Walk through the doors of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s visitor center in Harpers Ferry on a Monday, and chances are that Wendell Ogden will be there to give you a warm welcome. He will make sure you get the information and guidance you need, whether you are a novice hiker wanting to set foot on the A.T. for the first time, a thru-hiker half-way through your pilgrimage, or a history buff exploring the area.
Wendell himself has hiked about 600 miles of the A.T. since he first set foot on it in Kent, Connecticut, during the “back-to-nature” backpacking boom of the 1970s.
Wendell has welcomed and assisted thousands of visitors since he began volunteering for ATC in 1997, contributing nearly 4,000 volunteer hours along the way. Each visitor gets individualized attention, but the initial contact does not vary—all are greeted with a smile and a friendly, “What can we do for you today?”
A dedicated fisherman since childhood, Wendell made his career with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. After retirement from the fisheries research center in Leetown, WV, Wendell helped his wife Ellen in her Harpers Ferry wine shop and looked for volunteer opportunities. He answered an ATC ad in a local newspaper and was one of the first volunteers to be “hired” by Laurie Potteiger, now ATC’s information services manager.
Wendell says that what he most enjoys about volunteering is listening to people tell their stories. “Everyone has a story,” he says, “You just have to listen.”
Laurie says that it is not only visitors who benefit from his outgoing and caring personality, but also ATC employees. “Wendell’s cheerful dedication and enthusiasm for the Trail inspire the staff and help us remember why we are here.”
Volunteers are considered “the soul of the Trail,” and Wendell exemplifies that, not only for our visitors, but for those of us who work at ATC.