One hundred years ago, Benton MacKaye was a bit lost. He had lost his job and, more tragically, had just lost his wife to suicide. MacKaye turned to the Appalachian woods he loved for solace.
In an essay published in The Journal of the American Institute of Architects in 1921, Benton MacKaye gave voice to his vision of "An Appalachian Trail." He spoke of the "vast areas of secluded forests, pastoral lands, and water courses, which, with proper facilities and protection, could be made to serve as the breath of a real life for the toilers in the bee-hive cities along the Atlantic seaboard and elsewhere."
Along the spine of the Appalachian mountains, he believed, "There would be a chance to catch a breath, to study the dynamic forces of nature and the possibilities of shifting to them the burdens now carried on the backs of men." MacKaye envisioned "a walking trail" that would connect communities from New England to Georgia.
Though it wasn't completed until 1937, the Appalachian Trail was born in MacKaye's vision. Less than 16 years after his article was published, his "long trail over the full length of the Appalachian skyline" became a reality.
Want to know more about the Trail's origin story? Check out festival speaker Jeffrey H. Ryan's book, Blazing Ahead: Benton MacKaye, Myron Avery and the Rivalry that Built the Appalachian Trail.
This time we mean it! Though we had to cancel dates in June and September of 2020, we are hopeful that we'll all get vaccinated by sometime this summer. So...we have set new dates for the 2021 Round Hill Appalachian Trail Festival, and we hope you can join us on September 11 and 12.
Once again, B Chord Brewing has generously offered to host the festival. And, once again, we're planning for trail talks, live music, kids' activities, a scavenger hunt, hikes, food trucks—and so much more.
Please put us on your calendar (9/11-12), and watch this space for more details as we get things in place for a wonderful weekend celebrating the A.T. and all things nature!
One hike for each week of the year.
What could committing to that mean to you? Certainly, it would be good for your heart, your muscles and your bones. And then there's the adrenaline and endorphins hiking can stimulate that boost your mood and energy levels. And maybe it's something that can bond your family or cement a friendship.
Beyond the personal benefits, I'm betting that a commitment to hiking regularly will make everyone of us care more about the trails we explore and the nature we're inspired by. That's why I've signed up for the 52 Hike Challenge. I want to use it as reminder to get out on the trail every week.
Now, during this pandemic, hiking can be a wonderful antidote to all the anxiety in the air. And we're safer outdoors than in indoor spaces. Groups like the American Hiking Society have great advice for responsible hiking. So, take the challenge and get outdoors!
Learn more about the challenge—and sign up—at: https://www.52hikechallenge.com.
When will we get to hold the next festival?
We just can't know at this point, but June 2021 is looking less and less likely as COVID-19 vaccines slowly make their way to more people. Please know that we are 100% committed to hold the festival when it's safe.
In the meanwhile, stay safe! And get outdoors. And keep supporting the groups that support the A.T.
Pack it in. Pack it out.
If we want to continue to have beautiful trails like the A.T. to hike on, we need to take care of them. Leaving an energy bar wrapper behind is unsightly to be sure. But it can also be hazardous—and, because some litter isn't biodegradable, it can remain a hazard for decades to come.
A bottle or can can become a death trap for a lizard. Broken glass can cut the feet or end up in the stomach of an animal. Food scraps aren’t helping wildlife, either. Deer may love to graze on grain products, but they can form gummy masses and interfere with digestion. Not to mention that animals that become accustomed to free handouts can be unprepared to hunt for themselves when handouts aren't available.
Not trashing our trails is the first step toward protecting them. Take the next step by picking up litter you see on the trail. You can take the #LeaveNoTrash pledge October 26-November 1, 2020—and help spread the word. Here's what the Leave No Trace folks are asking us to do:
"Get outside, pick up some trash and post your efforts to social media, making sure to use the hashtag #LeaveNoTrash. Plus, take our pledge to participate and tell us how much trash you plan to pick up."
While the Round Hill AT nonprofit focuses on putting on our eco-festival, we stay busy year round promoting environmental stewardship—like spreading the word about the incredible value of native plants. One of our recent projects, in conjunction with Round Hill Outdoors was installing a demonstration native plant garden here in town.
Why plant “native”?
Do you like birds? Then you’ll want a host of caterpillars hanging around your house. Do you like to grow veggies? Then you’ll need a few bees in your neighborhood. Here in the U.S., we have a long history of importing plants from distant lands. Some to eat. Some for their looks. The problem is that these exotic plants and our vast expanses of lawn don’t support our bees, birds or other wildlife.
Even worse, some introduced plants are invasive in our environment. When a plant has few or no insects feeding on them or plants that can’t compete with them, they crowd out native plants. Think garlic mustard, multi-flora rose, barberry, Japanese stilt grass. Add to that all land going under development as shopping centers and housing developments, and we’ve lost a great deal of native habitat.
So, what can we do? Plant native. Birds and butterflies depend on native plants for food, shelter and reproduction. Our gardens can become sanctuaries for these critters. And that’s not the only benefit of going native. Plants that are naturally adapted to our local soils and climate, will need less fertilizer, water and pesticides–so they’re easier to maintain as they help reduce the chemicals introduced to our habitats.
Using native plants helps preserve the balance and beauty of our natural ecosystems. And it’s not hard to “go native.” Groups like Plant NoVa Natives and Audubon at Home offer abundant advice. Plus, many nurseries carry a selection of Virginia native plants, and some specialize in natives, like Watermark Woods in Hamilton, VA.
Check out some of the beautiful native plants we're enjoying in our new garden:
Sad to announce, but there won't be a Round Hill Appalachian Trail Festival in 2020. With the pandemic still raging, what's important is trying to keep people healthy—so, we won't be asking you to gather for a festival.
But let's look ahead to better times. We hope to bring you all the same festival fun in June 2021: live music, trail talks, hikes, games and all the rest.
We already have partner organizations on board, like the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, Center for Wilderness Safety, Friends of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia Department of Forestry, Round Hill Fire and Rescue, and more.
Keynote speaker Cindy Ross has just announced that she plans to join us. And we're ever grateful to sponsors like Meadows Farms, who have been quick to pledge their ongoing support.
So, please stay safe....and mark your calendars for June 12, 2021.
Let me introduce myself...I'm Jody Brady, director of the Round Hill Appalachian Trail Festival. With the festival postponed, the A.T. closed and the coronavirus still raging, we're missing the Trail. We understand the need to keep our distance from both the Trail and each other. Still, that doesn't mean we can't be Trail advocates even now.
Living a half mile from the A.T. (as the crow flies), my husband and I know first-hand some of the challenges the Trail faces. I'm not talking about maintenance or over-crowding. I'm talking about invasive plants. Plants that don't belong in our local ecosystems and that can outcompete native species. Plants that don't feed our insects and wildlife.
Here on a slope of the Blue Ridge Mountains, we work just about every day to dig out barberry, wineberry and multi-flora rose. We pull garlic mustard and Japanese stilt grass. We make room for the comeback of cutleaf toothwort and wild geraniums. We help support biodiversity.
A good number of the invasives we're pulling jumped ship from people's gardens. They're exotic plants bought at nurseries: ajuga and periwinkle, multi-flora rose and barberry. They don't support our pollinators or other wildlife. If, instead, we all plant species native to our ecosystems, we can still have beautiful gardens—and we'll have the added benefit of more "neighbors," like birds and butterflies.
Even if you don't live as close to the A.T. as we do, you can support our parks and wild spaces just by following two simple steps: Pull invasives, plant natives.
Here are some of the plants you make room for when you remove invasives:
An update: The September dates for the festival have been cancelled, because it's still not safe to gather in large crowds. We hope you can join us in June 2021.
Right now, what we all need to do is get through this pandemic. But, right now, we can't know when we'll get through this pandemic. So, like so many other schedules that have needed to change, we won't be holding the Round Hill A.T. Festival in June, as planned.
We are fortunate enough, though, to have a host (the generous folks of B Chord Brewing!) who are accommodating this need for change, and we're aiming at new dates for the festival: September 12 and 13.
We hope you can join us then. We'll have trail talks and live music, food trucks and children's activities—and all the other fun we had planned for June. But, now, we hope to see you in September.
The following is a message from the president of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy:
In these unprecedented times, I am making an unprecedented request: Please stay away from the Appalachian Trail (A.T.). Whether your hike is for a couple of hours or a couple of days. Staying away from the Trail minimizes the spread or contraction of COVID-19.
In a time when social distancing is necessary to minimize the spread and contraction of a dangerous virus, many have escaped to nature seeking isolation and unpopulated spaces. On the A.T., however, what they’ve found are trailhead parking lots exceeding their maximum capacities, shelters full of overnight hikers, day hikers using picnic tables and privies, and group trips continuing as planned. Popular spots along the Trail like Blood Mountain in Georgia, the McAfee Knob area in Virginia, and Annapolis Rocks in Maryland have seen day use reach record-breaking levels. Cars line the highways leading to popular day-hiking spots on the Trail. Hiking the A.T. has become, in other words, the opposite of social distancing.
These same crowds accessing the A.T. may not know how a simple half-day hike can spread COVID-19. While hiking, they may have eaten lunch at a picnic table, taken a break in a shelter, used a privy, or shared a map or food with someone unknowingly infected with COVID-19 and carried this highly contagious virus back to their communities at the end of the day. They may not have realized that ATC staff and Trail volunteers have been recalled from the A.T. and cannot maintain the footpath, trailheads, shelters and privies that may be heavily (or permanently) impacted by increased visitor use. And, they may not be aware of the rural communities adjacent to the Trail that may not have the healthcare resources to help a sick hiker or volunteer or manage a COVID-19 outbreak should a hiker transport the virus in from the Trail.
Many day hikers see the outdoors as an escape from the stresses of these difficult times. But with crowding from day hikers reaching unmanageable levels and the lack of any staff or volunteers to manage this traffic, it is necessary that all hikers avoid accessing the Trail. The A.T. is not a separate reality from the communities in which hikers live – so, until the risk of spreading COVID-19 has reduced significantly, hiking on a heavily-trafficked trail like the A.T. potentially increases rather than reduces harm.
The ATC does not want to do too little, too late. We cannot close the Trail. We cannot physically bar access to trailheads or connecting trails. We can and do, however, urge everyone to please stay away from the Appalachian Trail until further notice.
There is an unfortunate truth about this virus: unless everyone is safe, no one is safe. So, take a walk around the block. Spend time with your loved ones. And, please, stay home.
Sandra "Sandi" Marra
President & CEO
Appalachian Trail Conservancy
Round Hill Outdoors: Join us in bringing together local friends and family to unplug and get outside. Let’s discover our amazing backyards — from national treasures like the Appalachian Trail to new local and regional parks.