Page County Celebration

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.

Driving into Luray
Driving into Luray

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.

Dinner at the Mimslyn Inn
Dinner at the Mimslyn Inn
Karen Lutz, ATC Mid Atlantic Regional Director, getting excited about the ceremony!
A bustling Luray at the Festival of Spring!

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.IMG_0028

Sonja Carlborg shows us how to make a Quest Stamp.

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.

Front Royal A.T. Advisory Committee
Karen and Luray/Page County A.T. Ambassador, Jennifer Keck

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.”

Lots of media coverage (Washington Post!), added to the success of the celebration: Outdoor Hub, DNR online.

IMG_0013 News Courier Pic

Poem of Purpose

This poem, written by Fred L. Bailey, was read and gifted to each speaker at the Ellijay/Gilmer County A.T. Community Designation:

Appalachian Path

Lonely walking through unknown mountains with doubt and fears
Seeking Life’s meanings and listening to what nature hears
Free from commerce, clutter, clanging and the complicated math
Spring moves northward on the ever changing Appalachian path

Eagerly searching for eye level sky under heavy load
Mossy rocks and blow-downs give knowledge of no road
Flora, fauna, fields and forest – Chosen 1 to roam
Forget the sweating, chafing, aching – Katahdin is my home.

Network of shelter poets are read as dark falls
Whisper stoves are silent before the mice do crawl
Distant lightning with creaking trees provide a sleepless night
But gleaming dew on golden grass gathers morning light.

Fellow trekkers become friends as summer’s heat does pour
Buds give way to leaves as hawks lazily soar
Hot Springs, Harpers, Hanover villages fall in victory pile
Strong legs ascending and descending like ants in file

The ridgeline corridor air cools as summer confronts fall
Conflicting emotions grip me as journey’s end does call
Thru-hiking is almost perfection except a good hot bath
Sill memories continue about the ever changing Appalachian path.

Helen and White County Celebrates!

group w
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: