A blaze is a marker along the trail identifying the trail you are on. It is usually a shaped and color marker painted on a tree, rock, or post. On the Appalachian Trail the white rectangle is the blaze you want to follow. The North Country Trail primary blazes are light blue rectangles, the Pacific Crest Trail uses an emblem usually affixed to a post along the trail, and the John Muir Trail in the Big South Fork in Tennessee uses a blue silhouette of John Muir. Some trails like the Shining Rock Wilderness have no blazes or signage at all. In this wilderness area you are warned before entering to have a map and compass and the knowledge to use them. Blazes are typically spread apart far enough that you don’t see one blaze from the other. The actual distance will vary. Some areas are over blazed resulting in sign pollution. On the AT some blazes can be a mile apart. When you run across a double blaze it is a warning to pay attention. It may indicate a route change, an incoming side trail or other situation that requires you to be especially alert to changes in direction. Along the AT there are several marked and unmarked trails that cross the big trail and many times it is difficult to determine which trail is which. In a 4 mile section near Mt Rogers, you will cross an orange, blue, and red blazed trail, or even unmarked spur trails. If you are not paying attention it is not hard to find yourself on the wrong trail. If we think about it, life is a lot like following a trail. We can be merrily walking along and somehow we get distracted and find ourselves on the wrong trail. We may have made a bad decision or maybe we just were not paying attention and missed our double blaze. Maybe we were uninformed and did not know what blaze to follow in the first place. Sometimes we realize our mistake soon and get back on the right trail and sometimes we could wander down the wrong trail for years. It is like that for many of our youth today. They don’t have a positive adult role model in their life to show them the blazes, or they are pressured at school to ignore the double blaze and take the spur trail because it looks more exciting or maybe just because everyone else is taking it. It takes courage and a good support system to grow up today. I don’t envy today’s parents. Blazes of the past are no longer considered relevant or even passed down from parent to child. This is where Camptown helps youth to find the right path. Chris was one of our students from our Pathfinders program. Our Pathfinders program is our program for youth that have gotten themselves into the juvenile justice system. Our program focuses on first time offenders, status offenders, or CHINS (Children in Need of Services). The objective or our program is to keep them from returning to the justice system. Chris got into trouble by having alcohol at school. He was pressured by one of his “friends” into having a little fun. On our Pathfinders program we met with this group of 6 boys for 5 weeks before our trip. During this time we get to know them, get them ready for their adventure, and teach some specific life skills such as reaching a consensus and working together as a team. During our trip on the Appalachian Trail, Chris was our leader of the day. He was reluctant at first but seemed to enjoy the experience and the group responded well. After the trip, we invite the youth to join our Youth Leader Program. Chris jumped at the chance. We got to spend the next two years with Chris as a Youth Leader and he stayed away from the juvenile justice system. I ran into him a few years later and he told me he was going to college and studying law enforcement. Camptown was able to provide Chris with some direction in a time in his life he was having difficulty finding his way. It is stories like this that energize me. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to bring these programs to youth like Chris. Everyone can make a difference!