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Watoga Trail Report

Brian Wright and Michelle Campbell of the D.C. Taekwondo Group “benching” on the Monongaseneka Trail.

Ken Springer
Watoga Park Foundation

This edition of the Watoga Trail report will be an unabashed, unapologetic, appeal for more volunteers to help maintain the 40-plus miles of trail found throughout the 10,100 wooded acres of Watoga State Park. Many of these trails were built by the Civilian Conservation Corp during the height of the Great Depression in the 1930s – a time when jobs for the nation’s young men were non-existent.  Perhaps you have a relative who served with the CCC and have heard some of their recollections?

But first, I want to acknowledge those who have been giving of their time and effort for several years now. These are folks who can be counted on to show up when help is needed to restore and maintain our trails here at Watoga, and without them, our job would be difficult if not impossible.

As you read this report there is some damage occurring somewhere to the trails in the park. Nature never stops dropping trees, smalls streams never stop jumping their banks causing erosion, and vegetation is relentless at trying to grow over the trails.

A huge thanks to Sollie and Anne Workman who are not only generous with their time, but in sharing their vast experience with the U.S. Forest Service. David Elliott, who not only works routinely on the trails but promotes the park in so many ways including the Mountain Trail Challenge trail race each August. Brian Hirt, who drives up from Virginia and splits his time between working on the Allegheny Trail and Watoga’s trails.

David and Bet Curtis who work as a husband and wife team trimming trails and picking up litter around the lake. And then there is the Taekwondo group from Washington D.C. headed up by Brian Wright and Jocelyn Roberts, who make annual pilgrimages to Watoga just to work on the trails. And a special thanks to Robyn Fitzsimmons, the unsung and unseen volunteer, who quietly slips into the park, improves a trail and leaves just as quietly.

So you see there are any number of ways you can volunteer to help out on the trails; as a team, alone, with friends or as a couple. If you are interested in helping to maintain these historic mountain trails of Pocahontas County please contact me for details. I can be reached at 304-653-2021 or via email at ken49bon@gmail.com. 

But what if there are some unorthodox methods to attract more volunteers? 

An Absurd Scheme for Recruiting Volunteer Trail Workers

My friend Delbert up in Mudwallow, Ohio, finally managed to assemble a small trail crew for the newly designated Buffalo Wallow Roadside Rest Area. The “park” consists of a couple of picnic tables and a pit type latrine situated frighteningly close to the steep bank of the mud wallow. A short trail leads hikers from the picnic area out and around the prehistoric buffalo wallow.

Delbert and I recently got together to discuss tactics for recruiting new trail workers to offset the losses by attrition. After all, most of the current volunteers qualify for Medicare and are getting a little long in the tooth for such work. Delbert, being a recluse before he got married, felt that trail work would be a perfect fit for a recluse inclined towards hard work. After all, most days one must work alone on the trails anyway and that would surely suit the general requirements of a recluse.

I got to thinking that Delbert may have a good point with this idea, which is a rarity to say the least, but as the old saw goes, “Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while.” That caused me to wonder just how many recluses we may have in Pocahontas County that would be willing to do volunteer trail work. To be sure, we have a lot of characters in Pocahontas County; more per capita perhaps than the national average. And a fair number of those may lean toward being hermits, what with our countless mountains and deep hollows.

Delbert continued, “I may have a way for you to get more volunteers; why don’t you organize a convention for recluses?”

I thought that he was seriously flirting with a non-sequitur in that statement, but he went on to say that he had actually tried it in Mudwallow in an effort to bring the recluses out of the woods and into town where they could then be persuaded to work on trails.

Delbert admitted that the idea didn’t work out as well as he had hoped because the only one to show up at the old Shriner’s Hall on convention day was Victoria Norton, who is indeed a bonafide recluse from up on Norton Ridge. 

At the annual Norton Family Reunion, it often happens that one family member tells another that they heard Victoria had died. To which someone else will say, “No that can’t be true, why someone said they caught a glimpse of her turkey hunting up in Stoney Hollow just last week.” That clearly demonstrates how much of a recluse Victoria really is, even her own kin doesn’t know if she’s kicked the bucket or not.

Victoria told Delbert that the only reason she showed up was that she knew no self-respecting recluse would come to any kind of gathering, and that she would have the convention all to herself – I thought that a rather odd admission on her part. Anyway, Victoria said she spent a wonderful afternoon visiting the empty booths and gathering up all the freebies. She said she was going to return next year to the recluse convention providing Delbert didn’t over-promote it.

I think that I will leave Delbert to his own curious methods of recruiting trail workers and stick to the old tried and true method that works here in Pocahontas County – begging.

If you are too young to qualify for Medicare and if a mattock handle fits your paws, please come on over to Watoga State Park and lend a hand. We are an equal opportunity volunteer organization; meaning that we don’t care if you are a recluse or a social butterfly, white or black, Powerbait or strictly fly fisherman, Republican or Democrat, or even if you are from another planet – we can use your help.

Happy Hiking,
Ken Springer
CPTR (Certified Part-Time Recluse)

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