By Katy Mena
Community News Writer
Looking for the perfect vacation this June, something different and a little bit challenging? The beach is overdone, Europe’s too crowded, and Disneyworld’s nothing but an overpriced playground. Don’t give up hope, fun-seekers! The ideal getaway could be just outside your back door with the fourth annual Big Dig program hosted by the Cumberland Trail Conference.
Running from May 22 to June 30, the Big Dig is now accepting volunteers to pitch in and spruce up the Rock, Possum, and Soddy gorges of the Cumberland Trail. According to Michael Meek, community coordinator and grant writer for the CTC, the event aims to make the most of the beautiful resources of the woodsy area. “We want to preserve the Greenway and leave future Tennesseans something to enjoy,” he said.
Local residents have the opportunity to holiday on the Big Dig South, which is one of two efforts toward cleaning and completing the trails in the area (there is a Big Dig North going on at Frozen Head State Park). The event, sponsored by the CTC, has all of the amenities of the perfect vacation. Helpful volunteers are offered lodging at the Dogwood Lodge and meals served in the camp’s central dining room —; and it’s all free! How many resorts can put that in their brochure?
Once rested and fed, trail builders head off to work in the adventurous terrain of the Appalachians. Rugged and remote, the area requires the utmost attention and time of visionary volunteers. While success of such ventures is usually measured in miles, the landscape of the area is so intricate that it is challenging to complete even the smallest of areas.
“One way to measure the effectiveness of the effort is by how many miles you complete. But this is more difficult because of the rocks and the gorges,” said Mr. Meek, who hopes to complete the ambitious project by fall.
Adventure-shy volunteers need not feel left out of the Big Dig extravaganza. “Some people aren’t suited to building the trail, but they want to contribute,” said Mr. Meek. The absorbing alternative? “Those volunteers can run the kitchen.” he said, emphasizing the eclectic mix of people this type of event tends to draw.
“You’ll meet a lot of interesting people from various walks of life,” he said, though he paints the portrait of the average volunteer as being middle-aged, highly educated, and retired, in most cases. Though, breakaway college programs do often provide extra hands.
The getaway opportunities provided by the CTC have been quite successful, as the organization has amassed over 122,000 volunteer hours. Providing gloves and tools, free food, and shelter, it is the ideal holiday for alternative adventurers.
E-mail Katy Mena at firstname.lastname@example.org