The official entrance to the 2017 Jamboree where the ATC was featured as an event sponsor alongside organizations such as Leave No Trace, the National Park Service, and the U.S. Forest Service

in partnership

by Leanna Joyner & Brenna Irrer

The Appalachian Trail is as American

as Scouting or apple pie. These iconic fixtures in the United States, Scouting and the A.T., have a long overlapping history, where many young people gain their first introduction to the outdoors — where the beauty, challenge, and rewards are found in the exercise, strengthened friendships, and scenery of the endeavor.

The Trail has often served as the destination for Boy Scouts within a day’s drive, with ambitions of ticking off a 50-mile backpack, to hike to a scenic spot they heard about, or to be among the volunteers who have the audacity to build and maintain this long-distance Trail so that others can come to confirm, “yes, this Trail can lead me all the way to Maine, or the other direction, to Georgia.”

To that end, the A.T. captured the imagination of two Eagle Scouts, Randy Wright and Charlie Timberlake, who set out in 2011 to hike following their respective college graduations. Meeting at age six through Scouts and being exposed to backpacking through Troop 304 in Atlanta, their connection to Scouting is so deep that even as 29-year-olds with no children of their own in Scouting, they have returned as assistant Scout Masters with an emphasis in backpacking.

“It’s a different level of satisfaction being able to give back as adult leaders,” says Wright who explains that their interest in exposing the current scouts of Troop 304 to volunteering on the A.T. began with the wildfires that swept through the southeast in the fall of 2016. “As much as our Scout troop uses the A.T., we wanted to give back. It is in our backyard, and we see it as a priority.”

The troop assisted the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club to make improvements to the Hawk Mountain Campsite, one of more than 332 overnight sites in the online A.T. Camping Allocation Management Program (A.T. CAMP), where groups are encouraged to register their overnight plans on the Trail. “For groups visiting the A.T., Leave No Trace starts with using A.T. CAMP to register their overnight camping plans. All Trail users are now encouraged to register their camping plans, with the goal of appropriately distributing use to protect the qualities for which the A.T. is managed,” says Jason Zink, ATC’s Visitor Use manager.

Order of the Arrow Scouts worked with the Georgia A.T. Club to improve the A.T. in a highly-used section this year

The ATC’s Kathryn Herndon leads an inner city Scout Troop at the Jamboree on a game of “ATopoly,” where they “hiked” through all the states and learn Trail facts

A.T. management is on the minds of others, too. David Bailey, vice president of Blue Mountain Eagle Climbing Club says “it’s our future” of a partnership he has facilitated between his club and the Kittatinny Ridge Order of the Arrow Lodge. “The challenge for scouting and the challenge for A.T. maintaining clubs or other service groups is that we are all aging. Finding volunteers is something you have to constantly focus on or you won’t exist,” says Bailey who is excited to build on the work that the Order of the Arrow Lodge did in 2017 to improve Pipefitter’s Field with another project in 2018 in the club’s section.

Partnerships between Scout troops, Order of the Arrow lodges and Eagle Scouts with maintaining clubs along the length of the Trail are varied, though the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) hopes the trend in shared volunteer commitment grows. That is why the ATC participated in two scout-centered events in 2017, Winterfest in Gatlinburg, Tennessee in February, as well as the National Scout Jamboree in West Virginia in July.

As scouts walked down the Conservation Trail on the wooded shores of Goodrich Lake at the Jamboree, where the ATC exhibited alongside the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, and the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, they stopped by booths to engage in hands-on activities where they explored topics such as soil and water conservation, trails, and forestry. Participants came by the ATC exhibit to learn about stewardship and recreation on the Appalachian Trail. Scouts from across the country and abroad answered trivia questions about the A.T. and discovered how many volunteers and volunteer hours it takes to maintain the Trail each year. Faces of youth and adults alike lit up as they approached the 15-foot Trail map, where they identified familiar destinations and future adventures.

A Scoutmaster introduces the A.T. to his daughter during the recent Jamboree

ATC Board vice chair Greg Winchester was happy for the opportunity to collaborate with the Boy Scouts of America. “It was exciting to engage in one-on-one conversations with so many youth who were excited about the Appalachian Trail.” He said that for two organizations with a history of inspiring young people to be involved in conservation and outdoor activities, working together is a natural partnership.

Assistant troop master Wright with Troop 304, echoes Winchester’s enthusiasm. “The A.T. is one of the coolest things we have in America, and there is a lot of untapped enthusiasm for people who can get exposed to it and get involved,” says Wright.

“And you don’t need to be a major-league athlete to do it,” adds Timberlake. He says hiking it is applicable for all ages, just like volunteerism — whether you’re picking up litter, staining a shelter, or putting in a step. He adds, as a parting thought, that hikers can pass on their enthusiasm for the outdoors to the next generation through Scouting organizations, so that future generations have positive experiences outside and on the A.T.

Learn more about the intersection of the A.T. and scouting at:

For more information about A.T. CAMP visit: