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Already researching winter getaways? Join an AMC winter volunteer vacation to Costa Rica and you’ll not only spend your days in an exotic—not to mention warm—location, you’ll brush up on your Spanish, learn trail maintenance skills, and immerse yourself in a culture rooted in conservation.
Last winter, AMC’s trails department built new side trails along Costa Rica’s Sendero Pacifico, a long-distance hiking trail that stretches from the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve to the Gulf of Nicoya on the Pacific Coast. In January 2017, AMC will lead two more one-week trips to Costa Rica, which means you’ve got just enough time to update your passport.
AMC Outdoors caught up with Brendan Taylor, AMC’s North Country volunteer trails supervisor and ad-hoc Central America liaison, for more on what it’s like building trails in the jungle.
What are AMC’s winter volunteer vacations, in a nutshell?
Participants can expect an experience they likely wouldn’t get if they traveled alone as a tourist. They’ll get to know the area more intimately and have the opportunity to meet and work with locals. By the end, participants will have given back to the trails and helped conserve natural areas—and they’ll have gone swimming or zip-lining and hiking in new places. Most importantly, they’ll meet and develop a great bond with other adventurous, conservation-minded individuals.
How has working in Costa Rica been different from other locations?
Within AMC Trails, we discuss the ways a community benefits from a long distance trail, [even when volunteers don’t get] the opportunity to observe the fruits of their labor. In the case of the Costa Rica trip, however, the community was so keen on AMC’s involvement that leaders gave the children in the San Luis Valley time off from school just so they could work with us. Grandparents were there each day, as well as parents and even pets. Additionally, we were invited to visit all of the farms in the community. At the end of the week, a thank-you celebration dinner was held in our honor. This was unlike anything I’ve experienced in nine years of working on trails.
What’s on January’s project list?
Last year, crews built the Monticello Trail, a side trail to the Sendero Pacifico. In 2017, we’re very excited to have crews start to work on another side trail that will eventually lead to a hut that has yet to be built. AMC hut management staff is advising crews in Costa Rica on the construction, which will be modeled after our White Mountain huts.
What other volunteer vacations are on tap for 2017?
On top of our trips to Costa Rica, we’re offering two trips to the U.S. Virgin Islands and one trip to California, to work on the Pacific Crest Trail. A lot of our summer trips tend to stay on the East Coast. If that’s your fancy, try a trip to Maine’s Acadia National Park or New Jersey’s Mohican Outdoor Center.