Benefits of Volunteering with Keystone Trails Association’s Trail Care Program (By Guest Author, Tory Mather)
Are you looking for something new this year to get you outside? Volunteering to maintain beloved Pennsylvania hiking trails could be the key to your 2024!
I recently discovered my passion for hiking and the outdoors as an adult and through that, my passion for volunteering for outdoorsy organizations. I love Pennsylvania and want to preserve the amazing nature in our state for all generations to come. However, there’s not just altruistic motivations for my volunteerism. Volunteering is good for me too!
Below is my list of benefits I’ve discovered when volunteering for outdoor organizations in Pennsylvania!
Meet new friends (who are guaranteed to be outdoorsy)! Meeting new people is HARD as an adult. As someone who’s uprooted their life three times in my late 20’s/early 30’s, I can promise you that. One of the best ways to suss someone out as a new potential bestie is to attend a structured activity - like volunteering! You have a task to discuss and work through together - it breaks much of the awkwardness new interactions can have. Also, I’ve never met someone who came to a trail work day who wasn’t interested in an outdoorsy hobby (and often more than one!). I’ve met some amazing friends through attending just one outdoor volunteer event!
That sense of accomplishment - If you’re the type of person (like me) whose job is sending endless emails and staring at spreadsheets, sometimes it’s hard to see tangible progress or action from the work you do. Trail work is NOT like that. At the end of a day of trail work, you’ll be able to see progress and change from when you started. That is a sense of accomplishment that is unmatched in modern society.
Get outside - Sometimes it’s just hard to get outside regularly. Our life commitments and small and large screens are constantly calling us back to the safety and comfort of our couch. By committing to a volunteer day, you’ll be held accountable for getting outside. Because your couch just is WAY more comfortable when crashing on it is a reward for hard work!
Find your passion - I’m a huge proponent of “you don’t know you don’t like it until you try”. In my own outdoor journey, I NEVER would have thought I would like sleeping outside and not showering for multiple days in a row. Even though I love hiking, I didn’t try backpacking for the longest time because I thought I would hate it. But I love backpacking now and I wasted all that time not trying it because of my limiting mindset. Give trail work a try, it could be your new favorite hobby.
Help future generations enjoy the outdoors - Most of the trails in our state are not maintained by paid employees, but rather regular people who give up their free time to improve and maintain the trail. Without regular citizens giving up their time, many of these trails would quickly become unusable. If you love being outside, I feel like there is a moral and social obligation to keep those outside spaces amazing for all users - current and future!
There are tons of outdoor organizations to volunteer with in Pennsylvania so there is no shortage of opportunities! However, the Keystone Trails Association’s Trail Care Program is celebrating its 40th Anniversary this year, making it the perfect time to get involved! Because KTA is a statewide organization, its Trail Care Program hosts events all over Pennsylvania. This makes it pretty easy to find an event close to you, or use a trail care event as an opportunity to explore a new trail!
Here are just a few reasons KTA’s Trail Care Program is special:
To find and sign up for a volunteer event near you, check out KTA’s 2024 Trail Care Program Schedule at www.kta-hike.org/trail-care-program.
Author Bio: Tory is a Western Pennsylvania local who discovered hiking as an adult and hiked over 400 miles in Pennsylvania in 2023. She loves backpacking, adventuring with her dog, and maintains that food tastes better on trail. Tory shares her adventures exploring our beautiful state on socials at @torytalkstrails and her blog at www.mytrailsaremany.com.
Keystone Trails Association