On October 7th, the Appalachian State National Park Trust Club held its first outing. We met at an outlook along the Blue Ridge Parkway on a cold morning to do some trail maintenance on a historic trail. The Asutsi Trail – or “bridge” in Cherokee – used to be the only way to access hiking around Grandfather Mountain before the parkway was completed. Now, it serves as a cross-country ski pathway to get to the area during the winter.

We partnered with the Highlands District Volunteer in the Parks group to plan the workday. Ken Carpenter, the Highlands District Volunteer in the Park Coordinator, provided all of the equipment and staff members to guide the students through general trail safety and specifically where and what to cut. Highlands District Lead Ranger Jarrod Hill showed us some of the previous work that had been done on the trail by the NC Conservation Corps and talked about the future plans for the trail. Finally, during a beautiful lunch break by a waterfall, Interpretive Ranger Julie Mullins shared stories of the parkway long before it became protected lands. 

The enthusiastic group of 27 (made up of 21 student volunteers from Appalachian State University, a faculty member, and 5 Volunteers in the Parks staff) worked together to help clear the trail sections and cut back overgrown foliage. Students learned about (and perfected!) how to clear foliage and even remove some widowmakers before they had the chance to fall and block the trail or hurt anyone. We did such a great job on the Asutsi Trail that after lunch, we had spare time to do work on another nearby trail.

We stopped by Price Lake in Julian Price Memorial Park for cookies and one last group photo. We enjoyed the food while talking about our favorite parts of the day. Overall, the group had a great time volunteering and making an impact on the local trail systems that are used by thousands of guests from all over the world year-round. We hope to see many familiar faces at our upcoming events in the next few months.