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Presidential Ponderings

Don ConverseJanuary 2021

As I start my service as president of the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club, I am reflecting on my time with the club. I joined in 2001, the same year as Frank Wright, and according to a 2001 edition of The Georgia Mountaineer, David Stelts. So, I feel like I’m in good company.

Over the nineteen years in which I have been a member, nothing has given me greater pleasure than trail maintenance.

On my first maintenance work trip, which was as a prospective member, one of the tasks I was given was to help move the existing outhouse at Springer Mountain from the pit it was over to its new location, and then I was asked to dump a bucket of lime into the old hole. That was before moldering privies. I suppose if David Stelts had been on that trip, he would have pushed me aside so that he could have dealt with the outhouse himself. Anyway, that inauspicious start didn’t deter me. I signed up for a few third Saturday work trips after that.

It was in 2003 that I became a section maintainer. Wes Bartlett had run an ad in the Mountaineer looking for someone to partner with him on his section. He sold the idea by stressing that the section started at a parking lot, and that at various times of the year the section boasted beautiful wildflowers. I called him as soon as I saw the ad, and I joined up with him that weekend. That was the beginning of what is now a 16-year love affair with the upkeep of the trail.

Over that period of time, I’ve been a district supervisor and the trails supervisor, but I have to admit, those jobs don’t compare to the satisfaction of just being the guy who cuts the weeds or constructs a dip for water to exit the trail or builds some steps on a steep section.

If one looks at the first few pages of the Yearbook, three key statements are made.

The first statement more or less explains the relationship between the GATC and the Appalachian Trail itself. It says that we are an “association of volunteers who, because of the love of our wilderness areas, have assumed responsibility for maintenance of the trail.”

The second statement spells out our purpose. It begins by saying that “our purpose is to provide for the protection, management and maintenance of the A.T., and its side trails.”

The third statement is embodied in our mission statement. It begins by also stating that “we manage, maintain and protect the A.T.”

So, not only is trail maintenance important to me, but it also turns out it’s at the foundation of why we exist.

In 2021, despite what will be a slow start, it is my hope that we can substantially increase the number of individuals in our club who will take a day or two from their other endeavors to put on old clothes and come out in the woods and help keep our Georgia section of Trail the best maintained state on the entire A.T.