I belong to one formal organization: the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club. I’m not really a joiner, but it would be kind of rotten to not at least fork over membership dues to the PATC since I spend most weekends hiking the trails its members built and maintain. (In addition to taking care of 240 miles of the A.T., the PATC maintains just about all the trails in both Rock Creek Park and Shenandoah National Park, in addition to other popular spots, like Billy Goat).

So when my boyfriend and I started getting the newsletter advertising all the trails that need “overseers,” guilt got the better of us and we signed up to clean the mucky, garbage-ridden River Trail in Great Falls Park. But not because we are of pure heart. The greatest benefit of joining the PATC, we found out, is being able to rent the club’s members-only cabins. And the biggest benefit of signing up to clean the mucky, garbage-ridden River Trail is being able to get to the best ones first. (Trail overseers get, at least once a year, a good head start on dibs.)

Exhibit A: Glass House, a lovingly maintained cabin built in 1950 and donated to the PATC by noted D.C. geologist Jewell J. Glass, a club member from 1930 until her death in 1966. The cabin (there are twin bunks that sleep eight) inside George Washington National Forest is wrapped by a fantastic deck and a giant screened-in porch. The view’s better than TV, trust me, and great hiking starts right outside the door. We did a nice 12-miler to Signal Knob on Saturday and returned to the best reward: ice-cold beer from the cabin’s new fridge and an appreciative toast to the River Trail…and Dr. Glass.