There is no doubt that Trail Days in Damascus is a fun time, but if you’re really interested in learning just about everything there is to know about the Appalachian Trail (and doing a lot of hiking while learning), travel to Emory and Henry College in Emory, Virginia, for the 38th biennial meeting of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy on July 1-8.
There are the usual business meetings any organization has—electing officers, amending by-laws, and passing resolutions. However, the real reasons to attend are the opportunities to pick up some proven trail techniques, acquire new outdoor skills, and gain a greater appreciation of the natural world. A sampling of the diverse workshops offered include the geologic history of the A.T., trail-related medical problems, and how to feast while in the wilderness. Some of the other topics to be offered are a GPS class, concern about invasive plants, backpacking for women, and the use of goats as a way to maintain the openness of the Southern balds.
Yours truly will present four multi-media programs about the wildflowers of the A.T., a pictorial history of the A.T., hiking the Pyrenees from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, and a thru-hike of the Continental Divide Trail.
In addition to treks in the Mount Rogers Highlands, through state parks, and on the Virginia Creeper Trail, more than 190 miles of the A.T. are featured in a series of organized group hikes. The outings range from a very strenuous trip on the A.T. and the Iron Mountain and Feathercamp trails to an easy 3.7 miles to Laurel Creek Falls in Tennessee.
If the weather turns bad and you don’t want to brave the elements, you could socialize with some A.T. legends at the 2,000-miler reception, discuss trail-maintaining opportunities on a section of the trail near you with local club members, or speak with outdoor equipment company reps about their latest innovations. Excursions unrelated to hiking include a wine tasting event, a bicycle ride on the New River Trail, plays presented in Abingdon’s Barter Theatre, and whitewater rafting on the Nolichucky River. Evening entertainment ranges from authentic mountain music by master luthier Wayne Henderson to Fourth of July fireworks.
The registration fee is $75, or $35 a day if you will be attending activities for only one or two days; some activities and entertainment may have additional fees. Camping or hotel accommodations are available nearby.
More information may be obtained by contacting the Appalachian Trail Conference, P. O. Box 807, Harpers Ferry, WV 25425, (304)535-6331. The conference’s home page, www.appalachiantrail.org, also has information about the meeting, as well as a registration form.