After 22 years as volunteer, Howard hangs up hazel hoe

The agony and angst endured by those who hike for months over the rugged National Scenic Trails are painfully palpable. But they, and the millions of hikers who self-impose these hiking challenges, really have it easy. Think how hard it would be to hike all those miles without trail markers, or without a trail.

That’s where the real trail angels come in – those selfless, volunteer laborers, many of retirement age, who hack, hoe, dig, shovel, sweat and bleed to create the trails we hike and love, such as the 3,000-mile Pacific Crest Trail on the West Coast, the 2,189-mile Appalachian Trail traversing the Appalachians from Georgia to Maine, and the nearly 1,000-mile long Mountains-to-Sea Trail from the Smokies across the state of North Carolina to the Coast.

Most trail miles were built and continue to be maintained by volunteers such as Howard McDonald, 89, of Hendersonville, and his cohorts on the Carolina Mountain Club’s Friday Trail Crew.

McDonald was honored and celebrated at a combo birthday-retirement party by the club for his 22 years and more than 9,000 hours of volunteer trail service.

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