Celebrating a Vision

Neville Harris

Growing up, I would visit my grandmother, Tillie Wood, each summer, who with my grandfather, Roy Wood, found the land and log cabin that is now Woods Hole Hostel in Pearisburg, Virginia. Then, at 21, I lived for two months at Woods Hole, without my grandmother. My grandfather had passed away, and she carried their tradition of running a hostel for two months each year forward for 22 years. I fell in love with the experience. I planted a seed in my mind that I wanted to live here one day. In the spring of 2009, when I was 30, I moved here to continue my grandparents’ legacy and cultivate my own deep love for nature.

At first, I did not see the impact the larger A.T. community was having on me. I just enjoyed sitting on the porch and talking with hikers. It took moving here, living here, struggling here, and being persistent about staying here for me to realize the impact. I found the hiker community exceptionally trustworthy. A desire grew in me to help people in a way I never wanted to help them before. And, there are some things I have witnessed about this community that I haven’t witnessed anywhere else. I’ve watched hikers be grateful for shelter, grateful for food, and grateful for running water. Witnessing these simple needs and pleasures being fulfilled is a truly wonderful experience.

Here at the hostel, we recycle, compost, grow an organic garden, buy vegetables from local farmers, buy organic as often as possible, and think – and hopefully act – with conservation and sustainability in mind. My hope is that this inspires others in the Trail community.

Today, Woods Hole has developed into a complex working body. The old days of relaxing on the porch are gone. There are things I love, things I want back, and things I am willing to let go of in order to improve life here. The Appalachian Trail reminds people of the basic things in life that are more important than big houses and fancy cars. It is this experience that I hope can be shared with future generations.

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