Dear supporters of the Warrior Hike in A.T. Communities (you know who you are!),
Thanks again to all those who showed hospitality to the hikers by providing food and fellowship, lodging, and moral support when they came through your A.T. Community.
Washington Post – Veterans on Warrior Hike finish Appalachian Trail in Maine; aids transition to civilian life
Bangor Daily News – Walking off their wars: Combat veterans through-hike the Appalachian Trail
JTNews – A walk through the wilderness to walk off the war
Here’s a quote from the Washington Post article that explains how important the support from communities along the A.T. was to the hikers:
Local veterans and community groups along the trail also offered support by transporting the hikers to and from the trail, putting them up for the night in lodges and at their homes and taking them out to dinner, Gobin said. “So to see the outpouring of support from the American people is also a therapeutic part of it,” he said. Hiking the trail forces these veterans, some of whom may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and feel isolated, to socialize. “And what it does is it reconfirms your belief in humanity, that there’s good people out there and despite what you’ve experienced there’s a lot of good out there,” he said.
You can view more photos and articles and information about the Warrior Hike at www.warriorhike.com and on Facebook.
The “Walk Off the War” program was conceived and developed by the Warrior Hike founder Sean Gobin and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.
Post by Rebecca Kyle of James River High School Buchanan, Virginia
The Troutville Trail Days celebration came at the perfect time this year. There was a little bit of apprehension because of the weather forecast, but the rain stayed away and it turned out to be a beautiful day. Following a long week of testing students were able to learn about the history and importance of the Appalachian Trail in the days leading up to the community festivities. In groups of two or three students created posters depicting the 7 principles of Leave No Trace. Their creative works were displayed at the Troutville town park during the trail days events and students volunteered to help teach the principles they learned to younger children. We encouraged participants to create their very own “Leaf” no Trace signs with images of leaf prints. Another great addition to the trail days were the t-shirts. Middle and high school students competed to enter the best design. First, second, and third place winners all came from James River High School!
Alyson, our Ambassador from Front Royal/Warren County, talks about what it means to be an Ambassador, friendly regional competition to get out on the Trail for Family Hiking Day, Benton, how access to the A.T., PATC, what to take with you and the work she’s doing to educate her community and hikers alike!
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.”
Attendance records were set this past weekend during Hot Springs Community Trailfest, held Friday through Sunday, April 19-21. More than 100 thru-hikers were in town for the festival, which catered to both hikers and non-hikers alike. All proceeds from the event went to the Hot Springs Community Learning Center, a non-profit organization that serves children ages three to 12 with preschool, transitional kindergarten, an after-school program, out-of-school care, and holiday and summer camps.
The weekend kicked off on Friday with a spaghetti dinner (that sold out!) and storytelling by North Carolina resident Amy Allen, author of Summoning the Mountains. (Amy hiked the A.T. in 2006; definitely check out her book, which chronicles her completion of the Trail right before turning 40.)
Events on Saturday included plenty of activities especially for thru-hikers, such as hiker games, an ice-cream eating competition, and a talent show, which featured lots of great singer/songwriter acts. Hot Springs was also excited to welcome A.T. hikers participating in the Walk Off the War Program, designed to support veterans transitioning from military service. These Warrior Hikers were honored during a town parade on Saturday afternoon.
Trailfest concluded on Sunday with a pancake breakfast and an afternoon soccer game, which continued to engage both hikers and community members.
A.T. hiker Moose summed up the weekend perfectly. While talking to Randy Anderson (aka “Chuck Norris”) of the Hostel at Laughing Heart Lodge, she commented that the weekend was perfect – not only because of the weather, but because of the fun yet relaxing atmosphere that Trailfest allowed.
The A.T. Community Ambassador volunteers help get school children outside and learning about the environment through education of plants, invasive species, and water and soil science. Franklin Ambassador, Mary Bennett participated in the Kids In the Creek program sponsererd by Coweeta Hydrological Lab Long Term Ecological Research project which got kids donning waders, using scientific equipment and collecting samples to explore stream chemistry, velocity, macro-invertebrates insects, and fish!
“Old Man Winter” certainly reminded everyone that Spring has not sprung in the North Georgia or Western North Carolina mountains. Yet in spite of night temperatures in the 20’s and snowfall, folks were still determined to hike on the Appalachian Trail. As the A.T. Ambassador in Franklin, NC, I felt it my honor and duty to escort my brother-in-law, Bob Uhar to Dick’s Creek Gap in Ga for a short section hike to NC. My sister, Margaret, snapped these pictures in the morning- a chilling 27 degrees! Bob hiked for several days through wind, freezing temps and 2 foot drifts of snow. Coming off Trail at Standing Indian campground he was in good spirits and commented how he was buoyed by the commradery of the hiking community.
Photo of Mary Bennett and Bob Uhar
and Photo of Mary Bennett with ‘Bamboo” and “Shaman”