Ambassadors – A Rockin’ Year!

11 A.T. Ambassadors served almost 3000 hours and recruited ~ 1000 volunteers to do stewardship projects and outreach on the A.T. this year.  Impressive!! Please check out all the great work they’ve done, and read the Ambassador 2012 Summary

Thanks to REI for supporting this 2012 program!

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“The A.T. Ambassador experience was priceless. I thoroughly enjoyed the entire process.” A.T. Ambassador, Donnie Kelley

If you are interested in trying out this experience for yourself, check out the benefits and position description for 2013. Letters of interest due Dec 20.

Interview with a Legend

– Post by Mary Bennett, Franklin’s A.T. Ambassador

This summer, I sat down with Don O’Neal, the Trail Crew Manager for the Nantahala Hiking Club based out of Franklin, NC to discuss what sort of activities a trail crew does, what skills are needed as a volunteer and what projects were underway.  Now Don has been the “Trail Boss” for 10 years, so he has years of experience – plus he is retired physician so if anyone is considering joining the crew they could not be in better hands!   Don told me there are about 8 – 16 people who show up on maintenance days.  Most of the volunteers are retirees who enjoy outdoor activities and have chosen Macon County as a retirement location.  The crew meets at the clubhouse every Wednesday at 9 A.M. to get the week’s assignment, check tools and coordinate carpooling.  When asked what skills are necessary to be on the trail crew, Don joked that “all one really needed was a strong back and weak mind”.  Most skills are taught on the trail and include the use of tools such as loppers, Pulaski, pick mattock or rock bar.

Due to the new A.T. shelter project at Long Branch, near Standing Indian Campground, a special “building crew” consisting of members with carpentry and construction skills (building forms, pouring concrete and prefab lumber work) has been working overtime.  This project is being accomplished in four phases: extending side trails to new privy location and water access, carrying water, setting piers in footers, pouring 2 tons of concrete; building the privy; post and beam construction; and final “dry –in”.  A local company, Goshen Timber Frame, generously donated cut logs for the project.

Back in June, I had the pleasure of joining the crew and got to experience the coordinated teamwork and hilarious comradery of the regular maintenance volunteers first-hand.  I packed my lunch, grabbed my water bottle, jumped in a volunteer’s truck and rode the bumpy old gated USFS access road to the A.T.  After sorting tools, buckets, and other equipment, we hauled the gear down to the work site.  I got to see the exquisite beauty of the new shelter- the rich cove forest and rushing stream featuring lush moss covered logs.  My task that day was to assist clearing and leveling spots for tent camping.  I saw how the crew worked together using logic and humor to problem solve.  After the day’s effort was complete and all the gear was packed back into the vehicles, a celebratory ale (or pop) was shared.  This simple tradition seems to seal the bonds between the crew members and contributes to looking forward to the next weeks assignment.

Recently, Don O’Neal resigned as Trail Manager and as evidence of his excellence in leadership the hiking club had to appoint three volunteers in order to fill his shoes!  He received an award from the Club for 10 years and 7000 hours of service.

Thank you, Don, for all you have accomplished for the NHC and ATC!

Macon County News Article on Don

Helen and White County Celebrates!

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Helen and White County Leaders Celebrate A.T. Community Designation
Photo courtesy Charles Ernst

Town leaders, county officials, Georgia Appalachian Trail Club (GATC) volunteers, ATC, US Forest Service and others making up around 75 people were in Helen, GA on Fri Nov 30th celebrating the newest A.T. Community. After a beautiful national anthem played by GATC volunteer and lead in getting the application processed, Charles Aiken, the event kicked off with a welcome from the emcee and A.T. Community Committee chair, Steve Gibson.

Forest Supervisor of Chattahoochee National Forest, Randy Warbington
Photo courtesy Charles Ernst
Tom Aderhold
Photo Courtesy Charles Ernst

Tom Aderhold, a GATC past president and Park Service 50 Year of Service Awardee, spoke about some of the Club’s early trials with the southern terminus and the significance of the Club’s work on the Trail’s development and protection.  After excited remarks from the Mayor, the Forest Supervisor, GATC president, ATC’s Executive Director and a proclamation signing with the county commission chairman and Mayor, the crowd  walked up the road to an old lodge steeped in history, relevant to GATC and the Trail. Around the ceremony were historic pictures of early GATC meetings that took place at the Greear Lodge.  David Greear, the grandson of the GATC member who gathered the club at his abode, currently lives at the lodge and invited the public back there for a reception and recreation of one of the early photos.

David Greear describes the 1930’s photo and invites everyone back for the reception
Photo courtesy Charles Ernst
Recreation of the 1930’s GATC meeting and photo
Photo courtesy Charles Ernst
1931 GATC meeting
Photo courtesy David Greear

For more pictures of the ceremony and reception:

More on White County:

With its rich cultural heritage – dating back to the Gold Rush of the 1820s – White County has always invested in the community’s history. With money and resources devoted to cultural centers such as the Sautee Nachoochee Center and the Folk Pottery Museum, White County displays an unwavering commitment to preserving and protecting the county’s diverse background, while also educating tourists and residents on the historical events that took place here, none of which are any less significant than the start of the Appalachian Trail!

Hikers who begin the A.T. in the foothills of White County are surrounded by an abundance of natural beauty – nestled among winding vineyards and scenic state parks. Wildlife, waterfalls and covered bridges find their home in White County, and it’s no wonder that so many choose to start the hike of a lifetime here.

Others flock to the area to enjoy the famous Babyland General, home to the timeless Cabbage Patch Dolls. With festivals held year-round – from Helen’s Oktoberfest to Unicoi State Park’s Festival of Trees – White County offers something for every season – and everyone.

For more information on White County, visit: