That the hiking is so good in the USA is not only down to the extraordinary range of geography in the country. It is also down to an organisation called the American Hiking Society.
They were set up 35 years ago to protect some of the most important hiking trails in the States and develop hiking in North America as an important and sustainable past-time.
Each year the Society run a series of Volunteer vacations in national parks throughout the country – from the Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska, through Washington State, California, across to Maine and Vermont and down to Alabhama and Georgia and right out to the Virgin Islands National Park.
Photo Credit: David J Kennedy Photography – ExposurebyDJK.com
The work generally consists of trail maintenance: erosion control, corridor clearance, minor bridge repair etc and most vacations last for 1 week although there are shorter trips or you can put in a 14 day shift on the Virgin Islands this December.
In 2014 there are 31 vacations from “Easy Moderate” to “Very Strenuous” and although the society was initially set up to persuade Americans out on the trail volunteers come from all over the world to experience the great outdoors.
For anyone volunteering it offers the chance of getting right to the heart of some of America’s greatest National Parks. As well as the work the weeks will aslo involve the chance of hiking and backpacking and free time to enjoy the natural beauty of the areas you are living and working in.
“Volunteer Vacations with American Hiking Society are budget-friendly working trips that are good for the earth and the spirit. They are a great way to experience the wildlife and landscapes of America’s iconic parks and forests, see nature through the eyes of a local, and get off the beaten path through purposeful trail work balanced with relaxation.”
Places on the projects cost only $295 each but you do have to get there.
The cost covers
- Food during the week (with the exception of meals out)
- Entrance to park/forest, backcountry permits, campground fees, cabin or lodging fees (These fees could run upwards of $100 for a typical week in a U.S. National Park/Forest)
- Use of tools and safety equipment
- Group supervision and crew leadership
- Exclusive American Hiking Society Volunteer Vacations t-shirt
- Society membership
Booking can be made direct with www.americanhiking.org
Kit Required for Volunteer Vacations and Hiking
Other than the tools and safety equipment needed to do the work, volunteers should provide their own kit. Some projects have accommodation in cabins otherwise tents will be required.
Personal kit such as rucksacks, sleeping bags, boots and clothing should be bought well in advance. Don’t make the mistake of waiting till you get to the States to buy new, as you wouldn’t want to turn up depending on untested kit, that hasn’t been warn in.
Try The Epicentre – an online oputdoor clothing and equipment provider here in the UK who can deliver any extra kit that you may need to buy before you go.
You can get some great tips on what to take and what to expect from both their website at www.theepicentre.co.uk and www.americanhiking.org.
The society does have one word of warning and, to be honest, it goes for any holiday for which you organise the compnent parts separately yourself, not just hiking in North America, where you buy flights from one place and accommodation or tours etc from another. Projects can be cancelled and they are not confirmed until 6 to 9 weeks before departure. So if you are booking flights, unless you have a “plan b” in place, make sure your tickets are refundable.