As a member of the Colorado Mountain Club’s (CMC) Stewardship Team, I have had the wonderful opportunity to work on some of Colorado’s most beautiful trails. I love the work that I do because it helps connect people with the beauty and joy that the natural world can bring. However, what I am quickly learning is that trails also connect people with people and bring communities together.

The CMC Stewardship Team recently worked in the beautiful Raggeds Wilderness of the Gunnison National Forest for two weeks in July, thanks to a generous grant by the NFF Matching Awards Program. While the work we completed was hard (we cleared over 100 trees off the trail!), the gorgeous scenery and solitude of the wilderness made it worth the aches and pains.

Yet the best part of our time came not from the views, but from the three volunteer days we co-hosted, two with an outfitting guide for youths and one with the community of Paonia. Watching people come together to accomplish a goal, some with little to no trail work experience, was truly inspiring to my teammates and me.

Working on trails can be physically demanding and, what some people don’t realize, takes quite a bit of time. Time is a precious commodity, and these volunteers chose to spend their time protecting something that they love for the betterment of not only the wilderness itself, but for their community as well. These volunteer days helped to connect people to the trails in their backyard, but also connected people within their community who share the same passions, which I can only hope will result in more stewards of the Gunnison National Forest and beyond.

I would encourage anyone who loves spending time in their National Forest to research volunteer opportunities in your area (or create one!). Not only will you be spending your day in beautiful scenery and connecting with likeminded people, you will also be protecting something that you and your community love and cherish.

National Forest Foundation