Think of the Appalachian Trail like a house that needs constant cleaning for all its visitors. But who does the responsibility fall on?
"They say there's 2 million people who hike the AT at some place in any given year," Natural Bridge Appalachian Trail Club member Trudy Phillips said. "Virginia actually has 1/4 of the whole AT so there's a lot of miles."
There are 31 Trail Maintaining Clubs that are commissioned with keeping the AT clear so everyone can hike it. They have to do trail maintenance, build and repair shelters and manage rare plants and corridors throughout the AT. In Virginia, there are seven trail clubs.
The Natural Bridge Appalachian Trail Club (NBATC) covers the Tye River all the way to the Black Horse Gap.
"We're a bunch of people that don't have to work so we can take Wednesdays off so we're able to do one day work trips almost every week," NBATC's John Phillips said.
These aren't your average volunteers though. They are trained and certified through U.S. Department of Forestry. "Maintaining" the trail isn't easy work. It involves chainsaws, axes and a lot of knowledge about the trail. You must go through special certification in order to help do any type of maintenance work on the AT. It's a serious job that brings people closer in the outdoors.
"Deep friendships are formed out on the trail and many of us count their NBATC workmates among their very best friends," NBATC Vice President Mike Rieley said. "Getting to share that time with smart, witty, dedicated friends is an added bonus."
NBATC crews meet every Wednesday and Saturday to do maintenance work on the trail. The crew says there always looking for good volunteers. All you need to do is fill out an application and then go through some training and in no time they'll put you to work.
These are the 7 trail clubs in Virginia.
Old Dominion Appalachian Trail Club
Tidewater Appalachian Trail Club
Natural Bridge Appalachian Trail Club
Outdoor Club at Virginia Tech
Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club
Piedmont Appalachian Trail Hikers
Mount Rogers Appalachian Trail Club