Summer Trail Blazing
The Appalachian Trail, which stretches 2,200 miles from northern Georgia to northern Maine, is maintained primarily by volunteers in every state it traverses. Each summer, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (www.appalachiantrail.org), in conjunction with the US Forest Service, organizes and supervises crews of volunteers who provide invaluable manpower maintaining the trail.
This past summer, Bo Bobinski, who works in the Woodward Academy Upper School, volunteered for two different crews: Konnarock & SWEAT. Konnarock is based out of Sugar Grove, VA and supports the trail in Virginia and Georgia. SWEAT (Smokies Wilderness Elite Appalachian Trail) is based out of Gatlinburg & works exclusively in the back country of Smokey Mountain National Park.
The rigorous work involved building retaining walls, steps, and stairs, with the crew having to find and move rocks weighing as much as 500 pounds. The Konnarock crew had volunteers from Missouri, Texas, North Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia. With SWEAT, Bo and his crew had to pass a physical test consisting of a 1.5 mile hike carrying a (minimum) 35-pound pack. To get to their work site, they had to hike just over 11 miles carrying 50 pounds of tools and supplies.
We talked with Bo earlier this week about the experience and how he's interested in expanding it to the rest of the Woodward community.
Beyond the Gate: How did you get involved with volunteering for Konnarock & SWEAT?
Bo Bobinski: I'm a member of the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club & heard of the crews from them. The GATC is considered the most active AT Club in the nation & keeps the trail in GA well-maintained.
BTG: Why do you think it's important to give back in this way?
BB: I'm very environmentally conscious, and my experiences around the world provide me with a certain perspective with respect to protecting the environment. I love to hike, and trail maintenance gives me a deep appreciation for nature, as trails are designed & constructed in a manner that has minimal impact on the terrain.
BTG: How might WA partner with these organizations in the future?
BB: The ATC hosts numerous groups each year (inner-city high school students, veterans, other trail clubs). Woodward not only promotes itself as "green" & "sustainable," we have numerous clubs that enjoy the environment/nature (Outdoors Club) as well as focuses on the environment (Environmental Activities Club). We include community service into the development of our students.
BTG: What was your biggest personal takeaway from this experience?
BB: My greatest experience from working on the trail was gaining a deep appreciation for the Civilian Conservation Corps assembled during the Depression. A significant portion of the trail, and some amazing rock work, was built by the CCC, and the fact that their work stands to this day is a testament to their efforts.