In 1993 the American Hiking Society planted the seedling, so to speak, in the trails community by launching an event called National Trails Day.

The idea was to focus attention on our nation’s trails, to acknowledge their importance for all Americans and to thank trail supporters and volunteers who help build and maintain them.

National Trails Day, to be held this year on June 5, isn’t just about hiking trails, but rather the entire spectrum of outdoor recreation trails, from footways to bike paths, canoe and kayak routes to equestrian trails, cross-country ski tracks to snowmobile trails.

The real beauty of the event is that it brings together a diverse array of trail interests to espouse a critical message: Trails are a precious resource that connect us to the outdoors and each other; they require our vigilant stewardship and we should keep expanding them.

The day will celebrate more than 200,000 miles of trails in the United States that, according to the AHS, “allow us access to the natural world for recreation, education, exploration, solitude, inspiration and much more.”

For many people, trails are like an elixir that soothes and calms the mind, body and spirit vexed by the frenetic pace of the 24/7/365 age we live in; they are pathways that lead us to the natural places where we can find peace and quiet and renewal, alone or with family and friends, among the mountains and forests, rivers and lakes, birds and animal life.

“Whether you’re an avid outdoor adventure seeker or new to our nation’s network of trails, National Trails Day connects children and adults with nature so all may experience the joy and happiness that the outdoors elicits in each of us,” said Gregory Miller, AHS president.

Appropriately enough, “Find Your Happy Place” is this year’s event theme. The day “encourages all Americans to get outside, connect with local hiking clubs, outdoor retailers, local parks and recreation departments and federal and state land management agencies to experience, appreciate and celebrate the outdoor places that makes us happy,” said Heather Sable, AHS trail programs manager.

Here in Maine, there will be at least 15 events taking place. Portland Trails, for example, is guiding walks along the route of the still-under-construction Bayside Trail, as well as planting rain gardens to help filter water runoff.

And Portland Trails co-founder Tom Jewell will lead his classic 10-mile hike across Portland from the Stroudwater River to the Presumpscot River.

“Maine is a great state for enjoying the outdoors, and being able to hike trails right here in your own community is important for good health and well-being,” said Nan Cumming, Portland Trails executive director. “National Trails Day reminds us that we have many wonderful trails to be thankful for.”

Other opportunities to find your “happy place” include:

The Lakes Environmental Association and Loon Echo Land Trust in the Bridgton area. Join them for trail work at the Holt Pond Preserve, Stevens Brook Trail and Pondicherry Park.

The Ragged Mountain Recreation Area at Camden Snow Bowl. Get together for work on local trails followed by a chicken barbecue lunch.

The Canton Parks and Trails Committee welcomes participants for clean-up work at Canton Heritage Park and the Whitney Brook Trail.

The Pemaquid Watershed Association needs help clearing 3 miles of trail at the La Verna Preserve in Bristol.

The Nature Conservancy needs assistance with trail maintenance at the Berry Woods Preserve in Georgetown.

The York Land Trust is offering a guided walk on the proposed trails of the new 151-acre Highland Farm property in York.

The Mount Agamenticus Conservation Program will conduct spring trail cleaning on the slopes of Mount Agamenticus in York.

The Damariscotta Lake Watershed Association needs volunteers for trail work at the West Branch Preserve in Somerville and Jefferson.

You’ll notice the term “work” in most of the above descriptions. It’s true, trail work is just that, work. But when it’s done with a purpose and a smile in the fine company of other fun-loving trail enthusiasts, it doesn’t feel that way at all.

So pack up your old trail clothes and boots and work gloves, some bug dope and sunscreen, lunch and water, and come for a guaranteed good time.

 

Carey Kish of Bowdoin is a Registered Maine Guide and has hiked and camped extensively throughout Maine. Send comments and hike suggestions to:

[email protected]