When to Make the Call

The S.W.E.A.T. crew is difficult. Crew life for this team is very demanding, and this year there was more than one volunteer to leave because of health or safety concerns. In fact, there were five volunteers over the course of the first six sessions, who ultimately weren't ready for trail crew. They made the decision independently or through discussion with trail crew leaders to head home early. Here’s one such story from Robert Collins, about how it takes all of us, making good decisions, to stay safe in the backcountry. It highlights how volunteers, as much as crew leaders have to “make the call” to keep themselves and their team safe.

Hello Leanna, 

I just wanted to take a minute to recognize the pros on SWEAT crew. Unfortunately on the first day I developed a sharp pain from my hip down to my right knee. I have never had knee problems and this was both baffling and very disappointing.

After conferring with Mic Collins (crew leader) I decided to pull myself off the trip so as not to cause any more damage or worse become a burden to the crew later on with a back country injury. I was taught in Wilderness First Responder that the right call is usually the hardest call but it is to the advantage of yourself and group. 

Mic was very supportive and appreciative of my decision. He split my gear up between other members, who were all really cool and supportive and then Allegra hiked out with me. She was also very supportive and encouraging and kept my spirits up.

We met Chloe at the trailhead and she drove me back to base camp and also gave me a smiles, encouragement and support. The professionalism, courtesy and the super positive attitude they displayed helped me get through a very disappointing, painful and discouraging time.

Even though I didn't get to spend the whole week with them I feel I have made friends for life. I was able to drive home and the next morning my knee was very swollen and stiff so I made the right choice. I have an appointment with a knee specialist on Tuesday to try and find out what's going on. I will let you know in the next week or so if I can still make the Rocky Top work trip in September.  

Please let everyone at ATC know what a wonderful group of people they have chosen to lead the SWEAT crew and I hope to come back next year better than ever and have the opportunity to earn a SWEAT crew t-shirt. 

Big thanks to Robert for letting us share his story. It's super important for all volunteers to recognize that they have as much responsibility as crew leaders to make the call on safety, but our crew leaders are there in case there's ever a lapse in judgement to help folks make the right decision. 

ATC is looking at how we can better screen and prepare volunteers for the rigors of this crew, in particular, if you have suggestions, please send them to ljoyner@appalachiantrail.org. 

Update: Sept. 15. Roberts PT was successful, and he has joined us for session two of Rocky Top, climbing the ever-so-steep Snake Den Ridge Trail to work on the A.T. near Inadu Knob.