The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park (HFNHP) and the Friends of the Appalachian Trail in Harpers Ferry-Bolivar are hosting a weekend celebration for the 75th anniversary of the completion of the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) on August 11 and 12 at 799 Washington Street in Harpers Ferry. Event highlights include guest speakers, workshops, activities, displays, food, music and a parade.
A variety of Trail-related programs will run on Saturday and Sunday around Harpers Ferry. The Mather Training Center, part of the historic Storer College campus, will host presentations from Trail personalities including Leonard Adkins, author and five time A.T. thru-hiker, Gene Espy, second person to thru-hike the A.T., and Lucy Seeds, daughter of the first solo female thru-hiker, "Grandma Gatewood." The National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, WV will also host a Saturday evening presentation by A.T. Museum president Larry Luxenberg about the history of the Trail.
Other programs include Leave No Trace techniques, tips for female hikers, a thru-hiking workshop, animals and wildflowers of the A.T., a photographic tour of the Trail, famous women of the A.T., poems and stories of the A.T., night sky astronomy, and the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club's (PATC) influence on the development of the Trail.
Children's activities, including a 14-state mini-hike of the A.T. and a climbing wall, will be offered on the lawn of the Mather Training Center. Temporary tattoos will also be available.
"The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is excited to commemorate this milestone in Appalachian Trail history," said Mark Wenger, Executive Director and CEO of the ATC. "What better way to celebrate this occasion than providing a weekend filled with hiking-related workshops and activities geared to get people outside and active on the Trail."
Guided hikes ranging from moderate to strenuous will be offered Sunday morning by the PATC. All hikes will include a portion of the A.T. and views of the Shenandoah or Potomac River. Festival participants can register for the Sunday morning hikes at the PATC booth on Saturday, Aug. 11.
Representatives from different Trail-managing agencies will also speak about the importance of the A.T. and its history over the past 75 years. Some speakers include Mark Wenger, Executive Director and CEO of the ATC; Rebecca Harriett, Superintendent of the HFNHP; Larry Luxenburg, President of the A.T. Museum; Harry Bridges, 50-year PATC member; Kweli Kitwana, A.T. Ambassador for Harpers Ferry-Bolivar; and Joe Anderson, Mayor of Harpers Ferry.
Musical performances will begin Saturday at 2 p.m. and run until 8 p.m. Performers include local favorites Chelsea McBee and Justin Staines, and Trail musicians Randy "Windtalker" Motz, Eric "Fiddler" Zimmerman and Mary Sue "Southern Harp" Roach. The Will Freed Band from Ohio will be the final act.
Other displays include "Appalachian Trail, Dream to Reality" by Ethan Haskiell, a fourth grader who won second place at the West Virginia Social Science Fair, Trail history from the A.T. Museum, and a display by REI about the "10 Essentials" of hiking. There will also be a "Walk a Mile in my Shoes" shoe drive inspired by "Peace Pilgrim," the first female thru-hiker. Those attending the weekend event are encouraged to bring their gently-used shoes, which will be donated to a local charity at the end of the celebration.
The PATC will host an open house of Highacre in Harpers Ferry on Saturday and Sunday. Highacre is considered the premier facility in the club's system of more than 30 rental cabins and houses along the Trail. The PATC will also have a display featuring their club's involvement with the A.T. and have a table for hike registration.
Throughout the weekend all festival participants will receive discounts at various merchants and restaurants in Harpers Ferry and have the opportunity to win free prizes such as an REI tent and an ENO hammock.
The event is sponsored by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, and Friends of the A.T. in Harpers Ferry-Bolivar. Proud supporters of the event include REI, the Town of Harpers Ferry, River Riders, the Delaware Nature Society, the Teahorse Hostel and the Harpers Ferry Guest House.
The A.T. was completed 75 years ago on August 14, 1937. This task took over 15 years to complete and involved the work of thousands of volunteers, agency partners, local Trail maintaining clubs, and the ATC. The A.T. is the longest hiking-only footpath in the world, measuring roughly 2,180 miles in length. The Trail travels through fourteen states along the crests and valleys of the Appalachian mountain range from the southern terminus at Springer Mountain, Georgia, to the Trail's northern terminus at Katahdin, Maine.
An estimated 2-3 million people visit the Trail every year and more than 2,000 people attempt to "thru-hike" the Trail. People from across the globe are drawn to the A.T. for a variety of reasons: to reconnect with nature, to escape the stress of city life, to meet new people or deepen old friendships, or to experience a simpler life.
The A.T. is a unit of the National Park System and is managed under a unique partnership between the public and private sectors that includes, among others, the National Park Service, the USDA Forest Service, an array of state agencies, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and 31 local Trail-maintaining clubs.
For more information about the 75th anniversary of the completion of the A.T., visit www.appalachiantrail.org/75. For more information about the weekend celebration in Harpers Ferry, visit www.appalachiantrail.org/HarpersFerryATCelebration.