Students from the Community School of Davidson have once again teamed up with the Elkin Valley Trails Association (EVTA) to explore the natural region and leave the trails in better shape. This week nine student volunteers went to work maintaining the trails while enjoying the parks and sights near Elkin. During their stay, the students hiked on trails in Stone Mountain State Park, hiked sections of the Mountains to Sea Trail, improved sections of local Elkin trails, and camped at Stone Mountain.
“It’s been fantastic,” said Joe Mickey with the Elkin Valley Trails Association. “It’s good to get the kids involved and have them work here on the trails. It’s not terribly hard work once you get into it, but it’s stuff that needs to be done and it’s good to have a crew that is so willing to come up and do it.”
The Community School of Davidson holds several summer service events every year aimed at providing experiences which are challenging and push the comfort boundaries for students. Students have been to China and Costa Rica in the past, but the school also was looking for more local events.
“What I was looking for was to provide something more local and connected with an outdoor experience,” said Greg Cain, EC lead teacher at Davidson. “With that in mind, I was looking for an organization that we could both look into with small and large scale experiences and the Mountains to Sea Trail came to mind. I looked for the closest place where we could get connected which was Elkin. I contacted the Friends of the Mountains to Sea organization and they put me in touch with Bob Hillyer and the EVTA.”
This is the school’s second year here in Elkin. Three students have returned from last year’s trip and the group is now nine students strong which is an increase from last year. As an extension of last year’s trip, some students have started an outdoor club at their school.
Last year the students worked on maintaining trails in and around Stone Mountain State Park. A good day also was spent at Wells Knob with the Yadkin Valley Trail Riders. This year the students are facing a similar agenda. On Monday, the students set up camp and went to work on the trails by the waterfalls at Stone Mountain. Tuesday they took a six-mile hike from Devil’s Garden Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway to Stone Mountain, clearing parts of the trail and gathering information for the park superintendent. Wednesday they worked on the Grassy Creek Trail while performing maintenance including trimming back bushes and trees, removing stumps and overgrown roots from the pathways, and building water bars to make sure the rain water doesn’t erode away the trail. On Thursday, the students hiked from the Country Store down to Traphill while helping to establish a trail there.
For the students it’s not all sweat and dirt. Wednesday afternoon they enjoyed a cooling canoe ride on the Yadkin River to celebrate their hard work that morning.
“We try to blend the work and camping experiences with a connection with nature and some leisure as well,” said Cain. “Monday we spent some time on the sliding rocks and playing in the water. Tuesday, we went up to the Parkway and had dinner at Cumblerland Knob.”
For the students it has been a rewarding experience.
“It’s nice to make a trail like this better. It’s gratifying work,” said student Oliver Picot. “I like labor like this. It’s a good way to spend my time.”
“I just like being outside and hiking so I thought it would be a way to give back to those experiences,” said student Madison Davis.
The trip has been a great experience, explained leaders. Not only does it give the students a chance to be out with friends but also allows them to experience nature and work on a service for the community.
“It gets them outside and teaches them land and trail ethics along with insight in what goes into building and maintaining a trail,” said Mickey. “A lot of people go out and just start walking, but they have no clue what went into getting that trail off the ground. It’s a lot of work. For trails, you have to work with land owners to get permission to see if it can go through their property, then it has to be roughly staked out, then surveyed, then built. It’s not like we’re going to build a trail today and then it’s done in two or three days, it takes several months or up to a year process to get everything worked out to where we need to be.”
“This is my second time doing the trip,” said student Davis Beck. “I didn’t really have anything to do during the summer so I figured it would give me a week to get away and do some stuff outdoors. I love working out here with all my friends and seeing everybody get together to do good things for the trails. It teaches you to respect nature. You don’t do the work, you don’t have the same appreciation for the effort needed to keep these trails maintained.”
Troy Brooks may be reached at 336-258-4058.