Phyllis Henry discovered the Appalachian Trail at a stressful time in her life. A single parent working two jobs, she found that hiking provided a sense of peace often missing from her hectic life. She joined the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club (SMHC), the club responsible for maintaining the A.T. in her area, soon after her first hike nineteen years ago. Phyllis has been a hiker, Trail maintainer and leader – for SMHC and ATC – ever since.
While Phyllis still goes out on regular Wednesday A.T. maintenance trips with fellow volunteers Mac, Jerry and Stew, for ten years she has also been the “chief cook and bottle washer” during SMHC’s annual shelter rehabilitation. The club tackles one shelter each year (they maintain twelve), and the projects typically last for more than a week and can involve up to nineteen volunteers. Phyllis plans the trip, including three meals a day (no repeats) and gets supplies to the remote work sites – no mean feat. She works from sunrise to dark – not only cooking the meals, but rebuilding the shelter as well. The only thing she does NOT do is the dishes! Phyllis – whose effective leadership earned her the nickname “Sarge” – enjoys knowing she’s made the A.T. “better for everybody.”
She is a volunteer whose strength, charm and leadership have greatly benefited the A.T. community, says Andrew Downs of ATC. “Wherever she is working on the trail,” he says, “Phyllis becomes both the polish and the grit with southern class.” Thanks Phyllis!