College student Steven Epps had heard of the Appalachian Trail, but he thought it was something for “extreme” people. It was his fraternity brother Ben Royer, a recent thru hiker and the son of trail maintainer Philip Royer, who really introduced him to the A.T.
Steven joined the Royer’s Trail maintaining club – the Smoky Mountain Hiking Club (SMHC) as a maintainer. He did “whatever SMHC needed people to do.” His first time out, he helped to build a privy, and he continued doing what was needed – everything from basic maintenance to shelter building.
Steven then adopted five miles of SMHC’s section of the A.T. as part of his senior practicum. His time as a SMHC volunteer whetted his appetite for more trail work, and he signed up for the ATC’s Trail crew program, spending the whole season on the SWEAT crew and a few weeks on the Konnarock crew.
Steven likes to push himself, and he found both crews helped him test his limits. He worked on construction projects for Konnarock crew, and spent days backpacking in the Smoky Mountains – with his tools – doing maintenance on remote Trail sections with the SWEAT crew, including challenging projects like removing trees and digging out root balls.
ATC’s Andy Downs says “Steven is the type of guy who makes difficult times easy for a backcountry crew, as long as he has a supply of candy. Fuel this guy with a Jolly Rancher and he’ll cut sidehill till the cows come home.”