Volunteers: In Their Words

Joe Morris

From May 2005 to May 2009, I lost my father to cancer, one of my dearest friends in an automobile accident, my business and livelihood of 27 years, and, ultimately, I lost my wife to divorce. The Appalachian Trail (A.T.) found me on a journey, in Virginia, passing from one place to another.

Throughout 2011 and part of 2012, I wandered over 2,000 miles on the A.T. between Springer Mountain, Georgia, and Pearisburg, Virginia. Back and forth, and in all seasons just trying to process and regroup after all the losses. I wrote a photo journal book and in between hikes passed the time volunteering at food banks and church. I met two gentlemen handing out water and oranges on June 15, 2012, at Burkes Garden, Virginia. They asked, “Where do you live?” and they told me the Trail Club in my area, the Tennessee Eastman Hiking and Canoeing Club (TEHCC), needed help.

That day changed my life — forever.

By the end of July, I was working on Round Bald with the Club and alongside the Konnarock Crew. That was over 4,000 volunteer hours ago and, without a doubt, the most rewarding “work” hours of my life. I have been fortunate enough, in my lifetime, to build steps and cribs that the next generation of hikers will tread and the next generation of maintainers will repair. Volunteering on the A.T. is an inheritance and demands stewardship; it is not for the faint of heart or those who seek accolades.

I count the maintainers in my Club as my family now as I continue on my path from one place to another. The loss was replaced with bounty and opportunity. I don’t wander much anymore, but I do wonder who is behind me to care for and provide for this glorious footpath. I look forward to meeting you one day — I will give you everything I have until it is your time to pick up the tools and carry on.

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