Kathy Winters (Trail name “Katydid”) is one of ATC’s most valued volunteers. She can be found in our Harpers Ferry visitors’ center on Wednesdays, cheerfully greeting hikers, answering their questions, and helping out as needed.
“Kathy is a great listener whose interest in people is boundless. She is intrigued by all who come in, and quietly draws them out, finding the deeper story within,” according to ATC Information Services Manager Laurie Potteiger.
“Everyone has a story,” Kathy says, “You just have to listen.” Among the most memorable stories she has heard were from a group of Japanese tourists outfitted in new hiking gear and eager to set foot on the Trail, and a pair of southbound hikers, one from South America and one from eastern Europe, who had met shortly after leaving Katahdin and hiked together to Harpers Ferry. She also took a call from Gene Espy and they talked “for at least 20 delightful minutes.” Espy is the second person credited with thru-hiking the Trail.
Kathy’s own interest in the outdoors was inspired by a Girl Scout leader who was an outdoor enthusiast and family friend. She took her first hike at the age of seven in the White Mountains.
While visiting Maine’s Baxter State Park, she and her father met Jean Stephenson, who was in the park to paint blazes, and were intrigued to learn about the Appalachian Trail. (Stephenson edited A.T. guidebooks and ATC’s Appalachian Trailway News magazine, and was instrumental in getting the Trail completed in Maine and in obtaining federal protection for the A.T.) Reading Ed Garvey’s Appalachian Hiker, helped spark her interest in hiking the entire Trail.
Kathy and her husband Oak lived in many places around the country while raising three children. When they lived near the Trail in North Carolina she frequently took short hikes. In 1999, she began a thru-hike, which was interrupted due to an illness in the family. She returned and completed the Trail the following year.
Kathy was asked by a teacher friend to talk to 4th and 5th graders about her hike. She contacted ATC for some materials. After moving to Virginia, she became a regular headquarters volunteer.
Kathy believes that getting children to enjoy and protect beautiful, natural places begins with first-hand experience. She and Oak have decided to take their six grandchildren to inspirational places, such as our national parks. Last August, the two oldest joined them for an intergenerational Road Scholar trip to three of them—Zion, Bryce, and the north rim of the Grand Canyon. Future A.T. hikers and volunteers? We hope so!