Talladega National Forest, Shoal Creek and Talladega Districts

John Calhoun, Volunteer
The Forest Service honors John Calhoun and many other volunteers with an annual volunteer pass into Federal recreation sites.

Nature enthusiast, John Calhoun, appreciates the beauty and serenity within the National Forests in Alabama. He shares his passion through volunteering by maintaining forest trails or helping other hikers explore nature in the Talladega National Forest.

“I feel that I am making the trail experience better for most hikers and hopefully encouraging them to bring others along to enjoy the woods,” said Calhoun. His commitment to sharing his knowledge and love of nature gives the perfect explanation to why Mr. Calhoun holds the nickname “Mother Nature’s Son.”

Calhoun grew up in Huntsville, Alabama where he was able to explore caves and hike trails in the woods as a teenager. His love for the great outdoors expanded from two week vacations out in the wilderness, to long distance hiking.  Within the past ten years, Calhoun hiked over 12,000 miles! Many of those miles were on the following popular trails: Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, Colorado Trail, International Appalachian Trail, Arizona Trail and the Pacific Northwest Trail. In addition to hiking, Calhoun enjoys canoe trips.  His latest adventures include the Everglades, Suwannee River, Quetico Provincial Park, and Yukon River.

During the years, Calhoun recalls how nature has taught him life changing lessons. He found that his hiking experiences not only provided the opportunity to enjoy the solitude, remoteness, and scenery of nature, but also the importance of practicing generosity. “It was the wonderful folks I met along the way, the strangers that became my friends when they offered me a ride or put me up for the night that made the hike such a wonderful experience,” said Calhoun. “Most of the people who helped me would not take any money; instead, they said, “Just pass it on” and to my surprise, the people who had the least gave the most.”

As a volunteer at the Talladega National Forest, Calhoun continues to pass on the spirit of generosity.  He shares his talents, knowledge, and experience with others and asks for nothing in return. In addition, he uses those same abilities to enhance the recreation and resource management efforts to uphold the mission of “Caring for the Land and Serving People.”

After thirty-six years, Mr. Calhoun is still happily married to Mary Sale Dixon and has a daughter named Elizabeth.  Their life is mostly centered on their love for family, community, and nature. In 2002, the couple took a three month camping trip to Alaska and just recently returned from relief efforts in New Orleans.

All kinds of rewarding volunteer opportunities are available at the National Forests in Alabama, including trail maintenance, fish and wildlife management, recreation area management, environmental education, interpretation, public information and many other things.  People interested in volunteering should contact the nearest Forest Service office or Volunteer Coordinator Tammy F. Truett in the Supervisor’s Office in Montgomery at (334) 832-4470.

Volunteer Groups

  • Horn Mt. Trail Club
  • Alabama Trails Association
  • Alabama Hiking TrailSociety
  • Vulcan TrailAssociation
  • Appalachian Trail Club of Alabama
  • Anniston Outdoors Association
  • Alabama Trails Association