The smoke lifted. The sun shone. The people came. The music played on.
Thanks to everyone who made the Round Hill / Hillsboro A.T. Festival in The Gap the wonderful day it was. Between trails talks, an art show, nature crafts, a climbing wall, eco/hiking displays and more, there was truly something for everyone. We celebrated the Appalachian Trail with current thru hikers and we encouraged everyone to get outside responsibly. What a day!
More to follow, but here are some scenes from the day:
We are honored to have the Round Hill Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department join us once again at our festival. The department responds to all emergencies along our stretch of the Appalachian Trail. We asked RHVFRD's Richard Ganey about the connection between the fire department and the Trail.
What section of the A.T. does RHVFRD cover?
At Station 604 in Round Hill, our primary area of responsibility on the A.T. is from Snickers Gap/VA 7 trailhead up to David Lesser Shelter. However, we would likely be called to any emergency response from Ashby Gap/VA 50 all the way up to North of Keys Gap/VA 9.
What are the most common injuries you've needed to respond to on the A.T.?
Hypothermia and hyperthermia are the two most common emergencies, with trauma from falls coming next in frequency.
What specialized equipment does RHVFRD have on hand to respond to these situations?
Along with members' familiarity with the A.T. corridor, we have Stokes basket set-ups for challenging carry-out evacuations and UTVs that provide faster mobility in some situations. We have some specialized medical equipment to address environmental injuries and can coordinate with Technical Rescue teams if we need additional support.
How are you personally involved with the A.T.?
My wife and I are PATC members and maintain a section of the A.T. south of Bears Den, from Spout Run down to Sam Moore Shelter. We also maintain the shelter itself.
We're both avid hikers, on the A.T. and its side trails, and we passed on our passion to our children. Our daughter solo-hiked from the southern end of Shenandoah National Park up to Great Barrington MA over a three-month period. I've also done many long trail runs on the A.T., in preparation for ultra events such as the JFK 50 miler (which runs partially along the AT treadway up in MD).
I am a PATC-trained, US Forest Service-certified chain sawyer and participate in A.T. sawyer operations in the NoVA area. As a Wilderness EMT, I also periodically provide on-site medical support for PATC training and maintenance activities on the A.T.
What do you think the A.T. brings to our greater community?
The A.T. is a wonderful natural resource available to us to enjoy nature and outdoor exercise for our physical and mental health. The A.T. community of PATC, ATC, hikers, trail runners, etc. is a community of great people with a common passion for the Appalachian Trail. I would encourage all to join Potomac Appalachian Trail Club and look into how you can further enjoy the Trail and help preserve the A.T. for future generations.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Congratulations to Hillsboro on becoming an A.T. Community!
Our guest blog comes from Wendy Dorsey of Yellow House Native Plants, a vendor at this year's festival. Here's how Wendy got started in the native plant nursery business:
I had always loved to garden and grow things and had learned enough about native plants to understand how much sense they make. Gardening with plants that have evolved in a certain place require less work and feed more wildlife,
It was the spring of 2020 and I was dividing some of the plants in my yard to share with friends. My husband, a third-generation farmer, and I were talking when it just came to me, there in my garden with plants in hand. I looked at him and said, "I should be growing native perennials," and he said, "You should." It felt good to say; I knew this was a moment.
I'd been teaching part-time for ten years. Our oldest was in college and the youngest would be there soon. The time was ripe for a new challenge. I picked the brains of friends who are growers and landscapers, and my husband and I decided to locate the nursery in the middle of our wholesale tree farm.
While it can be hard work physically, it is very easy on the soul. I love the continuous learning that comes with native plants—and the continuous beauty! An added bonus is that I meet such interesting and cool people.
10 ways to have fun at the A.T. Festival in the Gap:
"Trail angels" ease the way for thru hikers all along the A.T., from Georgia to Maine. You can become one of these angels by sharing some "trail magic" with hikers finishing up the long Virginia stretch of the trail. What is “trail magic”? It’s any act of generosity that helps an A.T. thru hiker keep going.
By the time they reach our neck of the woods (Keys Gap, where we’ll offer them a shuttle to the festival), hikers who started at Springer Mountain in Georgia, will have walked 1012 miles. We’d like to “make some magic” for them.
If you'd like to donate something (see the list below for suggestions) to this year's thru hikers, we have collection boxes at the Round Hill Town Office and the Old Stone School in Hillsboro. You can also bring donations for thru hikers on June 10th to the Festival Welcome Tent.
Here's a list of things hikers have told us they'd appreciate:
We’ll be sharing some of this trail magic with hikers who join us at the festival (for a free lunch and great music); the rest will go to the Bears Den and Blackburn trail centers for other thru hikers as they make their way north.
Today's guest post comes from Carol Lenhart of Birch Hollow Yoga in Hillsboro. Carol will be leading sessions of Yoga for Hikers at 11:45 and 4:15 during the festival.
Six Reasons Hikers Should Do Yoga
We love hiking and being in the woods. Especially the challenge of a long and arduous trek through tough terrain. Or maybe a gentle stroll along a nice, flat scenic trail. Whatever style of hiking you do, yoga can be a great addition to your fitness habits.
Here are some reasons why:
Carol Lenhart is a yoga teacher in Hillsboro, Virginia. She has been practicing yoga for over 35 years, and has been sharing the practice with others for 10 years. She loves all styles of yoga, and her favorite pose is “feet on the wall.” Carol lives on a farm with her husband Ben, their children, and an assortment of animals. She enjoys hiking, cycling and paddling around the beautiful Virginia countryside and waterways. She can be found on Facebook and Instagram through @birchhollowyoga.
We have Virginia's newest state park, Sweet Run State Park, set to open May 26th. You may have already been there, if you've ever traveled down Harpers Ferry Road to visit the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship, which will become the new state park.
How does beautiful rural land like this, much of it a former farm, get protected in perpetuity? That's where our festival's newest sponsor, Old Dominion Land Conservancy (ODLC), plays a part. ODLC assisted arranging the donation of the land to the state, helping protect Potomac River tributaries and the Chesapeake Bay watershed, preserving Appalachian Trail views and conserving the natural habitat for hundreds of animal species in the process.
Under the leadership and guidance of ODLC, more than 18,000 acres of land have been successfully designated and preserved in conservancy. Here's why the ODLC folks do what they do:
"For us at ODLC, it’s more than just preserving open countryside, habitats and waterways we all love; it’s providing options for landowners and purchasers to maintain family legacies for generations to come."
It takes a village (actually two towns this year) to put on our free, fun-for-all celebration of the A.T. and all the Great Outdoors. If you can give us a couple hours on June 10th, you'll be a most welcome member of our team.
Click here to find our day-of volunteer sign up.
Have a couple hours to help us out? We are stilllooking for day-of volunteers! https://www.signupgenius.com/go/30e0848a4a728a1fa7-appalachian#/
Can you help us spread the word? We're reaching out to any northbound A.T. thru-hikers who will be in the Round Hill/Hillsboro area June 10th, and who would like a break from our infamous "Roller Coaster" stretch of the Trail. We also invite section hikers headed in either direction to join us at the festival.
Here's what we have in store for them:
We are so pleased to have Adventures in Good Company join us a sponsor this year. Here's what this travel company is all about: "We create experiences of a lifetime for women seeking new adventures. Our small group getaways encourage women of all ages and life stages to (re)connect with their adventurous selves, other women and cultures and the natural world. Our vacations are for women who love being active, regardless of whether you're a first-time traveler or a lifelong adventuress."
Here's a guest blog from two thru-hikers-turned-guides: Julie Fast, AGC Adventure Specialist & Guide, and Mary Leavines, ACG Marketing Assistant.
Life After Your Thru Hike
The Summit is Just the Beginning
Imagine (or remember) the day you summit Katahdin. It’s a rainy fall day, but nothing can dampen your spirits; you’re about to climb the final mountain after a long, arduous journey over the spine of the Appalachian mountain range. Each step feels surreal as you contemplate the millions of steps that led you to this day.
You look down to survey your body and gear as you grasp the rebar sticking out of the behemoth granite boulders in Baxter State Park. After traversing the Whites of New Hampshire, these boulder scrambles aren’t as intimidating as they could be, and you feel like you’re floating more than hiking as you draw closer to the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.
Though your feet are tired, your clothes are permanently pungent and your bones feel hollow, you’ve got extra special snacks in your pack and nothing can stand in your way—not even this group of teenagers in denim with no water crawling at a snail’s pace in front of you. “Excuse me friends, mind if I pass?” The youth gawk at your wild beard and/or luscious leg hair, your bulging calves and your determined stride; they scramble out of your way and you continue onward, upward.
Completing the Adventure of a Lifetime
Just a few more miles and you can see the end. How many people started at Springer this year but didn’t get to see this side? You’re one of the lucky few who will complete the thru hike you began all those months ago. Pride swells your chest as you stroll toward the iconic wooden sign. Around you, a gaggle of thru-hikers you’ve hiked with, more family than friends at this point, cheer wildly as you reach forward and touch the sign. The worn wood is rough beneath your fingers, then your palm, then your forehead as you bend down and rest your face against the sign you’ve been walking towards all spring and summer.
Above you the clouds smile and part, just a little bit; just enough for the golden photo opportunity you’ve been dreaming about. Does any summit pose do justice to the adventure you’ve just completed? Will any picture tell the full story of that time you found your stomach’s absolute limit at the all you can eat southern buffet? Or the time a trail angel’s unbelievable generosity reduced you to tears and made you believe in the goodness of humanity again? You climb on top of the sign and strike a pose anyway, though you know there’s no smile wide enough to truly portray the rush of emotion you’re feeling in that moment.
What Comes After a Thru-Hike?
While no photo can capture all that you have been through and accomplished, your journey doesn’t have to end at Katahdin (or Springer). Yes, you do, unfortunately, have to walk back down to get to the parking lot and the rest of your life. For many thru-hikers, this is one of the most difficult parts of the trail: returning to your old life, after yours has so completely changed.
I have great news for you: There is a place where you can put your trail experience and expertise to good use, and get PAID for it!
Become a Guide for Adventures in Good Company
If you’ve never considered guiding professionally, consider this: there are scores of people that want to hear your stories, whose eyes don’t gloss over when you talk about zero days, cuben fiber or tramilies. These people are learning about the Appalachian Trail, and they are learning to love the trail with your help. These aspiring hikers may not be able to muster the time and energy to complete a one-fell-swoop thru hike, but they are keen on "slackpacking" sections of the AT and meeting interesting trail personalities—like you!
After the excitement of finishing a long awaited thru hike, you may experience an emotional rollercoaster as you contemplate re-entering the real world and what’s next. Let us ease your transition back into polite society with several slackpacking trips a year.
Adventures in Good Company specializes in women-specific small group hiking trips and we would like to personally invite you to apply to join our team of talented guides on the AT next year. You know what it’s like to successfully plan a trip, respond to changing weather conditions and endure the trail: you’ve got grit!
You’ve got what it takes to persist, despite the blisters, mosquitoes or norovirus attempting to sideline your journey. Now consider taking your hard-earned skills and continuing the adventure as a professional outdoor hiking guide.
Visit our website for more information and wherever your boots next take you, we wish you happy trails!
On the other hand, if you’re not interested in guiding, a small group adventure trip is an incredible way to share a slice of your epic thru hike with a loved one. Invite your mom, sister, cousin or friend and slackpack the entire state of Georgia, or the 100 mile wilderness in Maine! We’d love to have you join us, and continue sharing the magic of the AT.
Round Hill AT: Join us in bringing together local friends and family to get outside. Let’s discover our amazing backyards — from national treasures like the Appalachian Trail to new local and regional parks.