I am Margaret Gorski, a volunteer leader with the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation.
In 1991, I was a U.S. Forest Service employee sitting in a circle of Nez Perce elders high in the Bitterroot Mountains of Idaho. I looked across a vast jumble of tree covered mountains. I saw trees, rocks and ice, flower-covered meadows, and birds soaring overhead. I imagined what it must have been like for Lewis and Clark as they struggled through these “terrible mountains” to the Pacific.
From another perspective, however, the Nez Perce elders told spirit stories of how this land gave life to their great grandparents who had thrived here for centuries. While I looked over the mountains, I used my mind and thought about land management; they used their hearts and thought about the souls of their ancestors.
That was my “ah-ha” moment of why the national historic trails are important. To see the land through the eyes and hearts of others can be enlightening. To retrace the life-threatening journey of pioneers searching for a better life can be inspiring. To know what this land was like before it was changed forever gives us a yardstick to measure land management “success.” A national historic trail is a window into the past, preserving places where we can learn from those who came before us.
There are 19 national historic trails and 11 national scenic trails that collectively tell our American story. Please help us preserve them. All it takes is to become a supporter of the Partnership for the National Trails System with a simple donation of $50 – or more!
The National Trails System includes 30 national scenic and historic trails and over 3,000 national recreation and rail trails.