By Caitlyn Ball, AmeriCorps member of the Bear Mountain Trail Crew Technological advances seem to forever be paving new avenues of growth and exploration with each passing generation. While these advances are beneficial, the explosion of social media use has been cause for concern as far as people “vegging” out in front of a screen. The calm state and reflective thoughts that “being” in nature provides for us humans can be lost when gadgets are constantly beckoning us away from the simplicity of a breeze in the woods, a panoramic view of a valley, or a chipmunk chasing after his buddy. As I sit here blogging, feeding words to the blank Microsoft Word page in front of me, my mind is reverting to the peaceful state I felt in my core as I hiked Panther Mountain in the Catskills this past weekend and the awe I sensed while driving beautiful County Rt. 214 to get there. Fortunately, that being said, a healthy balance of technology and nature can co-exist as long as we keep finding our way into the woods and tucking those ever-present iPhones away for a period of time. Interest in paved bike lanes, rail trails, trail building workshops and conferences/corps is on the rise and making it possible for more people to access and help create said trails. The NY-NJ Trail Conference is one of a number of organizations across the United States that offers AmeriCorps and additional volunteers, the opportunity to gain confidence to work on trails in a comfortable, engaging way. People of all ages/gender should encourage one another to pursue their interests and the Trail Conference has succeeded in doing just that. Men, women, and youth come out to learn new sets of skills in a line of work that may traditionally be considered male dominated. Last week, for example, at Bear Mountain, Trail Builder/Educator Ama Koegnishof led a rock drilling/splitting workshop which had a great turnout and ran the gamut of ages, strengths, and weaknesses. Working together, encouraging one another and having fun in the great outdoors whilst doing so led to a productive day of splitting rock and transporting it to an area in need of crib wall and a staircase. Let us use technology to find new experiences and then put away these mediums for a day to experience raw nature and each other. Come out Saturday, July 12, and see the Bear Mountain Trails Project for yourself and consider getting involved. Sign up for an Introduction to the project and a guided hike down the mountain.