There are times, even during a pandemic, that things just fall into place and work out right.
Last October a new volunteer, Dale Wilson Jr., answered an Avalonia website volunteer job posting and signed on as a “Trail Reviewer.” Avalonia was looking for the right person who could hike more than 40 trailed properties and write reviews that created consistent summaries of each preserve. Our goal was to let new visitors know what they could expect when visiting an Avalonia property for the first time. This sounds like a great job, but only the right person would do it well.
Dale’s the guy! He was raised in Easton, Pennsylvania. As an avid outdoorsman through scouting, he had the pleasure of hiking in various terrains across the United States and abroad. His adventures started with day hikes on the Appalachian Trail (rocky at times but very scenic). These hikes progressed to various weekend overnight trips and weeks-long expeditions. “I am proud to say that, in total, I have hiked the Vermont to North Carolina portion of the Appalachian Trail. One day, I will finish the remaining states of Maine, New Hampshire, and Georgia.,” commented Dale for this article. Other hikes include Yosemite, Sequoia, Grand Canyon, Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico, Mt Etna (active volcano in Sicily), coastal France, and other diverse trails.
But what about those writing and organizational skills? Currently, Dale is a Medical Officer (Physician Assistant) in the United States Navy and is stationed in Groton for three years. His writing experience includes medical case reports, naval instructions, sailor evaluations, editorials, and numerous academic papers (just to highlight a few).
Being new to the area, Dale was looking to better involve himself with the community and bolster morale during these unprecedented times. Using his organizational skills, he created a Google Doc folder for all to share. He made files for each preserve to store photos and text along with a “Master Tracker” to publish the results. This new project became the first “Trail Finder” database in the state of Connecticut. Dale’s work is now a model that other communities will follow to inventory their trails to provide consistent information on difficulty, terrain, altitude change, distance, appropriate activities, GIS data, along with a trail “abstract” that gives more details so a newcomer will be comfortable with their first visit. Avalonia’s Trail Finder will launch on our website around April 1. We’ll send an email when it is up and running, just in time for spring. Other communities will join a statewide Trail Finder database in June, following a lot of what Dale created.
Avalonia’s volunteers have kept dozens of miles of trails open during this tough time, but Dale just made it a little easier for all of us to go out for the first time and explore.
Dale, how about hanging around Avalonia for another three years? It has been a pleasure to work with you and thank you for all you have done for our community. You bolstered our morale, and we hope the crew at Avalonia and Trail Finder did the same for you!