New Community Supporters in Franklin

The Franklin Chamber of Commerce, First Baptist Church (FBC) of Franklin and Three Eagles Outfitters in NC were recently recognized for its support to the Appalachian Trail Community Program by a visit from AT Community Committee members.

Since Franklin’s formal designation in March 2010 as an A.T. Community the  Chamber has helped build public awareness about the significant resources and economic opportunities the Appalachian National Scenic Trail brings to Franklin as an A.T. Community.  The Chamber highlights Franklin as an AT Community in the New Comers Guide along with AT hike information, and they provide space for an AT display in the Chamber building.

Three Eagles Outfitters was recently recognized for their support to the Appalachian Trail Community Program by a visit from AT Community Committee members. For more than 20 years Three Eagles has offered support for AT hikers. They offer AT discounts, internet service, coffee bar & lounge, in-town shuttles to the store, and free mail drop service for hikers.

FBC serves a free hiker breakfast for four weeks in the spring, takes a photo of each hiker and mails the photo along with a hiker written note home.  Last year the church fed over 800 hikers.



Bill Van Horn- ATCC co-chair, Linda Harbuck- CoC Executive Director, Kristina Moe- ATCC co-chair, Olga Pader- ATCC member, Cindy Cavender- CoC Special Events coordinator and Marketing Director, Diane Baldwin- CoC Administrative Assistant, David Lippy- ATCC member.

AT Supporters Three Eagles

David Lippy- ATCC member,Olga Pader- ATCC member,  Jackie Kussow-Sroka- Three Eagles, Kristina Moe- ATCC co-chair, Kevin Kussow- Three Eagles, Bill Van Horn- ATCC co-chair.

Front row: Dave Lippy & Bill Van Horn- ATCC members
Back row: Patsy Parker- FBC breakfast organizer, Jack Jarrett- FBC associate pastor, Olga Pader-ATCC member & Nantahala Hiking Club president, Mary Beth Houston- FBC office administrator, Robert Brown- FBC pastor.

The A.T. Community Supporter Program is offered by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) as part of its A.T. Community Program.  The Community Supporter Program highlights non-profits, organizations, and businesses that provide support to the hiking community, the Appalachian Trail and/or the ATC by recognizing participating entities as “A.T. Community Supporters.”  Once designated the “Supporter” is recognized with a window decal, certificate and highlighted on the ATC web site.

Franklin’s Membership Movie Success!

Designated Trail Town, Franklin, N.C., hosted a 2013 ATC Membership Drive event October 18, 2013 in the newly constructed Drake Education Center.  Over 80 tickets were sold to the gala evening event featuring Bill & Sharon Van Horn – Franklin’s latest hikers to complete the AT, a Nantahala Hiking Club (NHC) display table with local hike information, refreshments donated by Rosebud Cottage, Life’s Bounty Bakery, Rathskeller Pub, Main Street Coffee, Boiler Room Restaurant and club members, a Trail to Every Classroom student artwork display, guest speaker and author, Amy Allen and the film showing of Appalachian Impressions.  The enthusiastic crowd of young and old enjoyed answering rapid fire Trail Trivia questions and testing their luck on the many raffle items donated by local businesses: Harmony House foods, Smokey Mountain Bike Shop, Three Eagles Outfitters, and Outdoor 76.  Franklin Ambassador, Mary Bennett, was thrilled with the turn out and thanks the ten NHC members who volunteered, thus making the evening a huge success. Ambassador assists membership drive OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

AT Coming to Theaters!

NC_Franklin_FlyerThe film Appalachian Impressions will be hitting theaters this fall as part of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC)’s 2013 membership drive.  Special programs will take place in fifteen cities, five A.T. Communities, along the east coast from CT to FL.

“The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is excited to present this film on the big screen,” stated Javier Folgar, director of marketing and communications of the ATC.  “This event provides the public an excellent opportunity to learn more about the Appalachian Trail and how to get involved with the Conservancy through our membership and volunteer programs.  Every dollar raised will help preserve and manage the A.T. – ensuring that its vast natural beauty and priceless cultural heritage can be shared and enjoyed today, tomorrow, and for centuries to come.  ”

The film highlights the beauty and splendor of the AT . Appalachian Impressions takes viewers on a 6 month journey of thrills and trials through 14 states on the AT from Georgia to Maine.  Franklin residents, Bill and Sharon Van Horn, who have been section hiking the AT for the past several years have just completed their adventure in September of this year.  The couple had this to say about their experience, “Our journey was challenging and very rewarding at the same time, especially meeting hikers and visiting the Trail Towns.”  They will be greeting attendees in the lobby prior to the program.

Nantahala Hiking Club members, Bill and Sharon Van Horn
successfully section-hiked the entire AT, completing the multi- year journey in Sept 2013, joyful at Mt. Katahdin, the Northern Terminus in Maine.

Franklin NC’s program will be packed with displays, hiking information, avid hikers, speakers, the film, raffle items and refreshments.  Many local businesses and organizations have contributed toward the effort.  Lennie Bernstein, an ATC Board Member, who also volunteers to protect and maintain the Trail will speak briefly about the organization. “Our goal is simple: to raise awareness of the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) and to gain the support of 2,180 new members to the ATC (one for each mile of the Trail). Every dollar raised will help preserve and manage the A.T.  That is why we are inviting people, like you, to participate,” sites Bernstein.

Prizes such as water bottles, hats, and an ENO Hammock will also be awarded throughout the event.

Event highlights include: viewing the film Appalachian Impressions on the big screen, meeting “2,000 milers”,a  one year Membership or Gift Membership to the ATC ($40 value),free admission for kids (13 and under, must book online with paying adult), a year subscription to A.T. Journeys, the official magazine of the Appalachian Trail; win cool prizes; make new friends in the Outdoor and Hiking Community; receive an ATC decal and patch; protect an irreplaceable treasure: the Appalachian Trail. 

amy allen photo
Author, Amy Allen will speak of her 2006 Appalachian Trail experiences. Signed copies of her book, Summoning the Mountains, will be available for purchase before and after the program.

Attendees will have the opportunity to hear Amy Allen author of Summoning the Mountains, who at the age of forty thru hiked the 2,180-mile AT in 2006.  Amy has been a backpacker for over 28 years.  Allen was a founding member of a community wilderness program whose goal was to foster a holistic relationship between today’s families and the outdoor classroom.  She continues long-distance hiking and has completed Black Mountain Crest Trail, Foothills Trail and parts of Benton MacKaye Trail.

Summoning the Mts book cover medium size
Summoning the Mountains

One of Amy’s favorite quotes from her book is,

“Walking the backbone of these mountains calls to mind that this ancient ravaged place is a fold in the earth’s surface, a fold created when geological pressures crushed the continental plates together millennia ago.  A fold.  A place of great change.  Fierce winds accompany me along this mountain apex of potential–wind, omnipotent agent of change. Acceptance and peace wash over me. Quietly, I walk.”

More about the author can be found at

The ATC membership drive event takes place at the newly opened Drake Educational Center,  210 Phillips Street (Carolina Mt), Franklin, NC October 18, 2013 from 7:00pm – 9:30pm (refreshments at 6:30pm).

Registration includes a new membership or gift membership to the ATC..  Tickets are available online and can be purchased for $30.00 per adults; reserve seats by visiting .  Local AT Community Ambassador, Mary Bennett, encourages interested attendees, “To enter the discount promotional code: FRANKLIN2013, to receive $5 off each ticket cost.  Families may book a free seat for children under 13 years of age (limit 3)  To reserve your seat or for more information visit

For more information for Franklin’s event: Contact Mary Bennett, AT Ambassador, at (828) 369-0421


Kids + Creek = Science Fun

035The 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!

Ambassadors 2013

Inspiring their communities to get involved with the A.T., these Ambassadors are the front line in getting information out about stewardship opportunities and inviting residents to experience the wonder of the Trail.  Meet them. Say thanks:)

Marsha Conner – Dahlonega, GA
Daniel Windham – Helen/White County, GA
Grady and Harrison Garner – Blairsville/Union County, GA
Mary Bennett – Franklin, NC
Anne Baker – Hot Springs, NC
Janet Hensley – Unicoi County, TN
Rob Martin – Unicoi County, TN
J.D. Hibbitts – Damascus, VA
Diana Billips – Bland County, VA
Tim Miller – Troutville, VA
Jennifer Keck– Luray/Page County, VA
Alyson Browett – Front Royal/Warren County, VA
Wendy Hershey – Harpers Ferry/Bolivar, WV
Paul Smith – Duncannon, PA
Cassandra Kessman – Harlem Valley A.T. Community (Dover & Pawling), NY
Patty Harding – Monson, ME

Marsha ConnerMarsha Conner is no stranger to the Dahlonega, GA community, its history, people, and culture. Her namesake, Conner, has been a family unit in Dahlonega for several generations. Learning about the outdoors in the North Georgia mountains has been a part of her life since she was a child. As a college student at The University of North Georgia (’73) in Dahlonega, Marsha spent her free time exploring the backroads and trails of the North Georgia mountains in her spiffy, yellow VW Beetle. After career years in North Carolina and exploring the NC/VA Highlands, Marsha returned to the North Georgia area and resumed exploring the forests and the rivers she had known in her youth. Marsha is co-founder of a hiking group at her church, and has planned recreational hikes, camping events, and outdoor adventures for over six years for this group. Marsha’s professional background includes an MEd degree from the University of Georgia (’75) and experience in law enforcement, public safety, military, training, aviation, and marketing. She looks forward to putting her skills to work on behalf of the ATC and Dahlonega to promote Dahlonega as a great Appalachian Trail Community.

DanielAt an early age, Daniel dreamed of being a hiking guide in the Alps.  Taking the first opportunity to travel through Europe, he jumped at the occasion.  Now, and for the past 18 years,(15 of which living in N. Italy), Daniel has guided throughout the world, working with Rainier Mountaineering, and Wilderness Travel.  “As my family has grown, now with 3 children, the moment has come for dedicating more time to being home, and to giving back to the wilderness, a little of what it has given me.”

summit pictureHarrison and Grady Garner,  are brothers from Blairsville. Grady graduated from Young Harris College with a B.A. in Music and Harrison works for Blairsville’s Humane Society Thrift Store Operation and Animal Shelter.  Both brothers successfully thru-hiked the A.T. in 2012.

GE DIGITAL CAMERAMary Bennett has lived in the Franklin community for twenty years and loves the mountains and forests in the Nantahala region. She is an educator, artist, horticulturalist, and hiker.  She enjoys working with local schools, designing environmental service learning opportunities for students and leading nature-oriented activities for families.  Her passion is discovering the woodlands natural beauty as  it inspires her creativity and artwork.   This being her second year as Franklin’s Ambassador, she is enthusiastic about introducing more people to hiking, camping, and backpacking along the A. T.

AnneA Madison County native, Anne has a double Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Technical Photography from Appalachian State University in Boone. She has professional experience in media, social networking and in the field of education. Her passion for the Trail developed last summer while hiking the A.T. with her father, completing a total of 200 miles through TN and NC.  “I’ve seen what the Appalachian Trail means to the community and what the community means to the Trail. I’ve realized that the Trail provides a wonderful place for family and friends to come together in a way that only the stillness of the woods allows.”

Janet HensleyJanet, AKA Miss Janet, has been involved with the A.T. in Unicoi County for a number of years as the owner of one of the town’s hiker hostels and as the coordinator of A.T. Summit Seminars, meant to generate greater understanding and positive relationships between hikers and the local business community. This is her second year serving as a Unicoi County A.T. Ambassador. 

RobMartinJune2012Joining Miss Janet this year is Rob Martin. Rob graduated from East Tennessee State University with a Master’s Degree in Computer Science. He is an ATC member and a Life Scout in Boy Scouts of America. As an A.T. Community™ Ambassador, he plans to volunteer his time maintaining the Trail and providing support to hikers. As an avid outdoorsman, Martin frequently hikes along the A.T. and kayaks in the Nolichucky River.

J.D.J.D. Hibbitts grew up in Southwest Virginia, but roamed the globe for a few years as an enlisted member of the U.S. Air Force. After finishing his enlistment, he enrolled at Emory & Henry College. Most recently, he finished his M.F.A. at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana. He has been a dishwasher, a granite salesman, a warehouse worker, and a writing instructor. His writing appears in the following publications: ThugLitSan Pedro River Review, AT Journeys Magazine, Sugar House ReviewClinch Mountain ReviewPrime Mincer, Jimson Week, Blue Collar Review, Poydras Review, and The Sierra Nevada Review, among others.

Diana Billips 2013 Diana is a board member of the Piedmont A.T. Hikers, operates the club’s hiking program, including monthly hikes, family FUN hikes and the “70 Mile Club.” She is responsible for maintaining a section of the A.T., is a lifelong resident of southwest Virginia and an avid hiker. This is her second year as an Bland’s Ambassador.
timTim attended Virginia Tech and attained a BS Degree in Forestry and Wildlife and a MA in Education.  He is currently a teacher at Central Academy Middle School in Botetourt County where he completed the ATC’s Trail to Every Classroom program in 2011. Miller is an Eagle Scout, lifelong hiker and backpacker.

Jennifer KeckJennifer serves on the Front Royal/Warren County A.T. Advisory Board, but is a liaison as Ambassador to Luray and Page County.  She graduated from the University of Kentucky with a BS  in Agriculture. She is the president of the Shenandoah Valley Tourism Association and the former Director of Tourism for Front Royal.  A trained Master Naturalist, she hopes to promote Trail-friendly policies in the local government.

Alyson (2)Alyson is an avid hiker and naturalist who has spent time in the woods around northern Virginia her entire life. As a public health professional, personal trainer and chef, she is interested in making people more mindful of how health, exercise and nutrition intersect. She hopes to use her position as an A.T. Ambassador to build a stronger awareness of the Trail, encourage volunteerism, conservation efforts and inspire community members to go outside for some fresh air.

Wendy HersheyWendy has a BA in Communication Disorders & Speech Science from the University of Colorado. She is an A.T. section hiker and looks forward to promoting Trail awareness with community outreach, educational events, Trail maintenance projects, and community hikes. Over the past four years, she successfully organized the Valentines for Vets program in her community, delivering over 300 handmade Valentines to local Veterans Hospitals each year. “I am passionate about the Appalachian Trail.  I love exploring on it.  I love the history behind it.  I love the permanence of it.”

Paul Smith, 2012 Ambassador to Duncannon, PA Paul Smith has a Degree in Forest Technology from the Pennsylvania College of Technology. He was involved in the designation of Duncannon as a Trail community in 2012 and helped coordinate the completion of a Trail themed mural in town. He enjoys outdoor activities such as hiking, boating, gardening, and planting trees. This is Smith’s second year as the A.T. Community™ Ambassador to Duncannon, and he serves as treasurer on the Advisory Committee.

CassieCassandra Kessman has a degree in Environmental Studies from MCLA in North Adams, Ma.  She has a love for gardening and native plants and works at Native Landscapes located next to the Appalachian Trail in New York.  She has hiked small sections of the trail in NY, CT, MA, VT and NH providing trail magic to hikers when possible.  She is also the educational director for the Pawling Nature Reserve and enjoys leading educational hikes for her community.  On her days off she enjoys yoga and continuing her education of plants through studying herbalism.

patty 2
Patty Harding is a member of the MATC, Maine Appalachian Trail Club, where she is a trail maintainer on Barren Mountain and corridor monitor in the Hundred Mile Wilderness. She is an avid outdoors woman enjoying year round outdoor activities with a passion for Maine’s mountain summits. Patty is a Registered Maine Guidein Recreation and Sea Kayak. She leads kayak and moosewatch tours on Maine’s rivers, lakes, ponds and ocean through her guide service.