Second year Pro Crew member, Peter Schaffner shares his insights on what it means to be part of ADK’s Professional Trails Crew…

A portrait of Peter Schaffner

What do the trails represent to you? How important is access to wilderness?
Hiking and outdoor recreation has always been a part of my development, identity and stability. As a child, I camped with my parents, backpacked up to mountain lakes for fishing trips in Colorado, and canoed throughout the Midwest. After finishing college, I tried working in logistics and data analytics, but I found that living for weekends and three day vacations wasn’t sufficient for exploring a way of living that was healthy or progressive. I wanted to turn my vacations into work, and trail construction and maintenance filled that void. I don’t pretend to think that it is the only way people can be involved in recreation, environmentalism, or activism, but I think trails are an outlet for people to experience the expansiveness of this world and understand the need to respect and enjoy it responsibly. Some people think that increasing access to parks and designated outdoor areas increases the impact people have on the land itself, but I have found that strong and maintained programs like trails crews diminishes the impact to our favorite destinations and helps people gain access to areas that would be devastated by ‘choose-your-own adventure’ type hiking.

Why did you choose ADK’s trail crew?

My path to ADK’s trail crew came via the Southwest. I worked for an AmeriCorps organization, focusing on Trail construction and native restoration, and was connected to ADK through three of my friends and coworkers who were working for ADK a year ago. I had not traveled to this part of the country before and wanted to pursue further experience in trail work in a largely new environment.

Why should people support ADK’s trail work?
Support for the trail systems in this area can come in many ways, and I would want to also see support going to the various education systems put in place around the Adirondacks to help people understand how and why this place is unique, fragile, and exquisite. That being said, I believe that trail construction and maintenance could be considered the backbone of everyone’s experience that choose to hike. Without properly maintained trails, you will have a frustrating hiking experience. That is our personal response to a rough trail. While I can’t force people to believe what I hold important in environmental responsibility, I think it is more important to understand that a poor trail drastically increases human impact in the Adirondacks and can damage ecosystems that were not developed with hiking in mind. A hiking trail is the hiker’s safe zone through the wilderness. An improper trail will swell and and become a scar through the woods. A proper trail will blend into the world that we all have come to see and experience. Experienced trail workers have the ability and forethought to create this in the Adirondacks, and I believe the ADK has a strong tradition of building with these ideals in mind.

What is your best memory?Trail crew member Peter carrying wood down a staircase

There are many great experiences so far, and I’m sure more will come. I think one of my favorites would be building staircases on a reroute of Poke-O-Moonshine. Every morning we could wake up and see the sunrise over Lake Champlain while also building a beautiful section of trail.

What is your worst memory?

While worst may be rough to figure out, I would say a difficult experience for me was adjusting to the overall wetness of my time here. My feet have been very pruney.

What was your biggest surprise in being on Pro Crew?
My biggest surprise here has been the tradition of people working in the Adirondacks. Many people on our pro-crew have had siblings, parents, or close relatives that have worked for ADK or for other trail crews in the Northeast. There is a much stronger connection with these people to their home than what I have experienced in other areas of the country. I really respect the love and responsibility these people have for this area.

P.S. A gift to ADK’s Trail Program is a gift to yourself, to future generations, and to the lands you love.  Give $50 or more and receive our exclusive Trails Supporter decal for your vehicle.  Show off your love of the trails with a donation today!