. Each cleared path, repainted blaze, and repaired bridge becomes a testament to the collective spirit of preservation and respect for nature.

This volunteer work does more than just maintain trails; it fosters the connection between people and the natural world. And more, a larger story, one of stewardship and sustainable enjoyment in the great outdoors.

If I lean into waxing poetic at scale for a moment, these efforts highlight the importance of community and the power of collective action. They teach us the value of giving back, not just to the environment, but to future generations who will walk these paths. In a way, trail maintenance is a form of legacy, ensuring that the beauty and accessibility of nature endures.

So thank you to anyone and everyone who has done their part for these trails. Your commitment is an inspiration and an invitation for us all to join in this blend of labor and love. Reach out to your local land trust or shoot me an email to be put in contact should this post strike you right. Together, we can continue to safeguard these resources, ensuring that the trails we love remain a source of joy and discovery for all who tread them.