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
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.
First published in 1982, A Woman's Journey recounts an A.T. trek in words and pictures. The book, still in print, continues to inspire hikers. Since penning her first book, Cindy Ross has gone on to write about her journeys on the Pacific Crest Trail, the Continental Divide Trail (with children!) and other wild spots around the world.
We are pleased to announce that author/speaker/hiker extraordinaire Cindy Ross will be joining us at the 2020 Round Hill Appalachian Trail Festival. On Saturday, Cindy will talk about "Life-long Learning on the Trail," sharing her experiences hiking, cycling and paddling long-distance trails over the past four decades. On Sunday, Cindy will lead a workshop, "Bringing Back the Experience," where participants will join Cindy for "a little journal writing, photography and sketching in the field."
Cindy's seventh book, The World Is Our Classroom: How One Family Used Nature and Travel to Shape an Extraordinary Education, came out in 2018. She is at work on her next book, Walking Towards Peace: The Healing Journeys of 20+ Veterans, based on her nonprofit's work to help veterans recover from the trauma of war by taking them out into nature.
Round Hill Outdoors and the Round Hill A.T. Community invite you to submit artwork to the third annual Round Hill Appalachian Art Show. The show aims to connect the community to the A.T. and all our local natural resources.
Entries should celebrate the A.T. and/or the Great Outdoors. Registration is open now. Submissions from students and adults are due by February 2nd at the Round Hill Arts Center (35246 Harry Byrd Hwy #170). Please bring submissions January 31st, February 1st or February 2nd between 12 and 4 pm.
Even if you don't want to enter, come celebrate the A.T. and see how the Trail inspires people of all ages. The show runs February 9th–March 8th from 12-4 pm. An opening reception on February 16th (2-4 pm) features a talk by A.T. hiker/artist Rose Turner, awards and food and drink.
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.