After the PCT, it’s been a long road back to financial stability. I thought it would be easier to rebuild my savings after all I spent while hiking, but the Readjustment Blues kept a death-hold on my wallet. I’m doing better, finally. And just in time to renew my membership to a few hiking clubs!
I’ve spent a good deal of time as an employee for two of the big ones in New England: the Appalachian Mountain Club, and the Green Mountain Club. Before working for the GMC, I never figured I would want to spend my money on a hiking club membership, but I learned a lot in my time there. And nowadays, even though I can’t afford health insurance, a car, a decent apartment, or so many other simple luxuries of modern life, I can justify dropping some money on such intangible things as three or four hiking club memberships. I don’t often buy things from the hiking clubs at the discounted member prices, and I tend not to join in on club activities like hikes and presentations, so what do I gain from the money I spend?
While my individual twenty or forty bucks doesn’t do a whole lot by itself, look at what trail clubs do with the money they bring in. Every major trail you hike on exists because a dedicated group of people works on maintaining the trail, and most of the major work requires money — professional trail crews are paid to improve sections of trail or build shelters and campsites, trail signs and markings need frequent upkeep, and the trail itself needs to be maintained to keep it from eroding or overgrowing. From last summer, two of my favorite trail clubs are shining examples of how a well-organized trail club can get things done.
The Green Mountain Club, which maintains the Long Trail in Vermont, had a crazy season. Their trail crews built three new privies, renovated an observation tower, relocated trails due to beaver flooding, renovated two shelters, built one entirely new shelter, built two new bridges across major rivers, replaced several trail signs, and did tread work on dozens of sections of trail. And that’s just one summer. The previous summer saw at least as much work, with a couple of new shelters and renovations on several more.
The Cohos Trail Association had a big summer, as well. They built twelve miles of all-new trail (a huge accomplishment for a trail that was only a dream until a decade ago). They built an 800-foot bog-bridge to overcome beaver flooding in one area. And they renovated an old cabin for use as a shelter for work groups and hikers. Their plan for next summer is even more ambitious, restoring a defunct observation tower, creating another dozen or so miles of new trail, and renovating the few shelters along the trail.
So why not give a bit of money to the organizations that make these trails? I’ll be renewing my Cohos Trail Association, Green Mountain Club, and Pacific Crest Trail Association memberships in the next few days because each of those trails has meant so much to me. I doubt I’ll make it out to hike on the PCT anytime soon, but every dollar I give to the PCTA funds work that will help countless other through-hikers in the years to come. If I can help even one person have an experience that is as fulfilling as my hike last year, it’s worth every penny.