The Few, the Proud, the Tablers

By Peter Dolan, New Jersey Program Coordinator

Veteran tablers Cliff Berchtold and _________ in their natural habitat.

Veteran tabler Cliff Berchtold in his natural habitat.

How did you first find out about the Trail Conference? If you’re a member reading this article, your introduction to the organization may have been through one of our volunteer groups that receives little formal recognition, but is vital to our mission.

These unsung heroes are the “tablers”–those intrepid ambassadors of the Trail Conference who throw themselves into the unknown to talk up the masses about the joys of hiking. Armed with nothing but pamphlets, stacks of Trail Walker, and the odd fold-up display, it’s their job to attend events and represent all that we do in New York and New Jersey. They regularly brave crowds of pushy New Yorkers, precariously wobbly banner stands, and–worst of all–the peril of high winds meeting lightweight pavilions. Yet without fail our tablers are engaging and charismatic, all the better to lure in the unsuspecting public and direct them to quality hiking locations.

Because we rely on volunteers for almost everything that we do, tablers fill a vital role. They’re the ones who get the word out about our mission and sign up new members. They sell books and maps, direct people to volunteer opportunities, and answer questions. When partner organizations invite the Trail Conference to be present at an event, it’s typically the tablers who take up the call to arms.

As we continue to grow, the opportunities to be involved in events grows. If you love what we do and want a way to give back that doesn’t involve swinging trail tools, this could be just the role for you. Anyone with a love of the outdoors and a passion for people has what it takes to join the ranks of the tablers–simply get in touch and let us know!

If being a tabler sounds like your lifelong calling (or even just a good way to spend a few hours every now and then), get in touch with Volunteer Coordinator John Leigh at

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Volunteer Spotlight: Raina Stoutenburg, Trail Supervisor

By Raina Stoutenburg, Central South Westchester Trail Supervisor

Raina Stoutenburg

Raina Stoutenburg is the Central South Westchester Trail Supervisor.

I spent the summer of 2014 working on a New York-New Jersey Trail Conference trail crew through AmeriCorps and greatly enjoyed the experience. From getting a chance to build and fix beautiful trails, to getting to work outdoors, to getting to spend my time with some great people, there were so many reasons to love working on the trails!

After the summer, I returned to the teaching profession. As much as I love teaching, I missed doing trail work, so I started to help out trail crews on the weekends. That’s when a friend of mine told me that the Trail Conference was looking for a trail supervisor for the Central South Westchester region. I jumped at the opportunity.

Raina got her start with the Trail Conference as an AmeriCorps member.

While I’m still new to the position, I’m enjoying it so far. I am responsible for supervising the maintainers of trail systems in three locations: Cranberry Lake, Merestead, and Westmoreland. I started at Cranberry Lake by meeting Danniela Ciatto, the curator there, who has been really helpful and supportive.

I went to Cranberry Lake in early spring to fix a step on a bird observation tower and to get to know the trails and their needs. Unfortunately, after hiking out there, the old step was too cracked to be usable. However, I was able to take it back to the nature lodge so we could measure it to get a new one. I hiked some more and found some areas that needed new trail markers and some downed trees that would need a chainsaw to remove.

Raina enjoys both managing maintainers and working on the trails.

It’s nice being able to make decisions and solutions for trails, as well as doing some of the trail work. While part of my job is to make sure the maintainers do their jobs and hand in their paperwork, I also need to make suggestions, do repairs, and work with the staff at each park to maintain and improve the trails.

Since starting, I have met with several of the trail maintainers that I oversee and spent time walking each of their trails with them–a great way to get to know both them and their trails. While we walked, we talked about the work they have done and some possible improvements that could be made in the future. They’re wonderful people and very dedicated to keeping our trails well-maintained!

We still need some more trail maintainers for this region, so please contact Volunteer Coordinator John Leigh (, 201.512.9348 x22) if you’re interested.

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AT Section in Harriman-Bear Mountain Ablaze with Improved Markings

Text by Andrea Minoff and Bob Fuller, members of the Long Distance Trails Crew. Photos by Andrea Minoff.

The LDTC blazes the AT

Bob Fuller applies “nailons” for blaze location while Chris Reyling helps assure “verticality.”

Members of the Long Distance Trails Crew (LDTC) took advantage of the lovely weather on Sunday, May 3 to refresh and realign over 100 blazes on the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) in Harriman-Bear Mountain State Parks. The work was done on the A.T. from Seven Lakes Drive up to the intersection with the Timp Torn Trail on the northeast side of West Mountain. The relocation of the trail here was one of the first projects of the LDTC, and we wanted to see how the trail construction was holding up, look for problem areas, and improve the existing blazing. Bob Fuller, the new maintainer for that section of the trail, was joined by crew members Chris Reyling, Bob Chapel, and Andrea Minoff. The group refreshed or removed existing blazes and painted bright new ones where needed to help make the trail easier to follow. This included moving forest debris (e.g branches, logs) to more clearly delineate the trail where it was evident that hikers were wandering onto older paths or making new ones of their own.

LDTC blazes AT

Bob Chapel and Chris Reyling provide advice and counsel while Bob Fuller applies a template for a blaze.

This was the first blazing trip for Bob on his newly assigned trail section. The first time out reblazing is always an all-day affair, resulting in a trail that may not be perfectly blazed, but is generally much improved and takes on the “personality” of the maintainer. The blazing and trail delineation will continue to improve with each subsequent maintenance trip.

While not an official outing of the LDTC, this trip was a “busman’s holiday” for the crew members who came out to assist one of their own on a beautiful day. Many of the crew members are also trail maintainers and sawyers.

Our crew will be working throughout the spring, summer, and fall seasons, with our biggest project being a relocation of the A.T. on the southwest shoulder of Bear Mountain. Please join us. No experience is necessary. We provide on-the-job training and guarantee a fun and rewarding day for volunteers at any skill level. Contact Crew Chief Chris Reyling at 914-953-4900,, or Crew Leader Bob Fuller at 732-952-2162, for more information.

Posted in Appalachian Trail, Harriman-Bear Mountain Trails, Hikes, Trails, Uncategorized, Volunteeriing, West Hudson Trails | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Help Us Finish the South Taconic Trail Extension to Rudd Pond

By Hank Osborn, East Hudson Program Coordinator


The South Taconic Trail is being extended six miles south to the Taconic Park Rudd Pond area in Millerton, NY.

In the most northern reaches of The Trail Conference’s East Hudson Region lie the South Taconic trails. The trail network extends into Connecticut and Massachusetts, but the most southern section is still in the northeast corner of Dutchess County. However, in New York the trail ends, leaving a five-mile gap to Rudd Pond, a state park in Millerton, NY, managed by the Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation.

Recent land acquisitions have made it possible to extend the trail to Rudd Pond, the natural starting point for the trail.  The Trail Conference is hard at work on this extension, a route that requires building about five miles of brand new trail through open woods, hemlock groves, waterfalls, and rock ledges with open views.

The construction phase of this project began in 2014 and will hopefully be completed by the end of 2015. Work will range from cutting and clearing with loppers and hand saws to heavier work like digging side hills and treadway smoothing–and we need your help!

No previous experience is required, training is provided, and there is plenty of work for all abilities. For all trail-building trips, please bring work gloves, water, lunch, and friends. Wear sturdy shoes and appropriate clothing for the weather. Tools are provided.

The South Taconic Trail Crew

Join the crew working on the South Taconic Trail extension.

Our next work trip is this weekend, May 16-17, with overnight camping available Saturday night. For more info or to sign up, visit our South Taconic Trail Extension page.

Volunteers don’t have to become members of the Trail Conference to participate, however, membership is encouraged: it lets you enjoy benefits such as discounts on Trail Conference publications, as well as discounts with our retail partners.

And don’t forget: Our brand new South Taconic Trails map, with more than 100 miles of marked trails, trail mileage numbers, and the latest trail changes, is available now.   You can also grab digital copies of the map today through the Avenza PDF Maps app.

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Confessions of a Luddite: I Downloaded a Map

By Peter Dolan, New Jersey Program Coordinator

Typically the youngest face in any room of Trail Conference members, I’m the one people reflexively turn to when the PowerPoint projector fails, the wireless is down, or any other 21st-century mishap befalls them. “He’ll handle it,” they say. “Move over and make room at the computer for the young guy.”

Truth is, I have no affinity for electronics. You could even say that I have an active enmity regarding them. Among friends and acquaintances my age, I was the last person to get a smartphone, and I still relish the chance to leave it behind whenever I can.

My experience with maps began when, as soon as I was big enough to sit in the shotgun seat, my father plopped an atlas on my lap and made me his navigator. Before I acquired a smartphone (my parents “gifted” it to me so I would stay in better touch while traveling cross-country), I had already used paper maps on Appalachian Trail and backcountry Arizona trips, laminate hull-lashed maps for navigating the Boundary Waters, offshore charts to avoid storms in Lake Superior’s Apostle Islands, and taught orienteering in the San Bernadino mountains. My reactions to the idea of a “map app” ranged from incredulity to, I admit, a bit of disdain.

photo 1

Free maps? Hard to say no to that

After some gentle (and not-so-gentle) goading, I finally downloaded the free Avenza map app and the new free New Jersey State Park and Forest Maps. And you know what? It’s an incredible tool with some exceedingly useful, practical applications.

First, to clear the air: You do NOT need cell or wireless reception to use this app! It uses your phone’s GPS function and works just fine even if it’s 10 p.m., in the middle of the woods, in the dark, with zero service bars. Of course, your phone still needs battery life to function, but as long as you have that you’ll be able to use this app.

Though you should still always bring a paper map and rely on that for your navigation, there are a few reasons the map apps are a great supplement.

Visitors are always welcome to my blue dot.

Visitors to my blue dot are always welcome.

1. New Hikers: If you aren’t familiar with reading maps, or you’re in an area you’ve never hiked before, the map app can potentially save you a real headache. In some of those spaghetti-bowl trail systems, with lots of intersecting trails and potentially poor blazing, it can be easy to wind up on the wrong trail. If you’re still unsure after consulting your paper map, the reassuring blue dot on your map app will confirm your location and get you back on track. The compass feature, which turns the map on your screen to reflect your actual heading, makes it even easier for novice navigators to get their bearings.

2. Social Hikers: The map app allows you to drop location pins, write text, and attach photos. If you find a particularly neat stretch of trail, or a share-worthy vista, you can send a dropped pin with the information to a friend. On their map, they’ll see a pinpoint with your comments and photos from that exact location. You can also reference your own pins later if you mark areas you’d like to return to.

photo 3

Now it’s easier than ever to tell when I’m looking out my office window.


3. Trail Maintainers and Reporters: This is the real reason I’m now a big proponent of the map apps. Reporting trail problems can be a vague affair sometimes, making it difficult for maintainers or crews to get to the right spot to work. With the map app, you can send detailed reports to Supervisors using the feature described in point 2. Imagine you come across a fallen tree on the trail–if you didn’t have the map app, you would finish your hike, drive home, log onto your computer, and email a description of what the tree looked like and where it was, assuming you didn’t fall asleep after dinner. This results in reports that lack specificity, which makes it difficult for the staff and volunteers to find and solve the problem. With your map app, you can simply snap a photograph of the fallen tree, add a brief comment (“14-inch diameter, reroute not possible”), and then send the pin to your local volunteer leader. When they open it, they’ll have the exact GPS location and all the information they need to take action. The same goes for reporting defective waterbars, loose steps, ATV incursion routes, vandalized kiosks, etc.

The world deserves to know about this vista.

The world deserves to know about this vista.

To sum it up: the map app has a role to play as a tool for hikers of every level, from novice to casual to experienced. It’s a great tool to have in your back pocket (literally) and supplement your Tyvek Trail Conference maps as needed, whether you’re gauging your progress along a straight mile-long ridgeline or collecting trail deficiency reports on a crew scouting trip. I highly recommend giving it a try, especially since, for most of the New Jersey maps, it doesn’t cost a penny.

As a final reiteration, do not rely solely on apps, and always carry a proper hard-copy map! New toys are great, but sometimes you just can’t mess with the classics. Happy hiking!

Click here for more information on the map app!

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Help Beautify Trails on I Love My Park Day

I Love My Park Day

I Love My Park Day is this Saturday, May 2.

Join us in beautifying our trails on I Love My Park Day this Saturday, May 2!

The Trail Conference and our member clubs are hosting several events to help celebrate, improve, and enhance parks in our region. Sign up now!

Invasive Species Removal at Old Croton Aqueduct State Historic Park, Croton-on-Hudson, NY
The Trail Conference’s Invasives Strike Force trail crew has its first outing of 2015 on I Love My Park Day, assisting the Friends of Old Croton Aqueduct in the removal of invasive vines and shrubs and planting of native plants. More info.

Mossy Glen & Blueberry Run trail cleanup, Minnewaska State Park Preserve
Help our West Hudson North crew build bog-bridging on the beautiful Mossy Glen Trail, or join us for a little spring cleaning along the Blueberry Run. Refreshments, free souvenir tees, and tools and training supplied! More info.

Vine Cutting in FDR State Park, Westchester County, NY
Join the Friends of FDR State Park in cutting vines, planting flowers, and assembling picnic tables. More info.

Cache In, Trash Out at FDR State Park, Westchester County, NY
Help the Friends of FDR State Park clean up the southern area of the park. There is an abundance of large items that need to be moved to where the park staff can haul them away. More info.

Posted in East Hudson Trails, Invasive species, Trails, Uncategorized, Volunteeriing, West Hudson Trails | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Volunteers Begin Work on Highlands Trail Relocation

By Sona Mason, West Hudson Program Coordinator

Highlands Trail Chester Snowshoe

The first hike to blaze the new section of the Highlands Trail off a public road and onto new land recently preserved by the Open Space Institute took place on February 21. (Photo credit: Sona Mason)

The relocation of the Highlands Trail in Chester, New York, is underway, thanks to the efforts of our volunteers.

The work began in February, when neither cold nor sleet nor deep snow stayed a group hardy of hikers from completing their mission: to traverse and blaze the newest section of the HT. Well, no sleet—just soft, deep, snow-shoeing snow. And a lot of smiles to be had. The reason: It was the first hike to blaze the new section of the Highlands Trail off a public road and onto new land recently preserved by the Open Space Institute (OSI). OSI was mandated to have this parcel open to the public before March, and these volunteers helped to ensure that happened.

Highlands Trail Chester Clearing

Volunteers were out again on April 26 to begin clearing the first part of the relocation, off Bull Mill Road. (Photo credit: Sona Mason)

A group was out again on April 26 to begin clearing the first part of the relocation, off Bull Mill Road. The goal is to create a sustainable new trail to link up with Goose Pond Mountain State Park, and the volunteers made huge progress on this trip, using hand tools and the Weed Wrench to bust through a blockade of invasive Japanese barberry and multiflora rose shrubs, clearing a 6-8-feet wide corridor along the edge of a turnpike above Trout Brook.

In honor of Earth Week, the trail-clearing crew made good use of found material and recycled half-buried soil fencing into a weed barrier for the trail tread (conveniently 2-feet wide). They also shuttled about 150—or so it seemed!—wheelbarrows full of wood chips to cover the weed barrier, creating a plush chestnut carpet of trail tread to stall regrowth of invasive weeds and ensure maintaining the trail will be a breeze.

The next work trip is scheduled for May 9. This section will be easier and faster going with fewer weeds. The work will include removing invasive shrubs to a depth of about 3-4 feet on either side of the trail, and laying the rest of the soil fencing down and covering it with wood chips.

Future work trips will be posted soon, and will involve more technical aspects of trail-building, such as side-hilling and wetland & stream crossings. If you would like more information or want to be on our mailing list, please contact West Hudson Program Coordinator Sona Mason: or 201.512.9348 x16.

Posted in Hikes, New trail, Trails, Uncategorized, Volunteeriing, West Hudson Trails | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment