Individuals have been volunteering as editors of Appalachian Trail (A.T.) guidebooks/maps for more than 90 years, working directly with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) and A.T. Maintaining Clubs. Irma Graf of Grantham, New Hampshire, carries on this important role, piloting three editions of the Appalachian Trail Guide to Central Virginia beginning with 2009’s second edition. With guidebooks and maps being updated every three–to-five years, Graf has spearheaded many years of behind-the-scenes work to ensure these guidebooks and maps are up-to-date and available for A.T. adventures.
Irma’s work typically begins with annual updates to the Appalachian Trail Data Book. This includes detailing what has changed on and around the 227 miles of footpath she is responsible for documenting and identifying the different management policies that must be incorporated at corresponding locations.
Next, Irma touches base with Trail supervisors and other pertinent individuals from within the five local A.T. Maintaining Clubs of central Virginia, reviewing each line of the guidebook/map to determine if any information must be updated. For example, a view might have grown in, a newly designated tent site might have been built, a Trail section might have been relocated or remeasured, or there might have been previous errors identified in the previous guidebook/map edition. Making these updates often requires walking a section of the Trail with fresh eyes and even taking new photographs.
Finally, Irma connects with the ATC’s regional office in Roanoke, Virginia, to go over and add additional information to the guidebook/map including updated Trail section mileages, future plans, additional photographs, and special needs/regulations for certain areas, such as high-visitation locations like McAfee Knob. Throughout this process, Graf’s work requires extensive organizational skills and focus and involves an extensive series of telephone calls, emails, and in-person meetings. After curating all of this work, Irma ensures all assets are delivered to the project editor at Mountaineers Books accurately and on time.
Graf’s commitment to her work has made lasting impacts to the A.T. and the people who visit it. By providing hikers and other A.T. visitors with valuable information, Graf has helped facilitate countless successful journeys on the Trail.
A retired New York City teacher, Irma finished her multiyear hike of the entire A.T. in 2003. When she is not working on A.T. guidebook/map updates, Irma and her husband, Woody, run the Grace Hiker Hostel at Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church in Waynesboro, Virginia, during the northbound thru-hiker rush between mid-May and mid-June. Back home in New Hampshire, she enjoys being involved with local charities and trail protection activities, as well as spending time with her grandchildren.