Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Water Gap Power Line Issues

On January 30, 2012 the eNews Park Forest website carried a story titled "Water Gap Transmission Corridor Legally Vulnerable" which opined in its opening paragraph that
A plan to carve an electric transmission mega-corridor through the most scenic stretches of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area and the Appalachian National Scenic Trail will be crippled by legal challenges, according to comments filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Ironically, moves by the Obama administration to accommodate the project sponsors have created the basis for successful lawsuits to block it.
The details of the "review" process as outlined in the article really make one wonder. And hope that the vulnerability isn't just wishful thinking.

Monday, January 30, 2012

2011 Hikers LaVigne Give Talk

The Concord Monitor of 28 January has a community news column titled "'For the Love of Animals' is today" by Kathleen Butcher in the Hopkinton Town Crier section.

The basics: 2011 Thru-hikers Justin and Patrice LaVigne are speaking about their hike (with PowerPoint and sample gear) twice on 9 February: "The first will be held at 1:30 p.m. at the Slusser Senior Center and the second will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the library."

That would be Hopkinton, New Hampshire.

Tuscarora Trail Touted

Chambersburg, Pennsylvania's Public Opinion has a neat little article about the 250-or-so mile Tuscarora Trail, probably the longest blue blazed trail on the A.T. The article, by Tom Gilbert, is titled "On the trail: Tuscarora Trail." (I don't see a date on the article, but it's about 28 January or so.)

Overseen by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, the southern end is in Virginia and it runs through West Virginia, Maryland, and into Pennsylvania before re-joining the A.T. The PATC is building shelters every 10 miles or so.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Swatara Construction Will NOT Re-Route Trail

Pennsylvania's Lebanon Daily News of 27 January 2012 has a story by Andrea Gilhoolley titled "Construction at Swatara State Park under way" which outlines the start of state-funded work on parking lots, bridges and other infrastructure in the Park.
Mountain bike trails, Appalachian Trail and Waterville Bridge will remain open, as will a section of the rail-trail. The Swatara Creek Water Trail will require portage around the bridge construction.

Most of the park is located along Interstate 81 between Second and Blue mountains. An 8-mile stretch of the Swatara Creek Water Trail winds through the park, and two miles of the Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Georgia to Maine, cross its southern sector.
Remember that old iron bridge over the Swatara Creek?

Wenger Heading to ATC

The Wall Street Journal thinks the change of leadership at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy is important enough for it to cover. On 27 January, under the headline "Va. man takes over Appalachian Trail Conservancy," they include a clipped Associated Press release on it and give a nod to the West Virginia Public Broadcasting story, too.

Water Gap Power Line Land Swap

The Pocono Record of 27 January 2012 has another David Pierce article on the Delaware Water Gap power lines land swap story for those willing to yield up a name, an email address, and a ZIP code. The title, "PPL customers would cover costs of land swap for power line" would seem to indicate what was obvious from the start: any time a company says it is going to pay for something, you know from the start that its customers (and not its shareholders or executives) are bearing the brunt of the expense.

Students Pointed to the Trail

Georgia Tech's student newspaper The Technique; The South's Liveliest College Newspaper fills its readers in on destination trips students might want to take. (Spring Break already?) Under the 27 January 2012 headline "Seeking thrill on a college budget" Lauren Thompson outlines cost-saving tips for a trip to Florida, or one to North Carolina for white water rafting and hiking. The hiking part reads:
As soon as your body has recovered from the rafting trip, go for a hike. The Appalachian Trail (AT) runs right along the Ocoee River and offer a great place to explore the local flora and fauna. The AT snakes all the way from Georgia up to Maine, allowing hikers to hike until their heart’s content. Pack a tent, food, sleeping bag and other essentials and hit the trail. Hiking the trail is free, so if your budget is tight, skip the rafting and spend the weekend hiking. Although the initial purchase of camping and backpacking gear can be pricey, hiking is always free and the gear can always be rented from a local outdoors store or here at ORGT.
Yeah, skip the rafting.

Friday, January 27, 2012

A.T. as Locator

Stephanie Harbaugh of the Record Herald from Waynesboro, Pennsylvania on 26 January 2012 knows that when she has to pinpoint a car-damaging dislodged manhole cover on Route 16, all she needs do is quote Sean McFarland, Washington Township Municipal Authority manager, when he says
“I was notified by Mike Christopher, township manager, of the cover and I myself went out to the location — eastbound lane of Route 16 near the Appalachian Trail — where I found the cover laying beside the manhole,” said McFarland, who put it back in its proper position.
I'd like to think that everyone in Washington Twp. knows where the A.T. is.

The article is titled "Dislodged manhole cover damages vehicles in Washington Township."

Thursday, January 26, 2012

More on the Water Gap Power Lines

Two more articles in the Pocono Record hiding behind their request/requirement that people give up their names, email addresses and ZIP code information before reading the online paper deal with the Delaware Water Gap situation.

By David Pierce is one titled "Appalachian Trail director critical of land trade for power line project".

The other is also by David Pierce, entitled "Conservationists paint picture of power line blight".

Both were published 25 January 2012.

Water Gap Power Line Land Sawp

On 24 January 2012 the online Pocono Record carried an article, by David Pierce, is headlined "National Park Service: Too soon to decide on land swap for power line." But their policy is apparently to restrict access to articles within days of their publication, unless one signs up ["FREE Registered Members of PoconoRecord.com can read 10 articles per month from all departments – at any time, from anywhere! Sign up now."], so we can't read it.

The content is, one would guess, about the Delaware Water Gap situation.

Wilderness First Aid Training

Elizabethton, Tennessee's Elizabethton Star reports in its 25 January issue that the "ATC offers wilderness first aid certification training Feb. 27-28".

The details are that the Appalachian Trail Conservancy
is accepting applications for their Wilderness First Aid Course at the Twin Creeks Science and Education Center in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Gatlinburg. The public is welcome to take this training opportunity alongside Appalachian Trail Ridgerunners.
Cost: $150. Dates: 27-28 February. To enroll or for more information, please contact Andrew Downs with the ATC at (828) 254-3708 or adowns@appalachiantrail.org.

GMC Presenting in Manchester, Vermont

The Manchester Journal (from Vermont) announces "Dorset Library to host Green Mountain Club" in its 25 January issue.

This means that
The Green Mountain Club will be the featured guest at the Dorset Library during the month of February. The opening reception will be held at the library on Saturday, Feb. 4, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. where members of the club will be present to provide information about the club and its history.
And, since the GMC maintains the magnificent Long Trail as well as the AT (when it sits on top of the older LT) "it's all good."

Hiker Food Is Not Bear Food

"Getting bears out of backpacker food fare" is the title of a story in the 25 January Smoky Mountain News. It highlights ATC grant of
$2,000 from its specialty license plate funds to the Friends of the Smokies group for the installation of poles and cables that backpackers can use to store food out of the reach of black bears.
This was done at the Spence Field and Peck’s Corner Shelters.

Wenger Heading ATC

West Virginia Public Broadcasting's web site has a 25 January 2012 story by Cecelia Mason about Mark Wenger taking over as executive director of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. The story, titled "Appalachian Trail Conservancy sees change" comes with a 4 minute downloadable MP3 audio clip.
He says the biggest challenge for the Conservancy is engaging the next generation “to not only participate but embrace the outdoors, the conservation, and the outdoor ethics as we say.”
He's also a 2,000 miler himself.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Human Remains Found Near Trail in Georgia

AccessNorthGA.Com carries an article titled "Towns Co. authorities await ID on human remains" and written by B.J. Williams, editor, and posted on 23 January 2012. The relevant point for us is that
Chief Deputy Jeff Edge said hunters found the remains near the Appalachian Trail at the Towns/White County line Sunday, January 15.

"[The remains were] within a few hundred yards of the Appalachian Trail," said Edge.
The remains are "several months" old. And the article is datelined Hiawasee.

NOTE: similar story in the Clay County Progress of 26 January 2012, "Remains found in Towns County," adding that the remains appear to be of a male.

IAT Books and Documentary Coming Soon

The 23 January 2012 issue of the Western Star, western Newfoundland's only daily newspaper, has a brief article featuring upcoming film and book coverage for the area's section of the International Appalachian Trail. The headline is "International trail to get international exposure."

Monday, January 23, 2012

Family Aims to Thru-Hike This Year

The web site of WLFI.com channel 18 in West Lafayette, Indiana has a news story about another family intent on hiking the Trail. It was published on 22 January 2012 and updated on 24 January. The headline is simply "Family to hike Appalachian Trail."
The Rainwaters will begin hiking on March 13, and plan to finish the trail on September 26. That also happens to be Dean and Lisa's 15th wedding anniversary.
The family includes
The Rainwater's fifteen-year-old son, Forest, [who] is working hard to finish his homeschooling before the family sets out on their adventure. Their youngest son, River, will have to find time in the long days of hiking to study. The family said hitting the books on the trail will be worth it in the end.
Someone in my household just suggested to me that the boys might get trail names like "Fred" or "Donald" while they're out hiking.

The family has, of course, a web site: http://rainwater2012.com/

Cold Weather Lesson

Harry Dietz writes in the Reading Eagle, Reading, PA on 22 January 2012 under the headline "Let's not turn cold shoulder on needy". He's pleading for compassion for the homeless, especially during cold winter nights, and uses an A.T. experience as his opener:
The two coldest nights of my life were spent in a tent.

The coldest one was in a camping area just off the Appalachian Trail. It was late fall, and I was unprepared for the temperatures, which dropped below freezing. I slept on a thin pad in a thin sleeping bag. Actually I didn't sleep much because I was so cold. I learned a lot that night about being prepared.
Of course the point is that hikers either sooner or eventually get to go home and warm up, while the truly homeless don't. Remember that next time you're out on the Trail griping about the weather: you're out there voluntarily.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Huge Power Line Towers Proposed for Water Gap

OK, thanks to David Pierce of the Pocono Record writing under headline "Power companies offer to trade with park service for power line" on 21 January 2012, here are some specifics on the plan to run power lines through the Delaware Water Gap:
The line would cross federal lands in an existing utility right of way predating the park, though current 95-foot-high transmission towers would expand to 195 feet. The right of way might be widened from 100 feet to 300 feet. Lines supplying 500 kilovolts of power would be added to the existing 230-kilovolt line.

Opponents fear the taller towers will mar the scenic view, detracting from the park experience, and result in herbicide use that would pollute the environment.
The "National Park Service has the final say on whether the line can cross the park and the Appalachian Trail" and (according to a power company spokesperson) the land deal is "actually contingent on the park service choosing the route we proposed" so they say specifying what land they might buy for the Park Service is therefore "premature."

Oh, yeah, the power company
concedes the power project route will impact the park, but says additional land purchases present new opportunities to enjoy the natural environment.
How can towers some 10 stories higher and a right of way 3 times as wide NOT affect the Trail? Three hundred feet wide is a football field's length, for crying out loud.

What IS Thru-Hiking Really Like?

The Coloradoan.com, a Gannett News site, carries the 21 January 2012 column by Tim Nielsen titled "Appalachian Trail takes hiking to extremes." In it, Nielsen lists or describes pretty much all the stresses of thru-hiking, including the weather, the ups and downs, the long green tunnel, the smell, the insects, the cost ("$1.50 to $2.50 a mile") and the tedium
It also is said that life is different on the trail. Really? With an itinerary consisting of wake up, cook breakfast, break camp, walk 15 miles, stop, make camp, eat dinner, sleep, repeat 150 times, this sounds pretty routine to me.
But I can't make up my mind whether he's writing tongue in cheek, trying to keep the amateurs off the Trail, or is serious. his closign pragraph reads: "I do wish people well who attempt and complete this journey. I am just not sold on the idea, yet."

What do you think? Serious?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Hike Hallie Christian Noted

A profile of a recent 2,000 miler -- the Rev. Hallie Christian -- appears in the Sun Post-Herald out of Cleveland, Ohio. Published on 20 January 2012, the article is titled "Sun Post-Herald Person of the Week: Rev. Hallie Christian".

Here's the scoop:
Christian recently fulfilled her lifetime dream of walking the Appalachian Trail. Although she walked on the beginning portion of the trail in Georgia and the end of the trail in Maine, she hadn’t had the opportunity to set foot on the middle of the trail.

With the support of her family, Christian traveled to Chicago and Nashville to walk on four different areas of the trail. She describes the trail as “breathtaking.”
While the article refrains from specifying her age, it does picture her and say that she lives in a "continuing care retirement community." (And I'm not exactly sure why she would have to go through Chicago to get to the Trail if she was coming from Cleveland.)

Thru-Hiker is Film Festival Coordinator

Fence Viewer, "the community news and information website for hancock county, maine" has an article written by Letitia Baldwin and posted on 20 January 2012 that's titled "Adventurers Converge for Banff Festival Party."

So, it's a preview of the film festival that features documentaries about the outdoors and adventure activities. After the November festival out in Alberta, the films tour both Canada and the U.S. And for 18 years, the tour has been stopping in Maine. One of the Maine organizers is Mike Staggs. "Originally from Reading, Pa., Staggs wound up in Maine after hiking the 2,181-mile Appalachian Trail at age 17. His trail name is “Eco Warrior.”"

October Hiking in North Carolina

The Citizen-Times of Asheville, NC mentions our A.T. in an article about their school calendar titled "Asheville school officials learn more about non-traditional calendar" that was written by Julie Ball on 20 January 2012.

She writes:
For some Macon County students, a weeklong break in October was a chance to get some extra help with their studies.

For others, it was a chance to take a trip with other students to the Appalachian Trail or a local museum, or it was simply a good time for a vacation.
Let's hope lots took the time to go hiking. And, if they did, that the school officials keep the calendar that affords this break.

Trail Ambassador Program

This is sort of meta-informational, but a web site called Examiner.com is commenting on the fact that "The Appalachian Trail now has “ambassadors”" in a Merlyn Seeley post dated 20 January 2012. He zeroes in on Mary Bennett being named the Trail Ambassador in Franklin, NC, and explains a little about the program.

Power Lines Through The Water Gap?

The NJSpotlight website carries a potentially troubling article about power company proposals to run power lines through the Delaware Water Gap, if they get "fast track" approval from the National Park Service.

The article or post is called "Utilities Offer to Swap Open Land for Power Project OK; Proposal comes as new hearings begin on environmental impact of high-voltage power lines through Delaware Water Gap and Highlands" and is written by Tom Johnson on 20 January 2012.

As I understand it, the utilities -- Public Service Electric & Gas, PPL Electric Utilities -- want to be able to run their new high voltage power line through the area and think they can "mitigate" the damage by purchasing land elsewhere and donating that land to the Park Service to make up for it.

The utilities claim that "the acquisitions would protect scenic vista for hikers on the Appalachian Trail and significantly expand National Park Service land holdings in and around the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area".

There isn't a map with this article to point out just where the line will run, but it does say that "The 145-mile proposal mostly follows the path of an existing 85-year-old power line, but has generated enormous opposition because a portion of its 45-mile route in New Jersey crosses the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, the Middle Delaware Natural Scenic and Recreational Area, and the Appalachian National Scenic Trail."

On the one hand, this deal "could potentially bridge gaps between existing federal and state lands in the area. It would create a half-million-acre swath of contiguous publicly owned or preserved natural lands for recreation and wildlife preservation", but "it has been strongly backed by business interests because it is expected to ease congestion on the power grid in New Jersey, which greatly inflates electric bills. PSE&G estimates the project will save consumers more than $200 million per year in a state burdened with some of the highest electricity rates in the country."

Strong backing by business, and the fact that the utilities are projecting huge savings for customers make me suspicious. Very suspicious. Especially when lots of environmental groups are protesting. When has something like that ever turned out good?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Damascus Still Cool

"Damascus: Coolest Town In America? Damascus Is Finalist For The Title Of Coolest Small Town" is the title of Drew Hinesley's piece on the WCBY.COM News 5 web site, posted on 19 January 2012 and updated on 20 January.

Either through editing or, well, something else, the item does not explain whence the "coolest small town" contest. Nor does it make clear (to me, at least) whether the 'Bill Leonard, owner of Adventure Damascus' quoted in the opening paragraph is the same person as the 'Detroit transplant Serial' quoted in the third paragraph.

Still, Damascus is a pretty cool town for hikers and others passing through.

Snow on the Trail

Milt Gross writes in the 19 January 2012 Waldo Village Soup, from Waldo, Maine about ice. Snow and ice. Cold weather hiking. And did I mention the ice?

The article is titled "Down the Road a Piece" and begins so:
I’ve trudged through snow so deep on the Appalachian Trail above Grafton Notch that the snow covered the eye-level white blazes that hikers in other seasons follow from Georgia to Katahdin.
Yeah. That's a lot of snow.

Sanford Still Not Hiking

The News & Observer Publishing Company based in the South somewhere (again, these web sites news organizations have seem often to hide basic information about themselves) has a piece by Daryl Lease, an editorial writer for The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, VA, in which his lead reads:
I do hope our dear friends in South Carolina have FEMA on speed dial. The 2012 presidential campaign, now roughly 1,175 days old, is upon them. No less a personage than former Gov. Mark Sanford, who has returned from not walking on the Appalachian Trail, is worried about the wreckage that will be left behind by Saturday's Republican primary.
Ah, well, that phrase probably will always pop up whenever Sanford is mentioned. The article is titled "In South Carolina, politics is a calling". It's dated 19 January 2012.

Federal Money for Maine Conservation

Valerie Tucker, writing in the Sun Journal from Lewiston, Maine, on 19 January 2012 shares conservation news under the headline "Maine gets $8.7M for 17,600-acre forest conservation project in Franklin County".

The opening sentence carries the surprising (in these tight economic times) part: "Federal awards totaling $8.73 million will protect two Western Maine forest properties from development." Federal money? For conservation??

Here are some of the details on what's being done.
Most of the funding — $7 million — which comes from the U.S. Forest Legacy Program, will go toward preserving 11,800 acres of Plum Creek's working forest on and around Crocker Mountain in Carrabassett Valley, according to the Maine Department of Conservation. [on which mountain logging, or "timber harvesting," will continue] ...

The land buffers 10 miles of the Appalachian Trail and will add 3 miles to snowmobile Route 115 of Maine's Interconnected Trail System, along with 4 miles of the ATV trail system. Protecting the property from development will guarantee access for other types of recreation, including hunting, hiking, mountain biking and cross-county skiing. ...

The second High Peaks Conservation Project is Orbeton Stream in Madrid Township, for which the state will receive $1.73 million for the purchase of a conservation easement over 5,808 acres of family-owned timberland. ...

The Orbeton property provides views of the Appalachian Trail and includes a 6.4-mile section of snowmobile Route 84 of Maine's ITS system, which will be made available for public use. ...

Snowmobile and ATV clubs will have new access to western Maine trails that previously been off limits.
I'm not personally a big fan of snowmobiles or ATVs, but there you go. These kinds of arrangements are always complicated. In this case, involving US Senators and several local groups: "Chris Beach, a member of the Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust and the High Peaks Alliance, said the funding acknowledges the tireless work of several local conservation and recreation groups."

SEE ALSO: Maine Public Broadcasting Network's web site for a story reported by Keith Shortall titled "Federal Funds to Help Preserve Land in Maine's Franklin County" on 19 January 2012.

AND the same information in MainBiz.com on 20 January.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Another Trail Ambassador Named

A short note in the Smoky Mountain News from Waynesville, NC under the headline "Franklin now has AT “ambassador”" and dated 18 January 2012 brings the welcome news that "Mary Bennett has been chosen to serve as the volunteer ambassador for the designated Appalachian Trail Community of Franklin."

Bennett "is an educator, horticulturalist and hiker; she has section hiked much of the A.T.". Her job is to be a face in the place, to personalize the Trail at the local level.

Walmart Protection Money

Asheville, NC's Mountain Xpress dated 18 January 2012 has a post by Margaret Williams titled "Blue Ridge Forever receives $500,000 grant to protect 12,000 acres in WNC and eastern Tennessee" that spells out details of a grant from Walmart reported here earlier.

The specific mention of the A.T. comes in this paragraph:
At nearly 10,000 acres, Rocky Fork, located just over the border in Tennessee, is the most prominent of six tracts in the project. The Conservation Fund, Cherokee National Forest, and the State of Tennessee acquired it in 2008 in cooperation with Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. Rocky Fork was one of the largest unprotected high-elevation parcels remaining in the Southern Appalachians and is home to an array of rare and endangered species. The grant money will assist in the protection of the final section of Rocky Fork later this year, conserving a haven for wildlife, safeguarding water quality and supporting economic opportunities for neighboring communities.
There are a lot of trout streams in these tracts, hence the leadership role for the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Community Ambassador in Southwest Virginia

"Bland County's Appalachian Trail ambassador" is the headline on the article by Jeffrey Simmons of the SWVA Today staff out of someplace in Southwest Virginia (Bristol maybe? ... it's hard to tell from these web sites). The 17 January 2012 article highlights
Smyth County resident, Bland County beef cattle farm owner, horseback rider and general lover of the outdoors Diana Billips [who] has been named a community ambassador for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.
Billips leads hikes throughout the year for Piedmont Appalachian Trial Hikers and maybe other clubs. She and her dog are pictured.

Roger Tetreault to Talk His Hike

The Patriot Ledger of Quincy, Massachusetts has a story in its 17 January 2012 online edition titled "Milton Public Library hosts talk about hiking Appalachian Trail" which seems to come from the GateHouse News Service.

The gist of the story is that
On Sunday, Feb. 5 from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., in the Keys Community room of the Milton Public Library, Roger Tetreault, of Boxborough, will talk about his 2,176-mile hike of the Appalachian Trail.
Doesn't say just when Roger hiked Sounds like fun, though.

NOTE: similar announcement in the 25 January 2012 issue

Cooperation Renovating Shelters in Smokies

The Mountain Xpress of Asheville North Carolina carries the story about the reconstruction of the trail shelters in the Smokies under the title "Partners work to protect backpackers and bears in the Smokies" on 17 January 2012.
The online National Parks Traveler blogs the Danny Bernstein story "Mark Wenger Named Appalachian Trail Conservancy Executive Director" on 17 January 2012.

Indiana Hiker Becomes Musher

The 17 January 2012 Crawfordsville, Indiana Journal-Review online version carries a story by Andy Barrand titled "Dashin’ Through the Snow: Former musher gives presentation at CDPL" in which he describes a presentation at the public library about dog-sledding the Iditarod by 3-time musher Karen Land.
After college Land was looking for an adventure, so she hiked the Appalachian Trail with Kirby [her dog] by her side. While on that hike she picked up the book “Winter Dance” at a library along the way. The book was about Gary Paulsen’s rookie run at the Iditarod.
So a thru-hiker from the 1990s, I'm guessing, becomes a musher. Wonder which of the kids listening to her talk got inspired to do what.

Snowy Shenandoah Hike Pictures

The Scholars and Rogues blog follows up on its own post with some winter hiking pictures on 16 January 2012 from the A.T. in the Shenandoah National Park (can't mistake that cement/concrete post!). The blog post is titled "Scenes from the Appalachian Trail, just for us."

As freakishly warm as so much of this winter has been, it's good to see a little ice and snow, even if just in online pictures.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Cool Damascus Virginia

The Tri-Cities.com site carries the 16 January 2012 story titled "Damascus among 10 coolest towns in America". The top ten list is being put together by online voting sponsored by Budget Travel Magazine, with final results not to be published until the September/October issue.

The Damascus -- A.T. connection is highlighted:
Damascus is a one-time logging town on the Virginia-Tennessee border, nestled between swaths of national forest and reborn in the last decade as a home to Appalachian Trail through-hikers and Virginia Creeper Trail bicyclists.

With the Appalachian Trail running through the middle of town, Damascus plays host every year to the Trail Days festival, huge weekend gathering focused on hikers.
Very interestingly, too, one resident is quoted as saying that "We don’t want to be too discovered" and lose their small town appeal.

Hikers Connect Thru Facebook

"Facebook Plays Role In Appalachian Trail Hike: Friends Reconnect On Social Networking Site" is the title of the WMTW.COM ABC News 8 web site story about the two women, Sue Twombley and Denise Scales, who hooked up over Facebook after being in school together years ago. They are training for a thru-hike.

The 16 January 2012 post says that they are beginning to carry "fully loaded packs" starting today. And that they intend to start their hike on 29 February.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Bryson's Book Reviewed

It's been a while, but here's a new review of Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods, done by Chris Mackowski in the website or blog "Scholars and Rogues" on 16 January 2012. Under the title "Bill Bryson's Pleasant 'walk'," Mackowski begins his favorable review with these words:
I’m sure I’m not the only person who’s read Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods and had a burning urge to go hike the Appalachian Trail. Of course, that might also have something to do with the fact that my girlfriend is heading there today to hike part of it. But whatever.
He recounts some of his encounters with pieces of the Trail including "my favorite stretch of the AT heads into the woods at the northern border of Gapland State Park" [make that Gathland].

So once again Bryson gets people out into the woods, or at least just more aware of them.

Frontier Soups Trades on Trail Name

SF Gate, online home on the San Francisco Chronicle, carried a press release on 15 January 2012 from the Frontier Soups company advertising their Super Bowl package.
The specially-priced Super Bowl Party Pack contains four all natural chili mixes and a free Appalachian Trail Cornbread Mix for $24.95, said Trisha Anderson, founder of Frontier Soups.
I don't know. I looked at their website, and the "Appalachian Trail" cornbread sounds like plain old run-of-the-mill cornbread to me. It could actually be really good, though. I haven't had any. The company is based in Waukegan, IL.

Joe Yantachka Book Published

The Rochester, New York Democrat and Chronicle of 15 January 2012 has an article by staff writer Leo Roth that eulogizes a recent hiker Joe Yantachka under the headline "Do It: Yantachka tamed the unknown; Man's journey by canoe, foot is about much more than the scenery."

Yantachka sounds like quite a guy, and you can read his full story in the recently published book Obdurate Odyssey by freelance colleague Phil Livingston as told by Yantachka with illustrations by Bill Alden. The genesis of the story is that
After a co-worker, an exercise nut who ate all the right foods, died at age 63, Joe Yantachka could no longer ignore the voice inside his head.
That led him to hatch
a plan to build a cedar canoe, paddle it to Florida's Gulf of Mexico, then turn around and walk home via the famed Appalachian Trail, a daunting round-trip of approximately 3,000 miles.
The first leg of the trip begins in 2007 near Cooperstown, NY at the headwaters of the Susquehanna River. He paddled down it (crossing under the A.T. which spans the river on the bridge just 'north' of Duncannon, Pennsylvania) to the Chesapeake; then along the coast to Florida and the Gulf. After the 99 day trip, he rested with family for a month, and then headed to Springer to start walking north. He hiked for 6 weeks up into Virginia; got off the Trail for his son's wedding and some shoulder surgery; got back on at Harpers Ferry; and then
A month later he was back in New York and headed toward home along the Finger Lakes Trail when he slipped on a rock and badly sprained his ankle. He called home for a ride just outside Watkins Glen, about 77 miles shy of his doorstep.
The really sad coincidence is that this obviously fit and able man, motivated by the early death (at 63) of his co-worker,
died last June from complications following lung cancer treatment, leaving only this written account to tell his inspiring tale. He was 59.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sandstone on the Trail (or ... the Trail on Sandstone?) in Virginia

Virginia Tech assistant professor of geoscience writes in a 13 January 2012 Wired web post about an A.T. photo under the headline "Friday Field Photo #165: Sandstone Along the Appalachian Trail".

He has a nice photo of "the Tuscarora Formation on display along the Appalachian Trail near Roanoke, Virginia." Most of us walk these rocks and don't know much about them (except how sharp the ones in Pennsylvania seem).

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Eastern Tree Cover Thanks to the A.T.

There's an article on 13 January 2012 in the MailOnline published by Britain's Daily Mail with the headline "Land of the tree: Nasa maps America's forests for first time to reveal how canopy covers a THIRD of the U.S." What interested me most were the remarks by author Louise Boyle about the green eastern United States.
Almost a third of the U.S. is covered in forest. The darkest patches are along the east and west coasts of the U.S where forestry is the most dense. The region surrounding the Appalachian Mountains which runs down the east coast is one of the country's most heavily wooded. Since 1937, the Appalachian Trail has been in place - a 2,181-mile long public footpath that runs from Maine's Mount Katahdin to Georgia's Springer Mountain taking in some of the most breathtaking scenery.
Good for us! Nice map, too.

Call to Re-Open Smokies Shelters

The Mountain Press has published a letter to the editor from Morgan Briggs of Pigeon Forge questioning the Park Service's logic in closing -- and then refusing ever to re-open -- backwoods shelters in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

Under the title "Park service uses poor logic with regard to closed shelters" Briggs focuses particularly on the recent work done at the oft-crowded Icewater Spring shelter. He says some of the crowding could be alleviated were to Park Service to re-open a nearby shelter.
False Gap is a nice, stone shelter, with a fireplace, spring and an excellent location. In the mid-’60s, the park service, in their infinite wisdom, decided to close False Gap. If this shelter was reopened it would be a tremendous asset for the park. It would take a lot of pressure off Icewater.
I guess maybe the NPS logic is that more available shelters will increase the total number of users, rather than spread out the current number, and that would be a bad thing.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Thru-Hikers Logan Sampson and Adrian Jaques

Steve Cartwright profiles A.T. Thru-hiker Logan Sampson under the headline "Play music, hike, live with passion" in the 12 January 2012 Waldo Village Soup out of Waldo, Maine.
Logan is about to set off on a two-month winter hike of the 273-mile Long Trail in Vermont, with a friend. And that’s just a couple of months after hiking the entire Appalachian Trail with a different friend, all 2,181 miles of it, from the summit of Mount Katahdin to Springer Mountain, Georgia.
Only days after graduating from Camden Hills Regional High School, Sampson and classmate Adrian Jaques, of Hope, set off from Katahdin on June 15, 2011. They reached Springer on 11 November. How long will it be before he heads to the PCT with another friend?

Alabama Hiking Trail Society to Meet

Alabama trail news includes the following from the Shelby County Reporter of 12 January 2012 with the headline "4-H Center to host statewide Alabama Hiking Trail Society conference".

One of the speakers at the Alabama Hiking Society meeting 9-11 March 2012 will be keynoter "Michael Leonard, founder of the Alabama Trails Association and the man who led efforts to connect Alabama’s Pinhoti Trail to the Appalachian Trail in Georgia."

Another speaker will be
Tom Cosby with the Alabama Appalachian Trail Initiative [who] will speak about efforts to bring the southern trailhead of the Appalachian Trail to Alabama.

“That has been a source of a lot of talk amongst hikers and it literally takes an act of Congress to be done,” Cuhaj said.
I guess I've had my head in my boots, because I can't recall hearing anything about this effort to extend the southern end of the Trail to Alabama. AL-ME? ME-AL?

Walmart Protecting the Trail

On January 12, 2012 the Sacramento Bee published an unedited press release from Wal-Mart Stores Inc. telling about Walmart's 2012 Acres for America program.

The release is headlined "Walmart Helps Conserve an Additional 49,000 Acres of Critical Wildlife Habitat" The pertinent content is at the end:
Appalachian Trail Habitat Protection Project: North Carolina and Tennessee

Partners: The Conservation Fund, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Blue Ridge Forever and Conservation Trust for North Carolina

This group of seven key parcels collectively protects nearly 13,000 acres of forest and 40 miles of freshwater streams along the Appalachian Trail Corridor, which are home to the imperiled southern Appalachian brook trout, 1,000 species of plants, at least 300 species of birds and 20 species of rare and declining salamanders.
The Acres for America program is a 10-year, $35 million commitment that began in 2005 between Walmart and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) to purchase and preserve one acre of wildlife habitat in the U.S. for every acre of land developed by the company through 2015.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

And Getting Up and Doing It Again

Paul Bowers writes about running the Charleston (SC) Half Marathon in an article in the online Charleston City Paper of 11 January 2012. The article is titled "Trying to avoid rookie mistakes at the Charleston Half Marathon; Run Your Own Race" and begins with an interesting note:
Often when people ask about my long-distance running habit, I am reminded of the first time I met someone who had hiked the entire Appalachian Trail. I asked him how he did it, and he shrugged.

"There wasn't much to it, really," he said. "It was basically just walking, sleeping, and eating for five months."

His nonchalant answer might have been false modesty, but a part of me took him at his word.
Well, yeah, there you go.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Decommissioned Fire Tower Near AT

Elizabethton, Tennessee's "Elizabethton Star" has a 9 January 2012 article by Robert Sorrell titled "Decommissioned fire tower great for winter hike, views".

"The steel fire tower at Holston High Knob, the mountain’s third highest point, was last staffed in 1991. It stands at 4,136 feet above sea level in the Cherokee National Forest [or about 150 feet lower than the FAA beacon]." While access to the tower is blocked by the Forest Service, and reportedly quite dangerous, people are said to climb it.

"The fire tower on Holston Mountain has been listed in the National Historic Lookout Register." (I've never heard of such a register. See what you can learn reading the newspapers?)

"Visitors may also access the tower from the Appalachian Trail. Take the Appalachian Trail from Cross Mountain to the Double Springs Shelter, where it intersects the Holston Mountain Trail. It is a fairly lengthy hike, about 12 miles long, but is popular among area hikers."


Mark Sanford Again

There's a post in the Huffington Post by Christopher Lamb on 9 January 2012 titled "South Carolina: The State Of Irony." He points out the comedic reputation of South Carolina's politics (deserved or not). Okay, here's the relevant stuff:
Comedy comes so naturally to South Carolina politicians that they're often at their funniest when they aren't trying to be, such as when former Gov. Mark Sanford put the "whoopee" in whoopee cushion.

In June 2009, Sanford went AWOL without telling anyone, including, presumably, his staff. When asked about the governor's whereabouts, his befuddled spokesman told reporters that Sanford was "hiking the Appalachian Trail." In reality, Sanford, who had run for office on his strong family values, was visiting his paramour in Argentina. Sanford's greatest contribution in office may have been his addition of the phrase, "hiking the Appalachian Trail" to the American lexicon.
Okay, on to other things.

Maine Women Planning a Thru-hike

Don Perkins wrote an article in the 10 January 2012 Portland Press Herald under the headline "Don Perkins: Reconnecting to thru-hike A.T."

The gist of the story is that when Sue Twombley, of Gorham, ME decided to thru-hike this coming season, she hooked up with a friend from middle school, Denise Scales of Scarborough, through Facebook. Okay, maybe not too newsworthy to a lot of people reading this blog, but what if I add that both women have grandchildren and middle school was 35 years ago?

The pair has been training for 6 months, and plans to leave for Georgia in 6 weeks. (Remember when thru-hikes didn't start until Spring?) Their sendoff party is at the Stockhouse Restaurant in Westbrook on 4 February.

Another Mount Washington Death

An article in the 10 January 2012 Lewiston Sun Journal carries the sad news of another death on Mount Washington. Under the headline "Massachusetts hiker dies after 800-foot plunge on Mount Washington" we read
A Massachusetts man who solo hiked up Mount Washington for a day trip on Monday, died during the descent that night, Colleen Mainville, White Mountain National Forest spokeswoman, said on Tuesday.

Patrick Scott Powers, 46, of Mansfield, slipped and fell 800 feet down snow- and ice-covered slopes into Tuckerman's Ravine, she said.

He died of injuries from the fall, Mainville said.
He was hiking solo, and fell sometime between 7 and 8 at night. Crews from several rescue units responded and worked through the night at the site.

Baxter State Park Reservations

The Lewiston Sun Journal of 9 January 2012 has an Associated Press piece titled "Park announces camping reservations date" which "park" is, of course, Baxter State Park. So in case your family wants to walk the final mile up Katahdin with you at the end of your thru-hike this summer ... and you can tell now just exactly what day you're going to summit ...
Park officials say people who show up at the park's Millinocket headquarters on Jan. 17 can make up to two reservations for any time from May 15 to Oct. 15.

The park will also begin its rolling reservation system on the same date allowing campers to use the park's website to reserve lean-tos, tent sites and cabins up to 120 days in advance.

Greg Treinish, AT Hiker

It's just a mention from out there in Bozeman, Montana, but Rachel Hergett, staff writer on the Bozeman Daily Chronicle gives the Appalachian Trail a shout out in her 9 January 2012 "What's Up With That? Making the Cut" piece. It is an alert that this month the Christian Science Monitor is profiling 30 people under 30, and of the 30 people she could have highlighted, she picked Gregg Treinish from Bozeman, mentioning that
He has hiked the Appalachian Trail, was one of the first people to ever trek the Andes Mountains and was named Adventurer of the Year by the National Geographic Society

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Andy Falender Retiring at AMC

The Boston Globe Magazine for 8 January 2012 has an brief interview by Doug Most with the retiring head of the Appalachian Mountain Club headlined "Andy Falender steps down from Appalachian Mountain Club: After 23 years, he reflects on his proudest achievements, biggest regrets, and favorite hikes and huts."

One Q & A:
Have you ever hiked the entire Appalachian Trail? No. This is what happens when you grow up in Indiana; you don’t have the chance to check off these parcels. I’ve done lots of sections of it. I don’t think I saw a mountain till I was 18.
Yeah. I was in Indiana for a couple years. No mountains where I was.

Ohio Teen Honored in Grant to Hiking Club

Jon Baker, staff writer for the Times-Reporter of Dover-New Philadelphia, Ohio, wrote the article titled "Hiking club to receive $5,000 grant in teen's honor" in the 7 January 2012 issue. Great story.

Seventeen year old hiker Daniel Lash loved hiking, especially with his friends in the Garaway Hiking Club. The high school club took (or takes) a trip to the Appalachian Trail each year, Lash participating each of his high school years. Lash died of an undetected heart problem back in 2007 during his senior year.

A former counselor at the school spearheaded an effort to raise money for a fitting memorial, scoring a $5,000 grant from the Pepsi Refresh Project, an initiative begun in 2010 by PepsiCo. Lash's parents are now going to present $3,000 worth of hiking gear and $2,000 toward bus transportation for the club's March hike on the Appalachian Trail, both of which will help some kids get on the Trail who otherwise might not be able to afford it.

9/11 Survivor Plans Thru-Hike

The Gannett newspaper chain's lohud.com website (as in "lower Hudson") carries an article headlined "Grand View woman to walk Appalachian Trail to inspire kindness" that's dated 8 January 2012.

The lead does a good job of setting up the story:
Christine Baker plans to walk the entire Appalachian Trail next summer, and part of the reason why is because she overslept by 15 minutes on Sept. 11, 2001, and thus missed being in the World Trade Center at the time it was attacked.

Instead of buying her coffee at the base of a tower on her way to her public relations job, Baker stood at the ferry terminal in Weehawken, N.J., and watched as the first tower burned.
Then the story goes on to explain that Baker is planning a southbound hike with her dog beginning in June. Furthermore,
She is asking that people dedicate a mile in honor of those who inspire them on the organization’s website, www.walk4good.org. There is no charge to do so, but the person is asked to commit a random act of kindness for someone else.
(Hint: turn the volume down on your speakers before clicking on the website link)

Pinhoti Trail Shelters in Alabama

Alabama will be using a federal grant to, among other things,
construct overnight shelters along the Pinhoti Trail, which begins near Talladega and stretches north for 240 miles to where it joins the Appalachian Trail in Georgia.
This is reported in a 7 January 2012 editorial titled "Money for trails: Alabama putting federal grants to much-needed use" in The Anniston Star.

Water Trails on Lake Michigan

The article "Should Michigan follow other states by investing in Lake Michigan water trails?" by Howard Meyerson of the Grand Rapids Press, is really about establishing trails for canoes in Michigan, a worthy goal.

But the 6 January 2012 article contains not one, but two, comparisons between water trails and the Appalachian Trail. Here they are.
Wisconsin announced just before the holidays it is well on its way to making its 425-mile shoreline a working part of the trail. The water trail is expected to be designated by Congress as a National Recreation Trail. It will be to paddling what the Appalachian and North Country national scenic trails are to hiking: Epic.
Lemberg is nothing if not enthusiastic. The prospect of combining a kayak tour up the Michigan shoreline with a bike tour along U.S. Route 35, the proposed bike route up the Lake Michigan shoreline, makes him giddy. He said the tourism opportunities are astounding when the various modes of travel are combined.

“We should be a world destination on the level of the Appalachian Trail,” Lemberg said. “But we (the state) haven’t been marketing things that way.”
So there you have it: kayaking or canoeing in Lake Michigan in either state is sort of like hiking the Appalachian Trail.

New ATC Executive Director

Web site AlpineZone.Com carries the press release about Mark J. Wenger being appointed to succeed David N. Startzell as ATC Executive Director in a post dated 6 January 2012 and titled "New Executive Director Selected for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy."

Also in the Knoxville News-Sentinel of 8 January 2012 under title "Appalachian Trail Conservancy names new leader."

Hike the AT By Kayaking the Shenandoah

Jill Moon, writing in the Alton, Illinois Telegraph of 6 January 2012, chronicles the thru-hike by Alton native John Weaver. He started on 6 April and summited Katahdin on on 12 October.

The article, headlined "Journey to self along the Appalachian Trail," also notes how the hike changed his life, by prompting him into a career change. One note of especial interest to me about his hike is that
Weaver simultaneously hiked the trail with his college roommate, Mitch Boeh, 25, of Kansas City, Mo., but they split up for about a month. In that time, Weaver figured out a way to kayak the trail and ended up kayaking about 160 miles of the trail on the Shenandoah River with five other people.

Because Weaver started hiking the trail with no vessel in which to float the river, he and the others stood by a road with a sign asking to borrow a kayak or canoe. Someone actually loaned him a kayak, and he paid for someone else’s gas to pick up the kayak when he finished using it.
Which really puts a whole new spin on the concept of "blue blazing".

Something else to look into is that
A good friend of Weaver’s, Greg Snyder, aka "Feather," a trail "handle," who he met on the trail and with whom he hiked a majority of the trail, is making a HD movie about the journey. The trailer can be seen on YouTube by searching "Walking to Katahdin."

Friday, January 06, 2012

Pochuck Boardwalk Invitation

The North Jersey Media Group's web site NorthJersey.com brings us a couple pictures to entice us out onto the Trail this weekend. Published on 5 January 2012 under the headline "A winter hike along the Appalachian Trail in Vernon," you get to see some of the boardwalk through the Pochuck Creek wetland.

Hall of Fame Nominations Requested

The Mountain Times in Boone, NC published a submitted story on 5 January 2012 under the headline "App Trail Hall of Fame accepting nominations." And that's the gist of it:
Deadline for nominations is Wednesday, Feb. 29. Inductees will be announced on Friday, June 8, at the Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame Banquet in Boiling Springs, Pa. The inductees will be enshrined on an Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame Wall of Honor to be located in the Appalachian Trail Museum in Gardners, Pa.
The article gives more specifics about qualifications and how to make nominations, of course. Or you can just zip over to the Museum website for more information.

The press release was also used by Yvonne Mazzulo in an online publication sort of thing called Examiner.com under headline "2012 Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame nominations open" on 7 January 2012.

Hiking Likened to a Honda, Maybe

I'm not sure what this means, but the press release aggregator www.prweb.com posted an online press release from (I think) GOAutoPlus.com on 6 January 2012 that quotes ads from Honda about their sport utility vehicle. Titled GOAutoPlus.com Makes a Leap List With the All-New 2012 Honda CR-V, the line that caught my eye is in this paragraph:
'The all-new 2012 CR-V is here, and it’s designed to help you get to that list of things you always said you’d do before taking life’s next big leap. Like hiking the Appalachian Trail. Or learning the drums. Or shooting a short film. So if marriage is right around the corner, make a Leap List today. And get going on it in the completely-redesigned 2012 CR-V,' says Honda.
So the car will help you get to hiking the Trail. Or something.

Smoky Mountain Shelter Rehab

The Washington Post caught up with the Associated Press release about the Smoky Mountains shelters under the headline 15th and final backcountry shelter renovated in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on 5 January 2012. (See earlier posts on this blog for details)

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Jennifer Pharr Davis Recognized

Spokane, Washington's Spokesman-Review newspaper published a list of people having made marks in the hiking/climbing/outdoors realms during 2011. They call it "2011: Outstanding in their field".

Among those noted (and pictured) is:
Jennifer Pharr Davis, 28, set a record of supported speed hiking on the Appalachian Trail, trekking the 2,180-mile route in 46 days, 11 hours, 20 minutes.
She's also written an article about her hike in the November-December "AT Journeys" (pages 38-41).

AT Museum Awards

An online news site called PublicOpinion.com (related, it seems, to the Chambersburg, Pennsylvania newspaper of the same name) has a local news article recognizing the naming of several people for their contributions to the Appalachian Trail Museum.

Those mentioned are: Jim Foster, 2007 thru-hiker from Mechanicsburg, PA, the 2011 Appalachian Trail Museum Volunteer of the Year; Nancy Robinson of Seven Valleys, PA; Bill and Sharon Van Horn of Franklin, NC; and Joanne Paine of Long Beach, CA.

If you weren't among the 20,000 to visit the Museum in its first two seasons, then go this year.

Tired of Old Mountains? Try the New Ones!

CBS News has put an Associated Press story on its web site on 4 January 2012 that it is headlining "Like walking? Try the Himalayan range, all of it."

It describes a developing tourism and hiking opportunity: "the Great Himalaya Trail, is being touted as an epic, untapped alternative to the bucket-list trek to base camp on the world's highest mountain."

The comparison point is that "Granted, the Great Himalaya Trail lacks the history and utility of the Silk Road, the ancient trade network that linked Asia to Europe, or the cohesion and accessibility of the Appalachian Trail for hikers in the United States."

That's us: cohesive and accessible!

More on the Smoky Mountain Shelters

An article titled "Smokies’ partners renovate their final trail shelter in park" in the 4 January 2012 Smoky Mountain News describes the shelter upgrade project as a real team effort. Among the changes effected were the removal of the chain link fences, which I guess had not been in place long enough to be considered 'historic.'
"Old trail shelters used to have chain link fences around them to keep bears out of backpackers’ food. The renovations have removed the unattractive fencing from all the shelters, and instead installed bear cables, which are actually more effective at keeping bears out of food by hoisting it out of reach."

Post Offices Not Closing . . . Yet

The Smoky Mountain News, Waynesville, NC has Quintin Ellison's 4 January 2012 article titled "Fontana Dam gets a temporary reprieve from post office closure".

The Postal Service had earlier included Fontana Dam on its list of post offices likely to be closed in budget cutting efforts. Now the Congress wants to slow things down (big surprise there, eh?) and consider other options to pull the USPS out of the red.

As readers of this blog probably know, "reliant on the post office in Fontana Dam are the legions of Appalachian Trail thru-hikers who stop to pickup supplies as they traverse the famous footpath, which spans from Georgia to Maine. Many AT hikers, before leaving on their treks, mail themselves food and camping items to various drop points along the trail. Fontana Dam is the last re-supply point before hikers hit a tough stretch of the Smokies."

It could yet happen that the post office (and others along the Trail, like Caratunk, if I remember correctly) will close anyway. Pay attention if you use mail drops. The decision and closings aren't due until after 15 May, which means northern post offices could disappear after you leave on your thru-hike this year.

Waywayanda Map Updates Coming

David M. Zimmer, a staff writer at NorthJersey.com posted a 4 January 2012 article on their web site titled "Wawayanda State Park due for trails map update"

The gist of it is that the New Jersey Geological Survey is going to update the park's trail map under a grant from New Jersey's Green Acres program. The park "is 34,350 acres of mountainous terrain that harbors a 19.6-mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail as well as more than 40 miles of additional trails in its own trail network that provide a veritable playground for area hikers."

Long, Long, Long Distance Hiker Bart Smith

Colin McDonald's article "A long walk through history: Man hiking 550 miles on 300-year-old trail passes through S.A." appearing in the San Antonio News-Express on 5 January 2012 tells us about the current hike of Bart Smith there in Texas. Pretty far from the Appalachian Trail, right? Well there's this:
His dedication to walking has made him a bit of a celebrity in the small community of long-distance hikers. He is the only person to have hiked the nation's 11 Scenic Trails, which include the 2,184 miles of the Appalachian Trail and 2,650 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. It took him 16 years to walk them all, more than 17,000 miles.

That resulted in four coffee-table books of Smith's photos.

Now, at 52, he is working on walking all 19 of the country's Historic Trails. His goal is to complete them by 2018 to mark the 50th anniversary of the National Trails System Act, which President Lyndon B. Johnson signed in 1968.
His wife, Bridgie Graham-Smith, is singled out as the person who often shuttles him, as well as supports him financially through her nursing profession. Bart quit his construction job in 2005 to focus on photography and hiking.

Talk about your long distance hikers!

(Smith's Appalachian Trail photos illustrate The Appalachian Trail: Calling Me Back to the Hills which includes poetry by Earl Shaffer. ISBN:0979565901)

Virginia AT App Funded

I found two paragraphs especially of interest in the 5 January 2012 NVDaily.com (the Northern Virginia Daily, Strasburg, VA) story by Kim Walter headlined "Town growth a priority".

They are:
Another grant of $5,000 was given to Front Royal, Waynesboro and Abingdon for the Virginia Appalachian Trail Smart Phone application. Once the app is fully developed, hikers on the trail will be able to find out which town is closest to them, and what shopping, dining, recreational and lodging options are available.

Additionally, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy has awarded a $1,000 grant to the town towards a ceremony to designate the area as an Appalachian Trail Community. The ceremony is planned to take place on April 21, Earth Day, and will also coincide with the 100th Anniversary Celebration of Girl Scouts.
Pretty cool.

And get those Girl Scouts out on the Trail, too.

Scouts Hiking in Connecticut

Clinton, Connecticut's "Clinton Patch" posts a story on 4 January 2012 titled "Clinton Boy Scouts On An Appalachian Trail Quest" in which we read about 5 Scouts from Troop 7 in Clinton who have begun section hiking the 53 miles of Appalachian Trail in the nutmeg state.

There's a patch involved, presumably from the Scouts ... or maybe a local Trail club ... or maybe the people at the Clinton Patch ... it isn't clear to me who will award it when they complete the hike. Or whether we'll be reading these boys' names on a list of thru-hikers in the future.

Wesser Bald Protection Assured

The staff at the Smoky Mountain News, Waynesville, North Carolina, published a short piece on 4 January 2012 entitled "AT Bald Trail permanently protected" in which they describe the protection of Wesser Bald by means of the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy transferring 35 acres to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and the U.S. Forest Service. The land was purchased by the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy back in 2007, and the funds needed to transfer it to ATC and USFS hands were only recently put together.

Cooperation Renovating Shelters in Smokies

The Seymour Herald from Seymour, Tennessee has a recent (3 January 2012) article titled "Smokies Partners Renovate Shelter."

It gives some wonderful details about the recently-completed project of renovating the 15 backcountry shelters in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Including:

"Joint efforts of labor and funding from Friends of the Smokies, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club improved cooking and sleeping quarters for campers, while also reducing potential problems with black bears."

"Architect Philip Royer of Knoxville, also a member of the Appalachian Trail Maintainers Committee, drew the basic blueprint for every shelter rehab project, incorporating improved natural lighting, a cooking area to separate food odors from the sleeping space, improved bunk access, new roofs and masonry repair, the removal of chain-link fences, and drainage improvements."

Will hikers of the future have any idea of just what "the removal of chain-link fences" means?

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Mark J. Wenger to the ATC

The 4 January 2012 Virginia Gazette from Williamsburg, Virginia brings the news that "Mark J. Wenger, who for more than 30 years has worked for Colonial Williamsburg, is leaving the foundation to become executive director of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy."

Wenger is a life member of both the Tidewater Appalachian Trail and Old Dominion Appalachian Trail clubs, and has served in various offices of the Tidewater Club. Even more to his credit, Wenger is a 2,000 miler, having finished an 8 year, 3 month section hike last August.

Wenger replaces long-time ATC executive director David Startzell in February.

One other thing: Wenger is a licensed architect ... so maybe all the shelters are going to get upgrades under his watchful eye.

The article is not by-lined but is titled "CW exec takes over Appalachian Trail Conservancy."

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Smoky Mountains Shelters

There's an editorial in today's 3 January 2012 "Mountain Press" out of Sevierville, TN that's titled "Happy trails to you: Many thanks to those who fixed up the backcountry trails in the Smokies."

A couple key sentences: "hikers on the Appalachian Trail can enjoy the renovation of all 15 backcountry shelters in Great Smoky Mountains National Park" and "Work at Laurel Gap, the 15th and final shelter project, began in September, but weather prevented delivery of roofing materials by helicopter. The volunteer crew returned the first week of December to finish roofing the shelter under the threat of winter snows."

Monday, January 02, 2012

Ward “Chip” Leonard and the Record Books

An article by Kimberley A. Hooper in the 2 January 2012 Metro West Daily News (from Framingham, Mass.) titled "Concord man takes a hike into record books" tells us that Ward “Chip” Leonard a "52-year-old backpacker, who has lived in Concord for more than nine years, is known by hikers around the country as the first person to ever backpack the Appalachian Trail 10 times." Well, not known by me until now.

He did his 10th hike in 1992 and "said he holds the unofficial record for backpacking the Appalachian Trail solo in 60.5 days in 1990. He said it usually takes the average hiker about six months to complete the entire trail.

"During that 1990 hike, Leonard said he also set the speed record for the Appalachian Trail’s fastest hike (60.5 days) — although someone surpassed that mark a year later."

The comments from the ATC in the article are interesting, particularly in light of the article on speed hiking in the November-December 2011 AT Journeys According to the ATC spokesman Brian King, there are only records for 5 thru-hikes by Leonard (he's sending in paperwork on the other 5) and "As for the solo, unsupported backpacking record that Leonard said he still holds, King said the conservancy doesn’t have an official record of it, but he added that the conservancy doesn’t have a reason to doubt Leonard’s information."

In any event, Leonard says his thru-hiking days are behind him.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

"On the Trail Again"

Yep. It's been two years since I posted here. I blame it on a lack of high speed internet connection in the neighborhood where we lived the last couple years. Now, in a new house, in a new year, we're connected to the digital universe again. And I made a New Year's resolution to try to post AT news here as I come across it.

There have been a few reader comments from time to time, so I know that once in a while someone has stumbled across this blog. The comments I've gotten have been positive, and that makes me think that it's worth continuing. So the same ground rules apply: I find AT-related news stories; I post a link that's working when I post it, but may go 'bad' before you try to click on it; I try to give the gist of the story; I include a quote or two; and I often make some comments and remarks about the story. That's it.