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I had my first visit in Luray, VA for the recent designation ceremony and I can’t wait until my next one! Driving into town, a relaxing feeling comes over you as you look out on the glorious, long pastoral views bordered by mountains.
Thanks to the generosity of the Mimslyn Inn, ATC staff stayed in luxury at the beautifully renovated Inn at no cost to the organization. We had a lovely dinner with some of the Advisory Committee, and discussed many of the opportunities and challenges for the community.
Ceremony day! It was SUPPOSED to storm all day (70% chance) and the lucky-ducks that we are, it was a beautiful day of festivities! Artists, food vendors, local organizations, and a kid village was set up in town bringing hundreds of regional residents out for the fun.
The Front Royal A.T. Community Committee had a booth next to ATC’s. They’ve worked to develop 5 Quests in Warren County, and were providing information and the materials to make the Quest stamps for families.
The Designation ceremony itself was emceed by the Chamber President, John Robbins. Mark Wenger, ATC’s CEO/E.D. provided a welcome and the two Park Service Superintendents (Appalachian National Scenic Trail and Shenandoah National Park) provided thanks to the volunteers working hard to make the partnership happen, and highlighted the importance of public lands to communities. The 3 mayors of the towns in Page County, Stanley, Luray and Shenandoah, all provided fantastic remarks on the great work of the partnership’s effort. Mayor of Stanley Douglas Purdham stated,”All too often, someone comes into this area and says: “What a beautiful place in which you live,” – we locals don’t say that enough. When it (the A.T.) was created, it was said that it is good.
It is our responsibility to make sure it continues to be not only good, but great. But folks, we’ve got a job to do. We’ve got to protect our natural resources. Not JUST the A.T. Not just Shenandoah National Park. It is everything that the good Lord put our feet upon and we’ve got to do a better job. We are called to be stewards of this wonderful place that which God has allowed us to live. After all, we are all it’s got.”
The last speaker, Will Meade, a local thru-hiker of 2012, provided advice and tips, “Either here in town, or if you’re out on a day hike, what makes the Trail so special is the people. When I stopped in towns along the way, the warmth and generosity of the locals that I met enriched my experienced more than I can express. The hikers that I met out there were people of all ages and backgrounds. There might not be a better place to meet a wonderful and diverse group of people than on the A.T. If you run into a hiker, yes, they’ll probably smell, they’ll be dirty, and the guys will be sporting an impressive amount of facial hair, maybe some of the women too.
…a small interaction can lift a hikers’ spirit more than you can possibly know. Listen to their stories, it’ll probably make you want to go out there and hike as well, or at the very least follow your own dreams. The camaraderie on the Trail and the good samaritan complex that exists in the A.T. community is what makes the A.T. so special. I’m excited for this community to be an official part of that now.”
We are so thankful to sponsors who help us in funding the programs that are so important to the Appalachian Trail’s future. So a big THANK YOU goes to American Express Philanthropy for providing $25,000 for the A.T. Community program, which helped to fund EIGHT different designation ceremonies (Duncannon, PA; Warwick, NY; Monson, ME; Abingdon, VA; Ellijay/Gilmer County; Rangeley, ME; Nelson County, VA; and Helen/White County GA), supported coordination of 11 A.T. Ambassadors who contributed over 3000 hours of volunteer outreach and stewardship activities and also the ongoing support to 29 designated A.T. Communities.
Enjoying where I live! Half of Unicoi County – some 60,000 acres – lies in the Cherokee National Forest, and that includes miles of gorgeous hiking trails. Our 100 year old river rock home sits in a place called “The Valley Beautiful” with 360 degree views of the Appalachian Mountains. Our house is a former industrial building built from big round smooth rocks hauled 4 miles from the Nolichucky River – a Class IV whitewater stretch I run in my Tomcat hypalon whitewater kayak. I can put on my pack, grab my hiking sticks, head out my door and walk down the lanes in our town for a mile to a forest department road that winds 2 more miles up the mountain and ends up on the Appalachian Trail right at the Curly Maple Gap shelter. Spring is here – don’t care if its a bit chilly. I’m heading out on the Trail this weekend. – Post by Rob Martin, Community Ambassador to Unicoi County, TN