The places you love to hike are in danger from developers selling leases for drilling and closures due to a lack of funding for maintenance. Help conserve America's hiking trails and the lands around them.
A small group of hikers heading off the Trapper Creek Trail in Washington's Gifford Pinchot National Forest came out of the forest smiling.
"What a trail," they exclaimed, excited about the lake they found at the top of the steep, six-mile pathway and the magnificent views of the snow-capped Mount Adams and Mount Hood.
But they were most impressed about what goood shape the trail was in. "We came up here a month ago," one hiker said, "and the trail was overgrown, but we can tell someone's really been working on it."
These hikers were talking to the right group: six volunteers for American Hiking Society's Volunteer Vacations program. They had been working on the trail for a week, widening tread and cutting back overgrown branches and vines to make it passable for hikers.
"I don't have the staff or funding to care for this trail every year - in fact, we probably won't get back to this one for four or five years," said Tom Linde of the USDA Forest Service. "With cutbacks to the Forest Service trail budget, I rely mostly on volunteers for our trail crews."
That's why American Hiking Society stepped in. Each year, it dispataches volunteers to build and repair more than 200 miles of trail in national parks and forests. This program contributes more than $200,000-worth of volunteer labor to federal lands such as Gifford Pinchot National Forest.
"American Hiking Society and these volunteers have helped us keep the trails in this forest open," Linde said. "And when people can hike here, they get excited about the forest and its unique ecosystem. Besides putting more trail miles on the ground and repairing those already there, American Hiking helps people appreciate the importance of our natural places."