Local chapter of the North Country Trail works hard to maintain trails for everyone

The Allegheny National Forest (ANF) Chapter of the North Country Trail (NCT) volunteers maintain and build not only the trail but all the structures on local trails. These structures include kiosks, bridges, registration boxes, signs and more. The ANF Chapter of the NCT travels through three counties, McKean, Warren and Forest, and is approximately 100 miles.

The Allegheny National Forest Chapter of the North Country National Scenic Trail Association has 120 members directly involved in the organizations mission to “to develop, maintain, protect and promote the North Country Trail,” according to ANF NCNSA Vice President Mike Toole.

As one of Pennsylvania’s four NCTA chapters, the Allegheny National Forest Chapter is responsible for building, maintaining, and promoting a 100 mile section of the North Country Trail National Scenic Trail and all but 2 miles are certified.

The North Country Trail in Pennsylvania runs from the New York State border at the southern end of the Allegany State Park near Salamanca, New York, and south through the Allegheny National Forest. It continues through Cook Forest and southwest through Clarion County, toward Moraine State Park in Butler County, and eventually enters Ohio west of Wampum, Pa.

The North Country National Scenic Trail, a premier pathway, stretches from Crown Point in eastern New York state to Lake Sakakawea in western North Dakota. Built and maintained primarily by volunteers of the North Country Trail Association, its planned route of 4,625 miles will make it the longest of the country’s eight National Scenic Trails.

Chapter members adopt a section of the trail and regularly maintain it, but anyone can help out on any section. The group maintains a standing volunteer agreement with the ANF to work on the trail, according to the website. For information on adopting a trail segment contact Keith W. Klos at Keith W. Klos at nct001@verizon.net.

Cutting a cheery, cherry detour

In the seven states through which the NCT wanders, there are several chapters that maintain and promote this northern trail. Along with routine maintenance and special projects, there are also highlighted events and increasing public awareness goals, all ongoing jobs.

Routine maintenance of the trail is a constant need throughout the year and may be done on a weekly basis, especially in the spring so the trail is ready for hikers. Keeping the trail clear and safe is the responsibility of trail maintainers and trail coordinators. A common situation that occurs is trees falling down on the trail and blocking easy passage. Removal of those trees can be small and simple jobs, or large and hazardous jobs, or a combination of both.

One of these situations recently occurred near the Queen Creek Shelter, near Forest Service Road 116. The trail was completely blocked by three sections of trees, one a large cherry tree 18-inches in diameter; another, a medium cherry 14-inches in diameter; and lastly, a small birch, six inches in diameter-in the root bundle. The root bundle was approximately 12 feet across. Chainsaws were the best way to remove the trees.

The use of a chainsaw in the forest requires training and certification. Josh Schrader, expert sawyer and vice-president of the chapter, and Keith W. Klos, secondary sawyer and former chapter president of the ANF in the NCT, handled these types of hazardous situations last September. They were assisted by chapter members Heather Emahizer, safety manager, and Karen Klos, photographer. Safety precautions were taken by the trail crew. All wore hard hats, and a safety emergency crew first aid kit, supplied by corporate trail supporter Shell Appalachia, was on hand. It took about 30 minutes to cut and clear the trail. Once cut free from the trees, the root bundle dropped back into its original position. In a moment of humor, Schrader carved a chair high in the top stump, approximately 12 feet in the air, with his chainsaw. Not to be outdone, sidekick Keith Klos crafted a bench two feet in diameter from the toppled branch. Working together, the team of four not only cleared the trail of its “cherry detour” but also created a “cheery” spot for weary hikers to relax.

So when you are in the area, be sure to stop by and visit the whimsy in the woods. And go ahead reach down and pick up that scrap of trash or kick that little branch off the trail. Every little bit helps.

Better yet, join a trail maintenance crew and give something back to the woods that have given so much to us.