Our Stories

Volunteer Spotlight: American Hiking Society Volunteer Vacation, Border Route Trail

Categories: Minnesota, Trail Maintenance, Volunteer Stories


“The encouragement of cooperation and the show of respect for all participants, [U.S.] Forest service personnel, the Rockwood Lodge, local businesses, and campers serves as inspiration to participate in such opportunities.” (Sarah Eisenberg, trip participant)

By Matt Davis

Matt Davis, NCTA Regional Trail Coordinator (North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin) and Blair Sullivan of Wichita, Kan. recently led an American Hiking Society (AHS) Volunteer Vacation crew on the Border Route Trail (BRT) within the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northeastern Minnesota. The crew of five canoed into a beautiful campsite on Clearwater Lake, set up camp, then worked for four days to clear a 1.5-mile segment of the BRT/North Country National Scenic Trail. They also removed blowdowns on a couple more miles of the BRT.

“Volunteer Vacations are projects organized by American Hiking Society, and hosted by agencies and organizations like the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), National Park Service (NPS), U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state parks, trail organizations, and other nonprofit partner groups across the country. Most projects are one week or shorter in length, consist of six to 10 crew members, and involve trail maintenance and building tasks on hiking trails on public lands.” (Ellie Place, AHS Programs Manager)

“Volunteer Vacations are a great way to introduce new people to the magic of volunteering on the North Country Trail,” wrote Matt. “Over the years I’ve led crews focusing on both heavy trail maintenance and new trail construction. We’ve had new volunteers from far away, and volunteers with connections to the state that we were working in, who had never heard of the North Country Trail before. Our projects show up in the AHS ‘catalog’ alongside projects in Yellowstone, Yosemite, the Virgin Islands, and on other National Scenic Trails. I would encourage all NCTA Chapters to look into hosting a Volunteer Vacation crew.”

Sarah Eisenberg, a trip participant on this BRT Volunteer Vacation, offered personal perspective.

“I learned that the Border Route Trail / North Country Trail (NCT) is maintained by teams of volunteers and staff. The NCT goes through Wilderness areas and along highways and towns, and there is work being done by trail advocates to connect and maintain the trails. I learned that the Border Route Trail is quite popular: In just our short stay on that short part of the trail, we ran into at least three groups of hikers, with one group of two couples hiking the entire trail. All were appreciative of the well-marked trails.”

“For this year’s crew,” added Matt, “I would like to thank Tammy Cefalu of the Superior National Forest, Tom Suter of the Border Route Trail Assocation for all his guidance, and the staff at Rockwood Lodge for all their support in housing and shuttling the crew.”

American Hiking Society is accepting project requests until November 1, 2021 for the 2022 Volunteer Vacations season. 


If a week-long AHS Volunteer Vacation trip isn’t ideal for you but you do have an interest in maintaining the Kekekabic Trail or Border Route Trail portions of the NCT in/near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, browse these resources to learn about other volunteer options: