by Josh Reynolds

Building on a Love for the Trail

The first time I can distinctly remember hiking on the A.T. was in the summer of 2010, after graduating from high school, when I joined a group of friends for a weekend backpacking trip in the Presidential Range of White Mountains National Forest. We ascended Crawford Path and made it as far as Mt. Eisenhower before reluctantly turning back to camp at the Mizpah Spring Hut and campground. This was my first experience hiking on an alpine ridge, and the sight of Mount Washington looming in the distance, with clouds swirling ominously around the summit, made a strong impression on me.

At the time, I wasn’t very familiar with the A.T., and didn’t think much about being on it, until we bumped into a pair of thru-hikers the next morning who had made it all the way from Georgia. We chatted with them for a few minutes as they took a break, and I found myself deeply intrigued by the undertaking they were participating in. The idea of living in a sort of alternate world, hiking day after day, for months on end, struck me as I want to say their trail names were Turtle and Milk Jug – funny that I seem to have a recollection of those details from 12 years ago.

As I progressed through my college years in western Massachusetts, I know I did a couple shorter weekend trips in the Berkshires during which I walked on the A.T. I don’t recall feeling especially connected to the A.T. as a concept, though, during those years. It wasn’t until after I graduated that I eventually found my way, through some serendipitous events, to a job with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy as an assistant crew leader for the Konnarock Trail Crew in southwest Virginia. This would prove to be a transformative and deeply important experience for me, and I would go on to work a total of five seasons for ATC trail crews in the South and Mid-Atlantic regions, as well as volunteering on several other occasions over the years.

While my 2010 trip on the Presidential Range kindled the spark for my relationship with the A.T., I think it was while working my first trail crew season in 2017 with Konnarock that I really fell in love with the trail. Traveling from project site to project site through the states of Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia gave me a sense of the A.T.’s vast scope and continuity. Meanwhile, the friendships I developed with coworkers and volunteers quickly demonstrated the powerful sense of community that the A.T. fosters. Working with others to maintain and improve this incredible resource provided me with some much-needed purpose in life, and still guides me today as I remain in the trail building profession. Besides all that, I’ve had a ton of fun on the Trail! I love the A.T. and I look forward to many more adventures to come.