Knobstone Trail: YHCC

Justin Williams

  • Name: Justin Williams
  • Age: 19
  • Hometown: Salem, Indiana
  • Location: Knobstone Trail
  • Duty: Trail Maintenance

It’s a bright, sunshiny day in southern Indiana. The temperature has climbed well into the 80s and the high percentage of humidity is no friend to an outdoor enthusiast. Yet under a thick canopy of dense foliage, the Knobstone Trail runs along cool, calm, and thanks in large part to the Young Hoosiers Conservation Corps, clear.

There are many great hiking trails in the Indiana. None, though, are longer or more challenging than the Knobstone. The 58-mile course journeys up and down and all around the hills of southern Indiana. The elevation change is challenging, the scenery incredible, and the solitude refreshing. Passing through lands of the Clark State Forest, Hoosier National Forest, Elk Creek Public Fishing Area, and Jackson-Washington State Forest, this public trail belongs to all Hoosiers and visitors. 

The distance doesn’t compare to the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail, but the topography is similar. Some people actually use the Knobstone to train for the Appalachian. So it’s understandable that keeping the trail clear takes effort, which is just what YHCC worker Justin Williams was seeking.

Williams, a 19-year-old Salem resident, hopes to join the U.S. Air Force this fall. The only problem is he’s too big. Although by no means obese, needs to shed some pounds to make the required weight of a 6-foot-1-inch recruit.

“I was a swimmer in high school, but in the last year since I graduated, I sort of got lazy and put on a few pounds,” Williams said. “I knew this job would help me lose weight, so I really wanted to do it.”

Having grown up on a farm in southern Indiana, Williams is no stranger to hard work.

“Physical labor and being outdoors are two things I really enjoy, so I thought the job would be fun,” Williams said.

If one considers hiking all day in soaring summer heat while lugging around the extra weight of a mattock—a pickaxe like tool—then the job’s a ball. Williams and a couple more YHCC workers are somewhere on the Knobstone almost every day clearing overgrowth, removing fallen logs, leveling the trail grade, repairing signs, painting fresh blazes, and more.           

“We are very fortunate to have the YHCC workers on the trail this year. With all the damage southern Indiana received during the ice storms last winter, there’s a ton of work to be done getting the trail back in shape,” said Steve Morris, DNR director of outdoor recreation.

Down 30 pounds with 15 more to go, Williams is on track toward his goal of reaching his target by the end of summer. The Knobstone is closer to the DNR's goals for it, too, thanks to a few hard-hiking, heat-bearing, mattock-swinging, chainsaw-wielding YHCC workers.

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