Have you ever hiked a trail and wondered how it got there?
It's not something a lot people spend time thinking about. But we should.
Who cleared the brush? Who blazed the path on the trees? And who in the world built a bridge across that creek way out there?
In almost every instance, the answer is the same. The trail wasn't laid as part of a government program. Very few tax dollars ever get spent on something as smart and simple as a hiking trail. And the trails weren't cleared by some big company. Nope, corporate profits are too precious.
Instead, almost every major trail in the state comes thanks to the hard work and dedication of an army of volunteers. The same folks who love to hike the commonwealth's trails, love to spend time building and maintaining them.
When it comes to keeping trails clear and clean, the Keystone Trails Association (KTA) leads the way. Take, for instance, the more than 300 hours the group's volunteers spent earlier this month maintaining the 42 miles of paths that create the Allegheny Front Trail that circles Centre County's popular Moshannon State Park.
The volunteers camped in the state park at night and spent the daylight hours marking trails, clearing brush, picking up litter, cutting fallen trees and every other type of work that's required to ensure a safe enjoyable hike.
"Building and maintaining our trails is important to the hiking community for today and the future," said Curt Ashenfelter, the executive director of the KTA.
Under his lead, KTA volunteers logged more than 3,900 hours in the last year clearing and maintaining the state's trails.
Now, I know I said corporate profits are too precious for a company to "waste" on something like maintaining hiking trails. But there is at least one notable exception here in Pennsylvania.
The state's famed Woolrich company has teamed up with the KTA this year. The popular outdoor clothing company has donated funds to help provide food and supplies for the group's volunteers.
"We're thrilled to have Woolrich joining us as an official sponsor of our trail maintenance events," Ashenfelter said.
The deal is proof that non-profits and for-profits can work hand-in-hand when it comes to supporting outdoor recreation. In fact, Woolrich set the example by deciding to maintain a portion of the Mid-State Trail -- the 327-mile trail that stretches from Maryland to New York.
For most of us, a simple afternoon hike is a relaxing and thoughtless venture. We hop out of our cars and jaunt down a well-maintained path.
What we don't consider is the hard work that goes into providing the opportunity. Somebody had to build and pay for that parking lot. An army of volunteers had to plan, cut and maintain the trail.
And, just as important these days, somebody has to fight in Harrisburg to ensure we don't lose our rights to the land those countless miles of trails traverse.
The next time you hit a local trail, you can bet the KTA, its generous volunteers and maybe a generous corporation or two had something to do with it.
If you can't support these folks with your dollars, at least support them with your footsteps. Get out and go for a hike.
-- Reach Andy Snyder at sports@yorkdis patch.com.