Meet the Philpots -- Diana and Tom. Both former military, these two trail stewards joined Bayou Land Conservancy in July 2020, mid-pandemic, although they had been active users of the Spring Creek Nature Trail for a few years. When they came across the trail crew, it was a sign! As Diana said, “We were so happy to meet the people who kept the trail in great condition that we joined up right on the spot!” Of course, it is often easier to reflect on the impact of a decision like this. Tom said, “I truly did not know what to expect, but in hindsight with the pandemic, it has been a blessing in disguise and a lifesaver in many ways.”
It is sometimes hard to remember, that when beginning something new, we rarely have all the skills and knowledge needed to succeed. Thankfully, our trail team is willing to slow down and educate all new trail members, giving guidance on plants, tool safety, and trailblazing. It is easy to see why Tom and Diana have stuck around! Our trail crew is a lively bunch, who not only care about BLC, and the Spring Creek Nature Trail, but also each other.
Trail work is not easy, especially in the middle of summer in Texas, with mosquitos the size of baseballs, the humidity making it hard to breathe, and temperatures breaking triple digits. Diana was not joking when she told us that trail maintenance is a “labor of love”. Yet, within these experiences, a person can learn so much about themselves and their land. Sometimes, this love takes on a weird turn, like Tom’s newfound love of the Pulaski, a dangerous-looking, and heavy tool used to attack roots that could trip a hiker. Additionally, trail crew get to impart their experience and skills to the team, like Tom’s prior experience with navigation and GPS.
What exactly does our trail crew do? They build bridges and boardwalks, remove invasive species, pick up trash, and maintain the trail surface so you and I can easily hike and bike through the full 14 miles. There is no shortage of work to be done! So, we asked Tom and Diana, how do you stay motivated? Tom said, “Every project brings new challenges, so this is what keeps me motivated in the end. The comradery has been infectious, and I have made so many great friends on the team and with BLC in such a short period of time.” As for Diana, it just isn’t the work, but the payoff as well. “The reward is knowing how many people are using the trail. It feels like a home for me, and I want others to enjoy it just as much”.
It is obvious that these two are passionate about trails. Not only does the Philpot duo immerse themselves in the Spring Creek Nature Trail, but they have branched out, and are a part of an Austin nonprofit, called the Central Texas Trail Tamers. Tom and Diana have been on two trips as Trail Tamers, first to the Guadalupe Mountains National Park, and most recently to the Davis Mountains. Diana said, “It has been interesting to work on trails in a rocky, mountainous region instead of the Piney Woods and wetlands we're accustomed to.” Trips are several days long, not including travel time, and often include several miles of hiking over rough terrain. Tom’s retelling of the most recent trip: “We had to navigate through these areas like mountain goats, but we escaped intact and were able to clear quite a bit of brush and rock debris that had completely obliterated the trail in regions.”
Let’s all take a moment to congratulate Tom and Diana on their hard work and dedication. To date the duo has logged over 650 hours on the Spring Creek Nature Trail, with an additional 90+ with the Trail Tamers. As Diana said, “There’s no telling what we might do next!”