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" ) 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.