For over the past ten years Dave Michael, President of the Back Country Horsemen of North Carolina, has been rallying equestrians to help with projects in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Pisgah National Forest and the Nantahala National Forests. Backcountry Horsemen (BCH) have been dedicated to assisting agencies in maintenance and management since 1973. Since 2016, Michael has played an integral role in aiding numerous backcountry projects on the Appalachian Trail. Benjamin Barry, Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s former Trail Facilities Manager, explains “Without Dave, we would not have been able to operate the 2018 season of Rocky Top”.
Rocky Top is a trail crew comprised of volunteers who work on the A.T. through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is the largest roadless section of the entire Trail. Rocky Top was initiated as a partnership between equestrian groups, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and the National Park Service in an effort to retain quality Trail standards in the thirty-five mile section of the A.T. that is open to equestrian use in the Park. This opportunity enables horse power to be applied to projects taking place in remote backcountry settings. Smoky Mountain National Park Backcountry Specialist Christine Hoyer explains, “there is no easy or short way to get there and without [Dave’s] leadership that season, the work that was accomplished and the experience of the Rocky Top volunteers would have been very different.” Michael led horse teams to resupply the crews in the backcountry, three days a week for five weeks and made a three hour commute each way. Rocky Top Assistant Crew Leader Katie Oliver explains “Having the BCH is extremely helpful because [it reduces what] needs to be packed in by the crew leaders and volunteers to personal gear. It is nearly impossible to backpack a rock drill or chainsaw in 11 miles, and those tools make it possible to complete more technical projects during the season and build a more sustainable trail.”
From packing in supplies every week for the Rocky Top Crew to helping the Nantahala Hiking Club with packing in supplies for privy replacements, Michael’s work is driven by a passion for maintaining and improving recreational access for all non-motorized users. He states that trail work gives him a sense of purpose and accomplishment as well as keeping him fit and getting him outdoors. Micheal is a six year US Army Veteran and served as a civilian in Desert Storm. He is an avid fisherman who enjoys spending time camping with his daughter Melanie, grandson Liam, dogs Jett and Chloe, as well as with Jeanna his wife and favorite riding partner.