Long Distance Runners Meet Long Distance Trails Crew

By Bob Fuller, Crew Leader, Long Distance Trails Crew

Tom Panek AT Long Distance Trails Crew

Tom Panek (center), president and CEO of Guiding Eyes for the Blind guide dog school, met the Long Distance Trails Crew on a run with his guides Benedicte Uguen (left), a school teacher in Chappaqua, N.Y., and Nick Speranza (right), a retired NYPD detective. (Photo credit: Bob Fuller)

This June, while working on our Appalachian Trail relocation project on the southwest shoulder of Bear Mountain, the Long Distance Trails Crew (LDTC) had the distinct pleasure of meeting Tom Panek, a blind long-distance trails runner, along with his guides Benedicte Uguen and Nick Speranza.

Tom is the president and CEO of Guiding Eyes for the Blind, a nonprofit organization based in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., that provides guide dogs to people with vision loss and service dogs for children with autism. When we met him, Tom was on a trial run of the Appalachian Trail, preparing to accompany his good friend and ultra-running superstar Scott Jurek through Bear Mountain. Just a few weeks later, Scott became the record-holder for fastest thru-hike of the A.T.

The LDTC took Tom and his guides for a tour of the nearly completed lower section of the relocation, explaining the purpose and design of the new trail, as well as the construction techniques (crib walls, steps) and tools (rock bars, hammers, high line) used to construct it. It was thrilling for them and the crew to see and feel the new trail in a whole new way.

If you’d like to join the Long Distance Trails Crew for an outing, they’re on the trails many weekends throughout the season, including this weekend, July 17-19. No experience is necessary; the crew provides on-the-job training and guarantees a fun and rewarding day for volunteers at any skill level. Contact Crew Chief Chris Reyling at 914-953-4900, chrisreyling@gmail.com, or Crew Leader Bob Fuller at 732-952-2162, refuller99@hotmail.com for more information.

About Trail Walker

Since 1920, the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference has partnered with parks to create, protect, and promote a network of more than 2,100 miles of public trails in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan region. The Trail Conference organizes volunteer service projects that keep these trails open, safe, and enjoyable for the public. We publish maps and books that guide public use of these trails. The Trail Conference is a volunteer-driven nonprofit organization with a membership of 10,000 individuals and 100 clubs with a combined membership of 100,000 active, outdoor-loving people.
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