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Reese: In praise of Liz Belcher

Reese: In praise of Liz Belcher

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Ron Reese

Ron Reese

The article in The Roanoke Times on 14 May 2021 about Liz Belcher retiring as the Roanoke Valley Greenway coordinator prompted me to write the following as a tribute to her and the incredible other work she does planning new hiking and mountain biking trails in the Roanoke Valley and beyond.

As a 15-year volunteer with Bill Gordge’s Mid-Week Trailing Building Crew, I have seen first hand how beautifully Liz and Bill plan routes for new trails that the crew subsequently constructs.

Trail building

Most who walk this trail barely give it a thought,

but by stopping, thinking, perhaps they ought

to consider just how this path was made.

Its memory soon will quickly fade.

Where did this trail come from? Who laid out the route

to swing by this way with its lovely features that well suit

the eye of the beholder? Past trees with character, little streams,

mossy rocks, good views, magnificent terrain.

Clearly careful thought was made, sometimes with pain

of briars, slipping down slopes, occasional snakes.

Backtrack, take another tack, make mistakes.

How to mark the path and make it plain

to follow? Little flags placed to signal “Here’s the way!”

Life’s not like that with such flags to say

and tag, to indicate the route to follow

on our trails through space and time. We just swallow

and sometimes round about we wallow

aimlessly along. Not a trail through the woods.

Careful thought went into it. It should.

The route is finally settled.

So now comes a crew of volunteers with mettle

to begin to carve the trail

in fine detail.

Brush to clear, small trees to cut,

stumps to remove, roots are tough.

Rocks moved for steps, stream crossings, or just appeal.

The crew works to get a feel,

slowly revealing, just inches at a time,

the trail you trod.

From the crew, few complaints; they don’t mind

the sweat or time. It’s good to leave some things behind

for others to enjoy or, perhaps, not even notice or appreciate

at all. Anonymity

for….eternity.

Perhaps their souls linger along the trail

Seeing your satisfaction with their detail.

Trail inches add up slowly

the work and sweat is necessary, though is lowly.

Bit-by-bit with pulaskis, McLeods, rakes, hoes,

digging bars, rock bars, so it goes.

The crew is fielding

its own reward:

a trail begins to become aware

of itself.

The trail then is “naturalized”

so it looks like its been there

since time began.

We’ve moved on. You’ve moved on.

Perhaps you see more than a simple path now

on your walk in the woods.

We did the best we could

on this path. On life’s path too.

As should you.

Reese is a volunteer trail-builder on the Appalachian Trail. He lives in Roanoke.

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