We’re fortunate to live in Virginia where the climate typically allows for year-round enjoyment of hiking, with seasonal changes offering a different perspective on local trails. PWC member Dan volunteers as a trail overseer for the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC). Dan and his wife Karen have been members of PWC for about a year and a half and their routine at PWC supports strength and endurance for their trail outings.

Dan is responsible for the trail section in Shenandoah National park heading south from Mary’s Rock to Birds’ Nest #3 (Mary’s Rock is near the Overlook visitors’ area on Skyline Drive south of the Thornton Gap intersection with Route 522). This section comprises 1.3 miles – which he accesses via a one-mile hike from the Meadow Spring trail head and parking area. Karen accompanies Dan on some of the trail maintenance outings and also plays a key role as Dan’s “support team.” While she enjoys hiking, she prefers the day hikes over the longer backpacking outings. They enjoy hiking the trails off of Big Meadows together.

The PATC describes trail overseers as “the foundation of the PATC trail system” and the club’s expectation is that overseers will visit their assigned section at least 4 times during the year. Throughout the year, even in the winter, Dan will hike up to see what’s been happening on the trail. He will address any issues he finds, such as clearing waterbars for better trail drainage, or perhaps send a call out to the club if volunteers are required for a larger problem like a big blowdown. (Within PATC, different groups focus on different aspects of support.)

Summer hikers may spot Dan working on weed whacking along the trail to keep it passable. Dan says he appreciates the thanks hikers direct his way – their gratitude is typically expressed in tandem with surprise that the trails are maintained so attentively. His duties have expanded as he has recently become the district manager for the central section of the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National Park.

How did Dan’s interest in trail maintenance develop? As a longtime recreational hiker, he became more and more interested in the important work of maintaining trails to support usage and reduce environmental impact. The tipping point was meeting a 70-year-old thru-hiker on the trail; Dan was inspired to get involved and also to get in better shape. After working out on his own, he realized he wasn’t training properly to support the physical stamina of his trail role. While his personal gear may be light, factoring in heavy or awkwardly sized equipment and ups-and-downs of mountain trails is very strenuous work.

As a Christmas present, Karen gifted Dan with personal trainer sessions. Beginning early in 2019, Dan worked with personal trainer Heather Boggess to develop a regimen of exercises and training with resistance bands. He notes that his program with Heather was very helpful, because it focused on supporting his unique needs. He lost excess weight and developed more strength, including core strength, which he describes as “very important to being able to enjoy what you are doing out there.”

Heather also tailored an exercise plan for Dan to follow while working his job as a tugboat engineer. Within the constraints of a limited space, he’s able to maintain his fitness routine in the tugboat’s gym that has strength and cardio equipment.

Dan’s routine at PWC continues to focus on strength, cardio/aerobic fitness and endurance. You may have seen him training on one of the cardio machines while wearing his weighted backpack: 25-28 pounds for training and 10 pounds for maintenance. He does a strength circuit and the Jacob’s Ladder (without the pack) and the elliptical, step or treadmill (with the pack). Karen’s fitness choices include the rowing machine and pool walking to maintain cardiovascular fitness and strength. Their current focus includes core strength and staying active with cardio workouts, and they challenge each other on the Jacob’s Ladder.

Thanks to Dan and Karen for sharing their story of how their fitness efforts at PWC support their outdoor recreation.

Happy trails to everyone heading out this fall to enjoy Virginia’s many hiking opportunities!

The Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, founded in 1927, maintains and protects the Appalachian Trail and nearby land in the mid-Atlantic region through volunteer efforts, education and advocacy. PATC offers group hikes, and classes and workshops related to outdoor skills and interests. If you would like to learn more about the PATC, please visit www.patc.net