Hiking Clubs Provide Care and Opportunities on the AT.
Apr 29, 2016 02:00PM ● Published by Susan Ryder
The consistent swish of the pack against my back, the rhythmic tromp of my feet against the path, and the occasional whoosh of the wind through the trees, these are the sounds of the trail—swish, swish, tromp, tromp, whoosh. And along with the seasonally changing natural beauty of Pennsylvania, these are what draws me to it.
Pennsylvania has innumerable miles of hiking trails. Of them, 226 rest on the iconic Appalachian Trail, a 2,180 mile foot path from Maine to Georgia.
All of those miles require maintenance and The Appalachian Trail Conservancy provides it. The ATC has 331 groups that maintain the trail, six for the Pennsylvania portion. Without these groups, trails would be blocked by blown down trees, washed away by runoff or made impassable by some other form of natural or man-made damage.
Cindy Radich, president of The Susquehanna Appalachian Trail Club, said that the group’s mission is to “Protect and care for the 20-mile stretch of the AT we’ve been assigned to.” That stretch is from Peter's Mountain, in Dauphin County, north.
That care includes the May Garlic Mustard Challenge, in which, participants pull out the non-native, invasive plant along the trail; cutting blow downs; fixing privies; or repairing shelters. The group also provides training programs, like a chainsaw course, and speakers at their monthly Harrisburg-based meetings.
Each group has different guidelines for participation; but for the SATC, one need not be a member of the club to participate in the activities and programs. Radich noted that all the money from the nominal membership fee goes toward maintaining and preserving the trail.
When asked why join the group she said folks “Get to be around like-minded people,” and that they “Have so many people who has been so many places, you can pick their brains.”
All this knowledge comes in handy for leading the nearly 100 hikes the club hosts each year. Hikes fall under categories for pace, leisurely to fast; and terrain, paved to extremely strenuous. These classifications allow folks to find a hike that will fit their skill level and physical ability.
Clubs are a good consideration for folks who, like me, are uncomfortable hiking alone; want to find great places to hike; and want to participate in the conservation of Pennsylvania’s natural spaces.
Radich, a resident of Susquehanna Twp., has hiked all her life and feels lucky to live in Pennsylvania saying “No matter where you live, you’re not far from some great hiking trails.”
Groups like the SATC maintain places for people to enjoy our rhododendrons, mountain Laurel, streams; and waterfalls; as well as, provide opportunities to travel them and help conserve them.
See a list of all six Pennsylvania Appalachian Trail Conservancy groups below. Look for my next blog, when I will talk about the highlights of my upcoming swishing and tromping with the SATC group.
Pennsylvania ATC groups:
Susquehanna Appalachian Trail Club – Harrisburg area.
Blue Mountain Eagle Climbing Club – Reading area.
Cumberland Valley Appalachian Trail Club – Carlisle area.
Appalachian Mountain Club of the Delaware Valley – Montgomery County.
Mountain Club of Maryland – Baltimore area, but cares for part of the AT in Pennsylvania.
Keystone Trails Association – Mechanicsburg. This is a great resource for hiking any Pennsylvania trail.
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