What is one of the best ways for a trail runner to give back? Well after running thousands of miles over mostly well groomed trails, I feel that trail maintenance is the best way. Recently I have been putting some muscle and sweat out on the trail in a much different way. I’m helping to clear the path for other users where I have so greedily and shamefully been spoiled for years with my own trail running and hiking.

Just before the epic Shut In trail race last year I was asked by a volunteer with the Carolina Mountain Club to help him clear a section of the course. The section needing the attention was the most famous (steepest) section on the Shut In course along the Mountains to Sea Trail. This section of the trail rises precipitously from Elk Pasture Gap up to the Mt. Pisgah parking lot. This section also has a ton of briars and weedy sections. I’ve run this race seven times and never once thought or thanked anybody for clearing the path to the finish line. I didn’t think much of it or assumed some trail fairies descended during the night and sprinkled some magic dust to clear the path for me.

I was actually excited to volunteer especially on a section I have run, jogged, hiked and even crawled up to the finish line at the Mt. Pisgah parking lot. After my initiation of 6 hours of weed eating and small tree removal last Fall I was truly hooked and felt good about my efforts. I decided shortly afterwards to volunteer for the CMC full time and was actually awarded this same 2.1 mile section.

The Carolina Mountain Club is an organization that has many wonderful trail volunteers and they do an outstanding job maintaining the Mountains to Sea Trail, Appalachian Trail and many other trails in the Pisgah and Appalachian Districts here in WNC. There are several “section leaders” overseeing the trail maintenance with the CMC. Les Love is the section leader for my particular section and his enthusiasm and dedication to trail work is quite obvious. He makes sure all of us are on task and getting the tools needed to maintain the trail. The Carolina Mountain Club does more than just maintain our fragile trail systems. They have many scheduled group hikes for their members and non-members are welcome as well. Their website is choked full of helpful information so I urge you to check it out.