A.T.  - White Mountains National Forest just before Franconia Ridge. By Aaron Ibey

A.T. – White Mountains National Forest just before Franconia Ridge. By Aaron Ibey

WITH SPRING COMES NOT ONLY A RETURN OF warmer weather and greenery but also hiking boots and packs. The Teahorse Hostel in my home town, Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, opened its doors recently and already our A.T. Community is busy with hikers. Harpers Ferry and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy will be hosting its annual Flip Flop Festival at the end of April and hikers, choosing a “flip-flop” thru-hike, will come into town for last minute guidance and workshops before heading out on their adventure. While originally started as just an A.T.-focused event, the Flip Flop Festival has grown into a town-wide activity, involving all types of local businesses and bringing in visitors well beyond A.T. hikers.

In addition to Harpers Ferry, A.T. Communities up and down the Trail are making similar plans. In my area, our newest town, Round Hill, Virginia is gearing up for its Designation Day Appalachian Trail Festival. Planned for June, the event will coincide with the northbound thru-hiker “bubble” arriving in our area. From the early days of Damascus Trail Days, to now multiple communities along the entire Trail, we are seeing the importance and benefit hikers bring to these small towns.

In addition to hikers, you’ll also notice a lot of volunteers out with weed whackers and saws. This past year’s late winter storms have really wreaked havoc on the Trail — with miles of sections almost impassible due to multiple downed limbs and trees. In Shenandoah, the central and south districts were completely closed through March. And, naturally, the northern section of the Trail is still under snow cover. Trail conditions will test the mettle of our crews and overseers as they work to ensure the path is open and ready for our visitors. But, as always, they up for the challenge.

Whether you are a hiker, a Trail worker, or a Trail neighbor there is much you can enjoy and appreciate about the Appalachian Trail. There is also much you can do to help protect and preserve it for others. Hikers: remember to practice Leave No Trace and follow guidelines on day and overnight group sizes. Be respectful when you arrive in our Trail communities. Volunteers: you have a great opportunity to act as Trail Ambassadors while out doing your work, so make sure to stop and chat with hikers that you see, sharing both your love for the Trail and ways that they can also give back with their time and membership dollars. And A.T. Communities: continue to work to promote the Trail, not only to outside visitors, but also with your own residents, making sure that everyone knows what a wonderful resource is just outside (or a short drive from) their back door.

See you on the Trail!
Sandra Marra / Chair