Have you ever wondered how the trail you are running on got there? Well, you know how you don’t really appreciate something, until you actually do the work yourself? Kinda like how you become a good tipper after you wait tables. The same is said for doing trail work. You really appreciate the people who built the trails you run after you spend a day helping to build new trail. It is hard work. Or brushing and trimming back overgrowth to make a clear path so you can run without scraping up your arms and legs and having a better line of sight around turns.
The people who create and maintain trails are mostly volunteers. Without people giving up their time, our trail running options would be very limited. But volunteering to help with trail work isn’t really giving up your time. It is extremely rewarding and gives you a perspective that you won’t forget. There’s also great satisfaction in running or racing somewhere that you helped create.
If you haven’t ever done trail work; don’t be intimidated. It is easy to get involved with a local organization and they are always eager for help. If you can’t find a group to work with, try reaching out to your local park or trail system land manager and see if you can create a trail work party. You do have friends that will join you.
We just spent the last weekend on a project for the Pacific Crest Trail Association. There were about a dozen trail junction/directional signs that were missing on the PCT, between Olallie Lake and Timothy Lake. We hiked into six different areas and put up the signs. To install signs in the wild, you first have to find a downed tree or cut a live one, to make a post. The bark is removed and a ledge is chiseled into it and then you screw the sign into the post. You dig a hole, which sometimes involves lots of rocks to work around, place the sign, and then take a picture of your hard work.
Here are some of the agencies and groups that we volunteer with or can recommend. If you aren’t in the Northwest, just Google ‘trail maintenance’ or ‘volunteer trail work’ and you’ll probably find something nearby where you live.
We strongly believe every trail runner should spend some time volunteering on the trails. We’ve even added a trail work requirement to our Mountain Lakes 100 race starting in 2019. Every racer has to volunteer for eight hours to be able to run the race. With 150 racers, that is 1,200 hours of trail work that will occur next year. Read more about this trail work requirement.
Go Beyond Racing hosts and co-hosts several trail work events every year. We post about these on our Facebook page and put them in our Events Calendar so you can get involved. We’d love to see you at one of our trail work parties next year (we’re planning those now). In 2018, we hosted and/or volunteered at five events; collectively contributing at least 180 hours of trail work:
We look forward to getting our hands dirty with you soon!