From top: Dudley on Goose Creek near Middleburg, Virginia

A Single Task

By Beth Griffin


like that described by so many of his generation: exploring the woods near home unsupervised, on foot or on bikes. No internet, cell phones, video games — as long as kids were home before dark, nobody seemed to worry. For Dudley, there were also a couple of years in the Boy Scouts in elementary school, SCUBA on college spring breaks, and sailing as a young man. And then a PhD program, marriage, mortgages, children, and a demanding professional life to keep him more than busy — and off the water and out of the woods.

A four-year work assignment in Australia offered Dudley new opportunities for biking, hiking, camping, fossicking, gapping and gorging in the desert. (Fossicking is collecting semi-precious stones either on the surface of the ground or shifting with pans for amethyst, garnet, zircon, beryl, aquamarine, etc. Gapping and gorging is hiking to and through the gaps and gorges of the MacDonnel Ranges near Alice Springs.)

With his wife Barb at the University of Virginia

Back in the States, Dudley stayed connected with his rediscovered sense of adventure, and became involved with Boy Scouts, first with his son and then as an adult leader in his own right. His family had settled back in Virginia and there were many backpacking trips on the A.T. with his son, with Scouts, and on his own. He continued to drive hard professionally, volunteer for church and civic organizations, and devote himself to family; but the dream of a long walk in the woods to “focus on that single task of getting up and hiking some distance every day” while thru-hiking the A.T. had begun to take hold.

As this issue of A.T. Journeys is hitting mailboxes, Dudley White will be several weeks into his long-dreamed-of, post-retirement thru-hike. Heading north from Harpers Ferry to Katahdin to start, he will be travelling well ahead of the crowded bubble of northbound hikers who departed from Georgia in February and March. He’s chosen to start his thru-hike in the middle —to “flip-flop”—in pursuit of a quieter experience that helps conserve the Trail.

Preparation for his hike has included all the usual efforts — shakedown hikes, gear research and trials, and obsessive reading of guide books and maps. Beyond those efforts though, Dudley included a greater financial commitment to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) and its mission to protect and preserve the Trail. After his company was sold several years ago, he and his wife established a donor advised fund that generates a substantial gift to the ATC each year. The Whites’ thoughtful planning will ensure annual gifts to the ATC for many years to come.

Dudley, we wish you (and all the others who walk the Trail) all the best on your adventure. And we thank you for what you do to protect the Trail experience.

Beth Griffin is the ATC’s associate director of Individual and Planned Giving.