Gail Lehman of the Nantahala Hiking Club (NHC) has been a regular Appalachian Trail maintainer for more than 20 years. She also serves on the NHC board and is a Trail Ambassador, a hike leader, and the club’s hike coordinator. She has worked closely with ATC in assessing NHC’s section of the A.T. and was hiking cochair for the 2013 ATC biennial conference, working with hike leaders to develop a schedule of 65 hikes.
Gail first learned about the Trail in 1973 when her father gave her a copy of The Appalachian Trail, a National Geographic Society book by Ronald M. Fisher. Within a few years, she had joined NHC and began participating in club hikes, including several with Dr. A. Rufus Morgan, an Appalachian Trail pioneer and a founder of NHC.
After moving away from the area for eleven years, she returned in the late ’80s and began hiking with the club again. She was invited to join a club work trip and has been volunteering ever since.
Fellow club volunteers have nothing but praise for Gail. San Ho Choi has known her for more than 40 years and states that “she has always contributed and volunteered…without need for recognition or praise.” He says she has recorded more than 1,900 volunteer hours with the club and more than 1,900 hours with the U.S. Forest Service. For many years she has provided transportation and Meals on Wheels services for elderly and housebound people in the county. Bill Van Horn says, “Gail is not only a regular volunteer on weekly work trips, she is one of the first to volunteer for nonscheduled maintenance needs and jobs.”
Gail says that interactions with hikers and local outreach are key to keeping the club vital and developing new volunteers. When working on the Trail “we all carry our pamphlet on the club, and we attend local festivals in town and set up our booth with all our information. [Club volunteers] Bill and Sharon Van Horn have taken hiking into the classroom and several elementary schools let their children go on hikes, so we are exposing young people to the outdoors.”
Trail maintenance is Gail’s most enjoyable volunteer work, and she says the Nantahala Hiking Club is a wonderful organization to be involved with. See the NHC May-June newsletter for more about Gail.