During my first college spring break, I participated in UNH’s ABC (Alternative Break Challenge) program. This campus organization allows for small groups of UNH undergraduate students to take a road trip led by juniors and seniors to various locations down the east coast for community service. I looked into this program over winter break because I did PrOVES (Pre-Orientation Volunteer Experience in Service) and loved it and I was told ABC was the same thing but with traveling! My ABC trip in particular was one of two trips to Dahlonega, Georgia for Appalachian Trail maintenance. Other trips included Cumberland Island, Georgia for trail maintenance, St. Louis, Missouri for inner city day care, habitat for humanity in Natchez, Mississippi, and many more! Each trip has two leaders, a UNH-owned van, and a predetermined budget for tolls, gas, and food.
There were nine of us total on the trip—seven participants and two leaders ranging from all four years. I knew one of the participants and the leaders already but we met for dinner one night prior to the trip so we could all get to know each other before the 18 hour van road trip to Georgia. We left Saturday, March 9 at 7 am and arrived at our pit stop in North Carolina that night, continuing our journey to Georgia the following morning. We lucked out because the cabin we were supposed to stay at was too moldy, but a nice couple offered their fully furnished cabin with running water for the whole week. Using the trip’s budget, we bought food for ourselves and somehow ended up with plenty of leftovers!
We worked on the Appalachian Trail with the GATC (Georgia Appalachian Trail Club) on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday of that week from 8:30 am until anywhere between 1:30 and 3 pm depending on the day. GATC members are all volunteers and we had a blast working with them! They taught us all about the trail, the tools we used for maintenance, how to maintain the trail as well as why we should maintain the trail. And of course they fit in plenty of time for life stories while we worked. They were all so nice and were very appreciative that we came down to volunteer for spring break. The mornings up in the mountains were pretty chilly, but the afternoons were gorgeous! When we returned back to our cabin after working each afternoon, we would all hang out making dinner and sometimes sit around a campfire. On Thursday of that week, both Dahlonega groups were invited for a nice dinner at a couple’s house who volunteers on the Appalachian Trail.
We agreed to take advantage of our day off (Wednesday) to drive to Atlanta for a few hours. We ate at a restaurant called The Varsity right on the Georgia Tech campus and I was fortunate enough to meet up with a friend from home who goes to school there! The specialty item at The Varsity is their fried apple or peach pies which we all loved. I’m normally an apple pie fan, but I figured I had to try some Georgia peaches while in the area! We then proceeded to walk around a few parks and visit the Coca Cola Factory in which we got to sample different Coca Cola products from all over the world!
We began our journey back to campus the following Saturday morning at 4 am and drove straight through until we arrived back on campus Sunday at 3 am. We even made time for an obligatory stop at a southern-style waffle house for the experience. I have never done a road trip even close to being that long but it was all part of the experience. I would do the ABC program again in the future but probably with a different location so I can try something new! This trip allowed me to meet some new people and partake in some new experiences.
Written by Rachel Afrow, UNH Class of 2016.