Ron MacLean first set foot on the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania in the 1970s, hiking from Caledonia State Park to Boiling Springs. During the ‘80s, he enjoyed hiking in central Pennsylvania on the A.T. and other trails. After he and his wife, Priscilla, bought a house along the Trail, he became more intrigued by the Trail itself and the hikers traversing it.
The Trail was later relocated away from their house to pass through Boiling Springs, where ATC has its Mid-Atlantic regional office and a small visitor center. He would often weed the small garden outside the office when he was in town. When ATC advertised for volunteers to help in the visitor center on weekends during the peak hiking season, Ron signed up.
From April through October, Ron provides information to thru-hikers and day hikers, novices and seasoned trekkers. Every year, he hikes the A.T. for 30 miles in each direction from Boiling Springs to provide accurate information on local conditions, “so I can be more in tune with what the hikers are seeing.”
According to Sara Haxby, ATC’s regional office manager, “Ron knows the Trail, he knows the answers to our frequently asked questions, and he gives out more brochures than anyone. He loves that the Trail goes through his town and that he can talk to folks hiking it or dreaming about hiking it.”
Ron’s interests are wide-ranging. He and Priscilla have been married for 36 years and enjoy spending time with their daughter, two sons, and two grandchildren. Ron joins a small group for a weekly hike, sometimes accompanying a friend who is section-hiking the A.T. He participates in the Des Moines Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa every other year and plans to join some high-school classmates there next summer. He also trains in Kung Fu and has restored a 1950 GMC truck that he drives occasionally.
This summer, Ron and Priscilla visited New Hampshire’s Mount Washington and encountered three hikers he had met in Boiling Springs on the 4th of July. That “reunion” exemplified the spirit of the Trail, where, as Ron says, “There is a bond that forms even from brief encounters.” Ron not only provides information to hikers, he encourages people to be involved with the A.T. and its community of hikers, volunteers, and supporters.
Ron enjoys listening to hikers’ stories and hearing about each person’s unique experience of the Trail, “By volunteering, I get to share some of their experience. It’s quite a simple pleasure.”