Celebrating a Vision
For a long time, the A.T. was just another trail that I had backpacked in small sections in New York and Virginia. But, one October day in 2000, it became an obsession. My hike south from Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, to Keys Gap, Virginia, was full of brilliant fall color changes and views of clear blue skies that stretched out so far that I could see planes taking off from Dulles International Airport in Virginia. At one point, I stopped dead. I could feel the connection from Maine to Georgia, and I became a hostage of the A.T. dream.I began to section-hike the entire Trail – first for a week at a time, then four weeks, and finally six weeks. My first trip to Maine left me battered and demoralized. But, I was ready the second time, and now it is my favorite state, even though I live in Virginia. I finished in October 2008 on another color-splashed day. At the end of that hike, I felt enormous peace and relaxation instead of urgency and fear of failure. Those feelings now recur within minutes every time I return to the Trail.
Today I am a citizen of the 2,200-mile linear village that is the A.T., doing whatever is needed to protect and enjoy the Trail and its surroundings while helping others do the same. Officially, I am the past president and archivist for the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club (RATC) as well as a member of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s (ATC) President’s Leadership Circle. That can mean retrieving the RATC’s post-1932 archives from someone’s basement or attic, helping the ATC and National Park Service (NPS) create a visual inventory of A.T. views in Virginia and Maine, writing comments to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission about a dangerous pipeline crossing the A.T., attending Zoom meetings with the NPS, meeting hikers and hauling out trash as a volunteer ATC ridgerunner, or just pausing to eat juicy wineberries along the way. Whatever it takes.