View Full Version : Hiker Feedback for Maintainers

03-08-2009, 18:35
As a few of you know, I'm a volunteer trail maintainer for the A.T., and a volunteer maintainer and volunteer coordinator of volunteer maintainers (see "cat herder" :D ) for another footpath system.

Since I spend my own time doing this volunteer work, but I don't have enough time to do all that I would ideally do, I try to allocate my time available for the trail according to where it can do the most good.

While I certainly welcome thanks and appreciation, in my trail work I also need information on what's happening out on the trail. Hopefully, the trail is hiked more often than it is maintained, otherwise, why do it? Logically, that means that hikers will also see conditions that maintainers haven't had the chance to yet.

In addition, marking the trail is hopefully only done by those volunteers who know where the trail is. But, again logically, someone following the trail doesn't know where the trail is, or which way to go at junctions, without the markings. If the markings are not crystal clear to everyone, it's important that someone mention that to the maintainers; because, by virtue of human nature, it's perfectly clear to the maintainers which way to go, until it's called out!

The same could be said of maps, and of guides.

There are many aspects of a trail that might intrude negatively on the hiking experience. Some of these things the maintainers can do something about; some the maintainers might no have the resources to address right now but might eventually in the future; and some are completely out of the maintainers' control. But not every hiker is necessarily going to know which category the condition falls into. I'd rather hear more thoughts than less, and sort them out accordingly.

As a maintainer, I volunteer my time not only for my own gratification and exercise, but also to improve the hiking experience for my fellow hikers. I find these thoughts to be welcome regardless of whether the hiker has maintained "my" trail, or indeed any trail. Obviously, more weight is given to thoughts expressed any of:

more specifically with respect to location and condition;
by someone known to have experience in trail maintenance; and
in a respectful and constructive manner - both hikers and maintainers are people too!
I just wanted to get this off my chest after a weekend away, and found that I needed to create a new thread to do it in. If there is merit to this thread continuing, let's talk constructively and respectfully about how to improve hiker-maintainer feedback.

Old Hillwalker
03-09-2009, 09:26
Here is one solution. Up here in New Hampshire there is a local (New England) hikers' website www.viewsfromthetop.com where members who are trail maintainers post their responsible trail section(s) in their BB signature. Then people who have blowdowns etc to report can PM them with the information.

03-09-2009, 09:38
While you may not be soliciting thanks, take it when offered. I get really annoyed by posts from people criticizing trail conditions, maintainers, etc. and taking for granted the effort required to keep the trail in any degree of reasonable condition. I figure when the trail isn't "perfect" it's because mother nature is simply having her way and/or maintainers haven't gotten to it yet. No biggie. All part of walking in the woods.

03-09-2009, 09:44
I just wanted to get this off my chest after a weekend away, and found that I needed to create a new thread to do it in. If there is merit to this thread continuing, let's talk constructively and respectfully about how to improve hiker-maintainer feedback.
A big thanks to you and all the maintainers that will respond here or are part of any trail mainainence sytem. You folks are the best and greatly appreciated by so many of the good folks that enjoy the trails out there.
The complaints seem to come largely from folks who don't think to help out in the little ways themselves.
Picking up around camp, packing out garbage, so many seemingly little things that would help the entirety of the process - we're all responsible for aspects of maintaining the trail if we choose to be.
Many thanks to the folks that go above and beyoned, take responsibility for a section - you folks that do that are the best - thanks again.:sun

03-09-2009, 10:07
Excellent post. I saw this system in action last month, on the AZT.

In January I was hiking the AZT and I had gotten off-trail (not lost)--I simply could not find the trail into Ripsey Wash and had to bushwhack (lots of fun in the Sonoran Desert). Afterwards, I contacted the trail steward for that passage (yes, they use different terminology) and asked how I went wrong. She said she'd had other hikers say the same thing, and knew the signage was very poor in the area. There's beautiful new trail there, but it's unmarked. She invited me on a work party and I accepted.

So a few weeks later I'm out there on the signing crew, helping carry over 100# of post drivers. The crew boss started laying out the carsonite posts in the wrong places! Since I had the most recent experience, I was able to correct them. The crew boss was used to driving in from a jeep trail, and really didn't know how thru-hikers traveled in the area.

So I gained a huge understanding of many of the confusing trail signs out West, like the CDT blazes that tell you to go down the wrong road or to hike into the middle of a lake.

I also witnessed what happens when hikers get involved in the maintenance process--nothing but good things!