1.5 million miles. That’s the estimated cumulative amount of long-distance hiking experience of the expected attendees of the 29th Annual Gathering of the Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association at Concord College in Athens, W.Va., on October 15-17.

ALDHA’s founder (and Blue Ridge Outdoors’ Outdoor Person of the year), Warren Doyle, who has hiked the A.T. more than a dozen times, started the organization for those dreaming about hiking the trail to learn from those who have done it. There is a welcome meeting for people attending for the first time, and a session in which thru-hikers who have completed the A.T. this year supply the most up-to-date trail information. Having the chance to talk with hikers who have walked thousands of miles with less than 20 pounds on their backs is reason enough to attend. There are always a number of thru-hike slide shows, too.

The gathering also includes information on journeys throughout America and the world. Among the many slated for this year are workshops on the Pacific Crest and Continental Divide trails. Previous gatherings have included seminars on treks in New Zealand, Canada, England, Europe, Africa, Asia, how to dehydrate your own trail food, tips for better photography, and even a workshop on how to get to Antarctica for free.

It’s not all seriousness, though. Pick-up Frisbee games, a used equipment flea market, impromptu storytelling around a bonfire, and usually a concert by some hiking singer/songwriter provide entertaining diversions. A favorite is the Saturday-night square dance. Since many attendees don’t know the moves, there are a fair number of good-natured collisions amidst the dosey-does and promenades.

I’ll be making a couple of presentations, so hope to see you there. More information may be obtained from www.aldha.org.