Wild Alabama announces the First Ridgerunner Deployed to Pinhoti Trail in Alabama!
October 17, 2023
Wild Alabama, with the support of the Talladega National Forest district ranger, is launching a Ridgerunner program for the Pinhoti Trail (PT) in Alabama. The first official PT Ridgerunner is David Lyons, a seasoned Wild Alabama volunteer and Volunteer Wilderness Ranger. The PT Ridgerunner program is adapted from the Appalachian Trail Ridgerunner program developed by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy which has been in use for over thirty years. Ridgerunners are trail ambassadors who help to engage trail users about Leave No Trace while helping to care for and protect the trail. This includes supporting the established Pinhoti Trail maintainer community by conducting routine trail maintenance such as brushing, lopping, and sawing small blowdowns. Ridgerunners also remove trash from the trail, trailheads, and primitive campsites.
As more and more people are hiking the Pinhoti Trail, and its impact on Alabama’s overall economy continues to grow, there is a need to ensure consistent resource stewardship across the whole trail. Ridgerunners offer additional boots on the ground and act as eyes and ears for the Forest Service and other agencies and volunteer groups. The presence of Ridgerunners on the trail is good for trail users since they play an important ambassador role.
“The Pinhoti Trail is unique as is the culture of the trail community that supports it. It was therefore important to us that we develop a program that fits the trail and the community” said David Lyons, the first Pinhoti Ridgerunner deployed to Section 12, a 16.2-mile section of the trail in Calhoun and Cleburne counties. Appalachian Trail Ridgerunners typically cover larger sections of the trail and require full-time seasonal commitments, often with multiple days sleeping on the trail. By deploying a dedicated Ridgerunner to each section of the Pinhoti Trail, the Pinhoti Ridgerunner is open to a broader base of people at different life stages who have a passion to serve the trail and their local community.
Wild Alabama already trains and deploys a cadre of Volunteer Wilderness Rangers that work in the state’s three designated Wilderness Areas. Sections 6 and 11 of the Pinhoti Trail pass through the Cheaha Wilderness Area and the Dugger Mountain Wilderness Area respectively. Wild Alabama also trains and supports a Forest Ambassador program engaging visitors at the busy Cheaha Trailhead and trailheads across the Sipsey Wilderness Area. “With Wild Alabama’s existing expertise” said Maggie Johnston, Executive Director of Wild Alabama, “we took the best practices from various Appalachian Trail Ridgerunner programs and from our existing trail-focused programs to develop the concept of the Pinhoti Trail Ridgerunner.”
David Lyons is a Wild Alabama volunteer and Volunteer Wilderness Ranger. He is a Wilderness First Responder and a Level 2 Leave No Trace Trainer. Retired from a career in pharmaceuticals and banking, he and his wife Julie recently moved from Birmingham to Piedmont, AL to be closer to the Pinhoti. He also serves as a trail chaplain. “The Pinhoti Trail was a liminal place for my personal and spiritual development. I am so blessed that Wild Alabama offers opportunities for me to give back to the Pinhoti Trail and the trail community.”
Anyone interested in learning more about the Pinhoti Trail Ridgerunner Program, the Wilderness Ranger Program, or the Forest Ambassador Program should reach out to Jonathan Kelly, Outreach and Stewardship Coordinator for Wild Alabama in the Talladega National Forest area. email@example.com
Wild Alabama…. Enjoy…Value…Protect! www.wildal.org
“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” John Muir
“Be the change you want to see in the world.” Gandhi
With that being said….
Our family enjoys rambling through the waters and woods. Anything outdoors.
While talking with a neighbor about possibly hiking Bankhead, she shared with me about a podcast she enjoyed listening to. It was Anne Markham Bailey’s amazing podcast on Present Tense Media ‘The Fight for Alabama’s Last Wild Places.”
Listening to Anne's interviews with the people that fought to protect and save the forest, gave me a deep admiration and appreciation for their courage to action.
Our neighbor and hiking buddy, Vince Meleski shared with us maps, photos, videos and books on Bankhead and Sipsey and the Wild Alabama website.
I emailed Janice about the Forest Bathing opportunity guided by her and Anne Bailey. Forest Bathing is a pull on your soul to get you to the peace and calm found in nature. Since then, I look forward to Wild Alabama monthly opportunities to get back into the wild places with the hiking community.
John(my husband), children J. And Grace and myself love to go to Bankhead Sipsey Wilderness and explore the beauty and dynamic diversity of the forest.
As a family, we feel the importance to give back and give forward.
The courageous fight that saved wild places now calls us to “keep it” for generations to come to enjoy and learn about nature.
Wild Alabama’s mission is to inspire people to enjoy, value, and protect the wild places of Alabama. The mission aligns with our family goals of “giving back and forward”.
Wild Alabama offers so many ways to get involved and support wild places. WA board, staff and volunteers do an excellent job promoting, educating, stewarding and loving the dynamic diversity of wild places.
Terri is a lifelong resident of north Alabama and has been visiting Bankhead National Forest since she was a toddler when her family would spend weekends camping at Brushy Lake and hiking the woods. When they weren't camping, her Daddy loved riding the forest's dirt roads in his Ford pickup and Terri was always there with him.
Len moved to Alabama in 1992 and met Terri when they both were hired by TVA. They have been hiking together ever since from Bankhead and Sipsey to the Smokies, Glacier NP, Olympic NP, Yellowstone NP, Alaska, and Canada to name a few of their favorite hiking spots.
Terri and Len are both volunteer canine handlers for North Alabama Search Dog Association looking for lost/missing persons as well as deceased individuals. Terri joined the team in 2003 and Len followed in 2005. They have been deployed to Bankhead National forest for multiple searches. Len's "first find" was a missing hiker in the Gum Pond Cemetery area in 2012 who had been missing overnight. Len's SAR dog Rudy found the missing woman in less than 30 minutes.
Len and Terri also serve on the Board of Directors for a national canine search and rescue group, Canine Search and Recovery. Terri has served as the secretary for several years and Len is a Board member.
As Wild Alabama Volunteer Rangers, both are B level crosscut sawyers and have spent many hours helping clear trails in the Sipsey. Len and Terri also enjoy Ranger Patrols and interacting with hikers giving directions, suggesting places to visit, and sharing Leave No Trace principles. Both have participated in multiple trash pickups and campsite monitoring and cleanup. Terri likes to help out at the office when helping hands are needed for admin work, sticking labels and stuffing envelopes. Terri was named Wild Alabama Premier Volunteer in 2021, an honor she treasures. Terri also enjoys leading her photographer friends deep into the forest and the Sipsey to share with them her favorite locations, including the many beautiful waterfalls to be found there.
A few other things Len and Terri like to do in their "spare" time: Len is finishing rebuilding and restoring his grandfather's 1948 Farmall Cub tractor. Len is also an avid gardener, specializing in heirloom tomatoes, and spends many hours canning and preserving the garden harvest. Terri is working on obtaining her drone pilot's license hoping to put that to use in future search and recovery efforts. Len and Terri travel often with their two German Shepherd Dogs in their RV, spending weeks at a time on the road, and if there is a lighthouse, they will climb it!