Trail Building: How I Got Started

I’ve mentioned here and there that I am a volunteer Trail Care Partner with the Land Trust of North Alabama. I’ll call them just ‘the Land Trust’ here for simplicity. Been a volunteer with them since April of 2016. That’s when I received a campaign email from the Land Trust. It must have been sent out to a large distribution list, because I wasn’t on any sort of Land Trust email list. I had heard of the Land Trust and I knew that they owned a lot of land that some folks hiked on, but that was about the extent of my knowledge of the Land Trust at that time.

So what made me stop in my tracks and read this particular email? It was talking about some place near and dear to me; the woods behind my folk’s house on Green Mountain where I grew up. This was the same land that my brothers and I would spend entire summers traipsing around in, having adventures, discovering the big deal with poison ivy and snakes, and just generally experiencing all the life of growing up ‘in the woods’. You know, somehow, amidst all the climbing, cave exploring, and hiking, I managed to never get lost (that I can remember, anyway) nor to break a bone…

But I digress – you see how this email brought back fond memories!

So this email was talking about how a significant portion of Alum Cave Hollow (now called just Alum Hollow) had recently been donated to the Land Trust. And, they were about to start putting in trails in this new nature preserve. At this, I knew I had to be a part of whatever that shaped up to be.

The timing of this Land Trust announcement was significant too, because about 3 or 4 years prior to this, a friend and I had visited Alum Cave Ledge. We were standing there, silent, looking out over the hollow below. I whispered about how you can, occasionally, hear bands of wild turkeys in the hollow, unseen, but nearby. Then He and I hatched up a dream. Wouldn’t it be grand if we owned this hollow, and turned it into a preserve? With trails and bridges and all the other things that you could do here? We both agreed, yes that would indeed be grand… and totally just a dream too!

Oh wow! So just tell me which way do I go to sign up? Obviously, I did sign up, and I did start volunteering with the Land Trust.

As it turned out, the first big event scheduled at the new Green Mountain Preserve, fell on National Trails Day that year. My first work day with the Land Trust saw maybe 40 or 50 people there for the inaugural Green Mountain Nature Preserve activity. With so many in attendance, we managed to complete East Plateau Trail and to build the Lockheed bridge as well.

A bit of history. Alum Hollow Trail was pretty much already in place by this time. The western portion, over Alum Cave Ledge, had just recently been completed, but the eastern parts of it had existed as far back as when I was ten years old (that’s 1967) and my oldest brother had put a path over to the nearest creek, about a quarter mile from our house (hence, the name I call it; Quarter-mile Creek). In the 1990s, I was an avid runner and from time to time I would injure my knee. In order to ramp up to running on asphalt again, I needed a soft path. I put in a loop trail that was exactly 1 kilometer long, tying it into what is now Alum Hollow Trail where it runs along the bluff just east of Cruse Point. Our neighbors Kevin and Katey had also previously contributed eastern parts of the current trail to complete what we have today.

The rest of the story (and there’s a lot of it) – well, that’s something I’ll add to here as time goes on!

About Phill Gibson

I'm from Huntsville, Alabama where I work as a Software Engineer and part-time banjo instructor. My wife Miiko and I worship at Rivertree Downtown. I've been playing various instruments since my teen years. I started mandolin and dulcimer at about age 17 and banjo at 20. I love just about all kinds of music. In terms of banjo styles, I play and teach Scruggs, melodic, clawhammer, and 2-finger styles. I'm also very keen on theology, being a Trail Care Partner with the Land Trust of North Alabama, photography, urban planning, architecture, astronomy, ATM (amateur telescope making), birding, martial arts, and about 30 other distracting hobbies to a (mercifully) lesser extent.
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