Teamwork makes solo walks possible

I was on the Nashua River Rail Trail for a few miles this weekend. I couldn’t help noticing freshly-cut logs and branches along both sides, thanks to volunteers I’ll probably never meet. Breezes and recent heavy wet snow had brought down trees all over the place. On the northernmost stretch of NRRT, the mess is cleared. All I had to toss aside were a few small branches.

Nashua River Rail Trail: winter winds brought down a tree, and volunteers cleared away the mess. Fence-mending will wait.

Not so upstate at one of New Hampshire’s largest ski areas which I recently visited. It’s one of the few ski areas in the state with a decent system of trails for Nordic skiers and snowshoers. While the resort’s management is understandably focused on the downhill ski trade (that’s where the money is), there’s not enough staff to keep the snowshoe/fat bike trails cleared, at least not yet this season.

I’ve kept an eye on websites reporting on New Hampshire rail trail conditions. Many of the rail trails are much longer than NRRT and have that much more of a mess to clean up. Enter the snowmobile clubs: I’m aware of two in particular in the southwestern part of the state that put out calls for volunteers for workdays this weekend. I’m sure that snowmobile clubs all over the state are doing the same thing, as pretty much every region got hit by storms over the couple of weeks.

Those clubs are doing work that will make walks much easier for me year-round, not just in winter. Grooming snow, clearing deadfall, and mowing grass take time and equipment and volunteers. I like walking alone, but some of the most enjoyable trails I know wouldn’t be accessible or pleasant without the work of many people. My solo walks benefit from teamwork.

Want to say thanks to the snowmobile clubs? Send a donation, even if you’re not a member. Include a note saying that you’re a grateful hiker. The New Hampshire State Parks website provides a list of clubs, and you can look up a club’s social media accounts (usually updated much more frequently than websites) to find contact information and to keep track of opportunities to volunteer for trail work.

My winter walks thus far have mostly been close to home, in neighborhoods and municipal parks. Those routes could use post-storm help, too. Your town’s parks and rec department or conservation commission might put out a call for volunteers on specific cleanup projects. Be on the lookout for such announcements.

And if you happen to come across some folks doing trail maintenance while you’re out and about, stop to say thanks.