If there's anything I miss the most about living on the West Coast, it's the mountains. Sure, D.C.'s got the nearby Appalachians (I visit Shenandoah National Park as often as possible in summer), but there's nothing like looking out your Pacific Northwest window and seeing snow-capped peaks in every direction (Seattle is blessed with the Olympics to the west and the Cascades to the east).
The American Hiking Society has a solution for folks like me who live in a city where the mountains aren't quite at your doorstep. The AHS offers weeklong Volunteer Vacations in 25 states (and even the Virgin Islands) from February through November every year, for hiking gurus, beginners, and everyone in between who are capable of doing trail maintenance. Best of all, their website allows you to search for the volunteer tour that might work best for you. Just select your state, difficulty level, what kind of accommodation you prefer (even the avid backpacker likes a comfortable cabin every once in a while), and age range (from family friendly to 21+).
So, if I search for trips for this June, I find there are trips in California, New York, West Virginia, Tennessee, and Washington, from Golden Gate National Parks to Monongahela National Forest (W. Va.). The Monongahela trip is moderate (daypacking with lodging), and includes trail brushing and tread work in the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area.
All crew members must bring their own personal gear (sleeping bags, boots, etc.), but tools, food, camp cook gear, and first aid will be provided by the group leader. Trip prices start at $245 for American Hiking Society Members and $275 for nonmembers (but the price decreases when you do more than one trip). The price also includes permit fees, a T-shirt, and a yearlong member fee.
In case you aren't able to volunteer for a week, National Trails Day is Saturday, June 7, with heaps of activities going on all over the country.
Photo: Brad Swain