From the Executive Director: Where Does Your Trail Lead?

January 03, 2020
Joshua Howard
New York-New Jersey Trail Conference


From the Executive Director: Where Does Your Trail Lead?
Appalachian Trail from Warwick Trailhead. Photo by Amber Ray.


Whether you seek the solace of nature or crave adventure, your passions drive the path you choose.

This October, the Trail Conference turns 100. While browsing through our archives in preparation for our Centennial, I came across our collection of newspaper columns by Raymond H. Torrey. One of the Trail Conference’s founders, Torrey was editor of the Outdoor Page for the New York Evening Post. He wrote the column “The Long Brown Path,” which promoted hiking and other outdoor activities. On April 4, 1930, in a column titled “Appreciates Appalachian Trail,” Torrey shared a letter he received from Miss Angelique Rivollier, Director of the Inkowa Outdoor Club, about a hike she took along the Appalachian Trail from Sloatsburg, N.Y., to Greenwood Lake:

“There were six in the party and we voted it the most wonderful hike we ever had (the day was ideal) and the most beautiful trail we had ever been on. They asked that I write you and express to you, and through you, to the others who helped, our appreciation of the hard work which made it possible for the rest of us to enjoy this lovely trail. It seemed to us this must be one of the most beautiful parts of the Appalachian Trail. Anyway, I don’t believe it can be improved on very much. The trip last Sunday made us realize how blessed we are, who live in this big metropolitan area, to have so near at hand for our constant enjoyment so many beautiful mountains and trails. And I am afraid that as we go over the trails, we forget that it is the hard work of a few that makes possible the enjoyment by many.”

As the new executive director of the Trail Conference, those words resonated with me. It was thanks to the efforts of Trail Conference volunteers that Angelique was able to explore “the most beautiful trail” on “the most wonderful hike.” Enabling the public to experience this region’s parks was the cornerstone on which the Trail Conference was founded—and that’s why we continue to do this work today.

Trails offer a break from our hectic lives and the chance to push ourselves to new limits. They provide solitude and social opportunities. Trails heal. They set us free. I follow a lot of outdoorsy folks on Instagram, and I love seeing all the incredible ways they connect with nature—whether that’s setting out on the personal challenge of completing a trail marathon, or simply walking hand-in-hand with a loved one through the woods on a Sunday afternoon. Social media may have replaced newspaper columns for sharing our stories with the world, but what hasn’t changed is the importance of those stories to our mission. Since 1920, the Trail Conference has worked to empower everyone to explore the restorative benefits of nature.

It was during my own experience thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2001 that I rediscovered my passion for the outdoors. My experiences along the A.T. motivated me to become more involved in protecting and maintaining the trails and trail lands I had just hiked through, which led to my first role at the Trail Conference, back in 2002.

As Angelique acknowledged in 1930, and what still rings true today, is that it’s the work of volunteers who make these opportunities possible. Whether you seek the solace of nature or crave adventure, your passions drive the path you choose. At the Trail Conference, our passion is creating great trail experiences. In fact, there’s a good chance your last hike, trail run, or ride was made possible by some of our 2,000-plus dedicated volunteers.

So where does your trail lead? What outdoor experiences hold the most meaning to you? I hope you’ll share your stories with us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter @nynjtc, or by emailing [email protected]. As we celebrate 100 years of service, we’d love to share with the greater trail community the impact we’ve been able to have on your life.

Joshua Howard
Executive Director
[email protected]