Report by Katie Souris

Letting My Laces Down for the ATC

I can’t say I’ve thru-hiked the A.T. , yet. Nor can I say I’m the world champion of whipping out a mummy-bag, jumping into it, zipping up, and cramming it back into the stuff sack. But what I can say at least, after the ATC “Kick Your Boots Off” Fundraiser at the Isis Restaurant and Music Hall on Thursday, November 6th, is that I’ve tangoed my way down an A.T. Trail runway made with chart paper and sharpie marker, twirling and jiving over the fourteen states from Georgia to Maine that the A.T. passes through. I can say that I’ve competed in the sleeping bag challenge to be the fastest in and out of the bag, and although I didn’t win, I still felt wrapped up in the spirit and warmth of the crowd, made up of thru-hikers and lovers of all things out-of-doors.

I was invited to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Benefit by a co-worker and thru-hiker who summited Katahdin a little over a year ago. She, trail name ‘Cruise,’ along with her husband and partner of over 15 years ‘Corndog,’ are featured on pg. 24 of the March-April 2014 edition of AT Journeys, the magazine of the ATC, standing atop Old Speck Mountain in Maine. I was honored to be a guest of two celebrities of their status.

The love that the crowd had for the ATC was apparent in every smiling face and in the dance-floor ready enthusiasm of couples and singles dressed in their best hiking gear. The benefit featured two local bands, Blind Boy Chocolate and the Milk Sheiks and Pleasure Chest. The front man of the latter act led the fashion show competition, two-stepping on Pennsylvania and Connecticut like he was rock-hopping across the Nantahala River.

The raffle tickets were cheap and the talk was good upstairs by the prize tables, where drawings for a $50 Sierra Nevada gift certificate and a weekend stay at the famous Len Foote Hike Inn in North Georgia were up for grabs. While deciding whether I would prefer to win an ultralight backpack or a trendy camping hammock I spoke to Stuart Cowles, Founder, Creator and President of ClimbMax Climbing Center and ClimbMax Mountain Guides, who said that his experience of thru-hiking the trail, although it was many years ago, still moves him today.

Proceeds from the evening went to support the mission of the ATC which was established in 1925 to, “Preserve and Manage the Appalachian Trail.” The ATC publishes maps and guidebooks covering the entire length of the trail in detail and calls on many devoted volunteers and staff to enable generations of hikers to learn and grow from stepping foot on the path.

In addition to the festivities, dancing, and the camaraderie, ATC staff passed out maps, copies of its magazine and information on the trail and their work in partnership with the National Park Service. By the end of the night I had followed protocol and kicked my boots off (because it’s hard to dance in wool socks and ankle high hikers). I hope some day I can be lucky enough to lace them up and hit the trail, just like so many of the people I admire and respect who’ve found something beyond words along this national treasure.

If you weren’t able to make it the Fundraiser, don’t worry…You can still give some of your funds. Go to www.appalachiantrail.org to donate, get involved and find out more about the Conservancy.