NEW DATE for Training Day: June 18, 2016, 9 am – 2:30 pm
Perched high above the Catawba Valley, McAfee Knob is the most photographed place on the entire Appalachian Trail, and a beloved symbol of the natural beauty and opportunities for adventure that make our region so special.
But McAfee Knob is also a fragile place, in danger of being “loved to death”. In 2015 McAfee Knob was nationally designated as a Leave No Trace Hot Spot. The Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club (RATC) had long recognized a need for targeted stewardship and education along the heavily trafficked trail that connects McAfee Knob and nearby “crown jewels” Dragons Tooth and Tinker Cliffs. Rapidly increasing visitation has led to an increase in avoidable environmental impacts like litter, graffiti, trail erosion, and problematic bear behavior.
RATC created the McAfee Knob Task Force to focus on resource protection in the area, and a vibrant crew of 20 club members patrol the Trail as Volunteer Ridgerunners to help mitigate these problems with outreach and trail maintenance.
Volunteer Ridgerunners engage hikers in friendly conversations about the natural and cultural significance of this area and tips on best practices for enjoying the Trail safely and responsibly. They report on trail conditions and perform light trail maintenance to prevent small problems from getting worse–like dismantling illegal fire rings, packing out trash, and blocking social trails to discourage shortcutting.
In 2015, Ridgerunners contributed 627 volunteer hours, spoke with over 5,000 of the 9,028 visitors they saw, packed
out 154 gallons of trash and dismantled 34 illegal fire rings! Their positive impact is visible on the Trail, but more education is needed. Already this spring Lamberts Meadow Shelter is closed because improper food storage led to problem bear activity, and there have been multiple emergency rescues of unprepared hikers.
Can you help?
Do you have what it takes to be a Volunteer Ridgerunner? You don’t have to be an athlete–many of the most important conversations and maintenance happens right in the parking lot or within the first mile. If you want to join this lively group of dedicated stewards, you must:
–> Commit to volunteer at least one weekend day per month (Fri/Sat/Sun), April through November
–> Attend a Training Day
–> Join an Orientation Hike
The next Volunteer Ridgerunner Training Day is Saturday June 18, from 9 am-2:30 pm, at a facility in the Roanoke valley TBD. To sign up join the McAfeeKnob Task Force MeetUp group and RSVP, or email Kathryn Herndon at firstname.lastname@example.org. Kathryn will email participants prior to the training with details about the location, agenda, and what to expect.
Orientation Hikes will be more frequent. New Ridgerunners can tag along with experienced Ridgerunners on a patrol or look for an organized group orientation hike on the meetup calendar.
If you love McAfee Knob and are ready to help protect it and share your knowledge with others, we’d love to have your help as a Volunteer Ridgerunner!