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
An update: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Round Hill A.T. Festival has been rescheduled, and unfortunately Warren Doyle will no longer be able to join us this year. (He'll be hiking in September.) We hope we'll be able to host him another year, so here's a short introduction to this legendary hiker...
If you translate the 2100+ miles Warren Doyle has walked between Georgia and Maine into steps and multiply that by his nine thru-hikes and nine, complete section hikes, you come up with a staggering 90,000,000 steps on the Trail. More than any other person.
Add to that Doyle's founding of the American Long-Distance Hiking Association and his direction of the Appalachian Trail Institute, and you still don't arrive at the sum of his influence on the hiking community.
Doyle has "taught" the A.T. to thousands of hikers at his own Institute, at colleges, in talks and through the Wilderness Education Association, of which he is a charter member. He had led group thru-hikes, with almost 100% completion rate. (On average, 25% attempting thru-hikes each year complete them.) To call him the Trail's "living legend" is no exaggeration.
Some hiking stories are about speed. (Like A.T. record holder Karl Meltzer's 45-day, 22-hour sprint from Georgia to Maine.)
Jeff Ryan's hiking story isn't one of these. Jeff took his time to get to know every inch of the Appalachian Trail from 1985 to 2013, when he and a friend section-hiked all 2,100 miles of the Trail. Jeff documented their decades-long adventure in his first book, Appalachian Odyssey: A 28-Year Hike on America's Trail. Including 75 color photos, the book is part memoir, part natural history and lore, and part practical advice. (See highlights from this journey here.)
Jeff will join us at the festival on Saturday, September 12th, to talk about his own "Appalachian Odyssey" and the stories he gathered along the way. Some of those tales are collected in his other books, including Blazing Ahead: Benton MacKaye, Myron Avery and the Rivalry that Built the Appalachian Trail (2017) and Hermit: The Mysterious Life of Jim Whyte (2019). Jeff's books will be available for sale and signing.
On Sunday, September 13th, join Jeff for "Beyond Ramen," a talk and demonstration on trail cooking. He says he'll offer "some quick tips for making your backcountry menu more exciting and nutritious than, say, eating ramen or instant stuffing mix again and again." REI will support Jeff's talk with a display of cooking stoves.
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.