Why I volunteer: Giving back to the Appalachian Trail

Sarah Jones Decker

Editor’s note: As part of Xpress’ Spring Nonprofit Issue, we asked residents to send in accounts of their volunteer work with local nonprofits. See all 12 responses in this week’s print edition. 

Sarah Jones Decker is a volunteer at Carolina Mountain Club, a nonprofit that works to encourage and support hiking in Western North Carolina.

Xpress: When and why did you begin volunteering for Carolina Mountain Club? 

I began in 2020. I thru-hiked in 2008 and always wanted to give back to the trail that changed my life in so many ways. Living near the trail outside of Hot Springs, I started section hiking the trail again for my 10-year “trailsversary” and ran into a trail crew one day. They looked like they were having a ton of fun, and I reached out. Now they can’t get rid of me.

What types of work do you do on the trail and what keeps you coming back?

I am an Appalachian Trail section maintainer, sawyer and an occasional Friday crew member. I maintain a section of the AT north of Hot Springs that includes an AT shelter. I love the camaraderie with this group. We have crews out almost every day of the week, and you get close out there. It can be physically hard work but rewarding in so many other ways. It’s so fun to be in the woods with like-minded folks working together on a common goal. I’ve made some great friends. We work hard until 1 p.m. or so and usually get pie or beer in town.

What do you wish you’d known prior to starting? 

That someone has to rake the privies. I mean, I knew someone had to. Didn’t know it would be me one day. Haha!

What do you tell folks who are interested in volunteering but have yet to commit?

Do you love hiking? Do you want to give back? Come have fun working hard with a passionate group of people who love the same stuff you do: being in the woods and being on trail. They do all the planning. You just have to show up


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.