Many people donate at the end of the year — in celebration of the holiday spirit or to pad their charitable giving in hopes of a larger tax return. Others donate their time. I gave some hours recently for those who enjoy the great outdoors.
You might not think that the din of a chainsaw overcoming the calm of a forest would be welcome, but in some cases it is. On a recent fall weekend, dozens of volunteers from across New York state went to work in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains. Although we were the greenest participants, my girlfriend and I were put right to work in the woods around the Adirondack Mountain Club’s Lodge at Heart Lake, just south of the village of Lake Placid.
Our job – strip bark off downed pine logs and edge a flat spot with axes and chainsaws to replace deteriorating trail steps. Disclaimer, only those licensed to do so wielded the chainsaws – yours truly well-unqualified. After digging out the old logs, deepening the holes and placing the newly stripped logs in, we carried buckets of rock and soil down the steps to level the path out. Kristen and I have benefited from such work during our hikes in Tennessee, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Vermont and the Adirondacks. We’d taken the neatly groomed trails for granted, and never gave much thought to the physical labor and engineering it takes to keep water from pooling or rains from washing out trails. It was truly eye-opening, especially when considering that the volunteers – many working much harder than us – were there on a wet, cold and windy weekend. While we worked on downed trees, others were falling.
Over the course of two days, volunteers repaired the roof of the High Peaks Information Center, stowed away canvas tents for the season and renovated cabins. All this was done in exchange for a few hot meals, a place to rest your sore body and an appreciation that fellow outdoor enthusiasts will reap the benefits of your two days in the woods—even if they don’t always realize it.