Deb at the ATC Visitor Center during her flip-flop thru-hike
Deb “Mona Lisa” Coleman

It’s not only the particulars of pursuing Leave No Trace training and education, promoting flip flop thru-hikes, and attempting outside-the-box approaches that help conserve the Trail and sustain communities that make Deb Coleman such an exemplary Appalachian Trail Conservancy volunteer. It’s her willingness and eagerness to try new things, from doing Trail maintenance, to joining a local wilderness first responder rescue group, to trying corridor boundary maintenance. “If just one in 100 hikers did half of what Deb does,” says the ATC’s information services manager Laurie Potteiger, “we’d be on our way to cultivating our next generation of leaders.”

“I started my flip flop in Harpers Ferry, on a relatively ‘easy’ part of the Trail,” Deb says. “As I hiked, the Trail grew more difficult and gave me experience with rocks, boulders, increasingly large elevation changes, roots, and wet feet. By the time I reached New Hampshire, I was ready for it — the Trail had trained me — and I was physically at my strongest.” She says she got into Leave No Trace training because “it’s exponential in nature. It’s not just training those who take the classes, but training those people to spread the word — and because everyone can make a difference. You don’t need to have formal training to make a difference.”

Find out more about Deb, her flip flop thru-hike, and what is behind her energy and enthusiasm to volunteer in so many diverse and dynamic ways in our Q&A with her at: