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.
Here's a guest blog from friend of the fest, the Village of Bluemont. We're happy to announce that Bluemont has just been designated an A.T. Community by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and has signed on as a sponsor of this festival.
Bluemont’s beautiful outdoors provides hiking along the Bears Den and Raven Rocks sections of the A.T., as well as camping at Bears Den and ample bird watching. As an A.T. Community, we plan to offer organized hikes (in conjunction with the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club) of “The Roller Coaster” section of the Trail.
And Bluemont offers more than hiking for outdoor enthusiasts. Cycling by both professional and amateur cyclists is popular on Blueridge Mountain Road (which runs past Bears Den), as well as on the historic turnpike that runs through our village. The Bluemont Community Center provides an outdoor playground area for children with a newly established nature area. The Shenandoah River is located just four miles west of Bluemont with opportunities for kayaking and tubing. Equestrian activities can be found at Red Gate Farm Equestrian Center in Bluemont.
Unique to our village is Boulder Crest Wounded Warrior Retreat, a non-profit committed to serving our nation’s combat veterans, first responders and their families struggling from the aftermath of trauma. The 37-acre retreat offers guests horseback riding, hiking, fishing, archery, labyrinth walks, music and art—as well as a variety of in-depth therapy programs. Boulder Crest holds annual events in Bluemont including the Healing Heroes Ride, Ruck-A-Thon and a family Easter Egg Hunt. Partnering with Boulder Crest as an A.T. Community opens a multitude of doors in reaching veterans with the healing powers of the A.T. Bluemont is working with Boulder Crest to organize special hikes for Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Veterans Day.
Ongoing events in Bluemont include the annual Bluemont Fair, held the third weekend in September. The Bluemont Fair is a true country fair, drawing over 10,000 visitors and hundreds of local volunteers. This year we will celebrate our 53rd fair. Our annual Bluemont Shamrock 5K/10K is held every March. And, this June, we are partnering with our fellow A.T. Communities of Round Hill and Hillsboro for Western Loudoun's annual A.T. Festival.
Here's a guest blog from friends of the fest, Warm Peet.
In addition to being loyal sponsors of our A.T. Festival, the great folks behind this company will be joining us in person, again this year. Stop by their tent to pick up a pair of great hiking socks and learn more about their mission. (You could also win a pair of their socks in our raffle!)
Since launching the company in 2021, we’ve been able to donate more than $11,000 to nonprofits leading the charge in issues that matter most to us: Outdoor Recreation, Nature Conservation, Suicide Prevention and Mental Health services. We are firm believers that being outdoors and staying active are integral parts of our mental, emotional and physical health.
Warm Peet is more than just amazing socks; giving back will always be our #1 goal. Support from our customers and events like this A.T. Fest are why we can continue sharing 100% (that’s right, 100%) of our profits. Just to name a few, we’ve been able to give to The Trevor Project, The Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Nordson Green Earth, Teens to Trails, Head Strong, The Suicide Crisis Lifeline and We Are the 22.
What’s next for Warm Peet? We currently have no-show athletic socks and some new designs in the works. Our newsletter is the best way to stay up to date on when new products will become available. Until then, our OG Hiker Crew socks are still getting five-star reviews from every single person who wears them! They have made their way off the trail and into the gym, on bikes, at work, or the couch :)
We absolutely love this A.T. Fest and everything it sets out to achieve. It’s also where we launched our socks in 2021—we literally took our first steps there—so we may be a bit biased. We can’t wait to be a part of this year’s event, because it creates an opportunity for people to come together to celebrate, support and protect the A.T. and the Great Outdoors. We look forward to sharing our vision and our socks with the outdoor/hiking community…they’re our peeps! We want to keep their feet happy, while they keep their minds healthy.
Fun fact! Did you know it takes 9 minutes and 39 seconds to make a pair of Warm Peet socks? We’ve challenged ourselves to think about all the things we can achieve in just ten minutes to make a positive impact on someone else, on the world, or even on ourselves. Just another way we try to give back and spread some kindness.
Looking forward to seeing you in June.
Your friends at Warm Peet
The A.T. gives us amazing vistas and hikes, natural wonders and zen moments. It's a privilege to give back a little to the Trail that gives us so much.
At our first Bears Den Volunteer Day a wonderful crew of A.T. appreciators gathered to clear fallen branches from a campground, clean up litter left behind at the overlook and re-establish water breaks to protect a side trail.
We also took the opportunity to talk about the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club and all the many, many volunteers who work throughout the year to keep the Trail and its environs in great shape. We even got to talk to a group of Boy Scouts and day hikers about Bears Den and what it takes to keep it the beautiful spot it is.
Bears Den Trail Center's caretaker Glen provided our crew with coffee and donuts. (Many thanks!) The event was co-sponsored by the Blue Ridge Chapter of PATC, the Round Hill A.T. Community and the Appalachian Trail Festival in The Gap. Response was so positive, that we all decided we want to do it again.
You can find out more about the Bears Den Trail center at their website. To learn more about the amazing trail maintenance work of PATC, check out their website (and consider becoming a member, if you aren't already).
We talk a lot here on the A.T. festival website about what you should be planting. (Hint: Go native!) The flip side of that coin is what not to plant and what to "un-plant."
That's where one of our festival partners comes in: Blue Ridge PRISM. This hard-working nonprofit began as a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to reducing the negative impact of invasive plants in the northern Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Effective invasive plant control is a community and neighborhood issue because these aggressive plants know no boundaries. Flowing water, birds, hikers, vehicles and animals' scat all help to spread their seeds.
Have you seen a thick vine squeezing the life out of a tree? In our area, too many Asiatic bittersweet vines are doing just that. Have you seen a mat of grass smother forest wildflowers? Japanese stilt grass might be the culprit. Talk to the folks from Blue Ridge PRISM at the festival and ask your questions. (You might want to bring pictures of any plants you're wondering about!)
Plus, throughout the year, Blue Ridge PRISM offers virtual and in-person workshops that can teach all of us how to identify and eradicate invasive plants in our area. Upcoming events include:
Ask kids what they love about our festival, and plenty of them will mention "the big slide." That big slide shows up courtesy of Big Country Amusements (BCA). We asked Joshua Fuchs, generous owner of BCA, why he supports our event.
We understand you're an active member of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC), and that's why you got involved with our A.T. Festival. What does PATC mean to you?
I started with PATC in 2017. I continue to stay involved with the club because it's my way of giving back to the hiking community and helping others to fall in love with the Trail like I have.
How have you been involved with PATC over the years?
I’m involved several different ways. I’m a trail maintainer. My section of the A.T. is the Pocosin Trail fire road to Dean Mountain Road. And I maintain the Catlett Spur Trail in the Shenandoah Wilderness. I'm also district manager for the North Central blue blaze trails in Shenandoah National Park, and I'm a sawyer and sawyer instructor for Shenandoah NP and PATC.
Are you an A.T. day hiker, long-distance hiker or both?
I have only day hiked the A.T. with a few backpacking trips; one day after I retire from the amusement business my plan is to thru hike the Trail.
Do you have a favorite section of the trail?
Of course, the section I maintain is my favorite! Three Ridges is my favorite section; the loop is challenging and extremely rewarding.
Can you tell us a little about some of your other favorite local hikes?
My favorite day hikes are up to Bear Church Rock or Robertson Mountain. Robertson has a similar view as Old Rag without the crowds or the hassle of getting a day pass. Truthfully, no trail is bad or good; each one has its own personality.
We're happy to announce that local guy Justin Trawick (and his band) will perform again at the fest.
These days, Justin Trawick and The Common Good (www.justintrawick.com) is based in DC and tours around the Mid Atlantic. But Loudoun is home to Justin, who grew up in Leesburg and played with his church's acoustic folk group and the Loudoun Bluegrass Association before moving away for college.
We asked Justin what it means to him to return and perform at our A.T. celebration. Here's what he had to say:
I'm an Eagle Scout and grew up in Leesburg hiking and camping with my Boy Scout Troop, Troop 982. I really loved Boy Scouts and outdoor activities, which is partly why I like being a part of A.T. Fest.
In the digital, fast-paced world we live now it's important not to forget the natural world around us. The long tradition of the Appalachian Trail and what it means to the communities it passes through up and down the East Coast is something to be celebrated. It would be easy for people one day to forget about these important nature preserves, but the A.T. Fest is doing its part in keeping it in the forefront of people's minds.
Welcome back to our celebration of the A.T. (and all the Great Outdoors), Justin.
We've been fortunate to have this festival hosted by the generous folks of B Chord Brewery three times. Sadly, B Chord closed up for business, and we found ourselves a festival without festival grounds.
We're happy to announce that the Town of Hillsboro will become the festival's new host and partner. We'll continue to toast the Town of Round Hill's designation as an A.T. Community, as we welcome Hillsboro, our neighbor community, to this celebration of the Appalachian Trail and all the beautiful green spaces here in Western Loudoun County.
We hope you'll join us June 10, 2023, at Hillsboro's Gap Stage and Old Stone School for the rebranded Round Hill / Hillsboro Appalachian Trail Festival in The Gap. Once again, we'll have Americana tunes and trail talks, bites and brews (and wine) and activities for all ages.
Meet reps from local hiking and environmental groups including Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, Friends of the Blue Ridge Mountains...and many more. Come to camping/hiking demos, learn about native plants, try your hand at nature-inspired art—and you might just go home with one of our raffle prizes.
More announcements to come, but we hope you'll save the date now.
Festival photo above by Dan Innamorato.
We've sung the praises of native plants—at our annual festival and here in our blog. Now, it's time to focus on the leaves of our native trees.
It's easy enough to enjoy leaf buds in the spring, the shade leaves provide in the summer and their color in the fall. Then, once they've fallen to the ground at our homes, most of us were taught to see them as a chore. Something to be raked (or blown), bagged and hauled away to the landfill. But here's the eco-truth: Leaves are not litter.
They're habitat. Butterflies and bumble bees, moths and millipedes and so many more insects count on the protection of fallen leaves to make it through the winter. And then there's the birds, chipmunks, squirrels, turtles and amphibians who rely on those insects for food.
Leave all the leaves that fall on your native plant garden—and your plants and the critters that live around and on and under them will thank you. Leaving a thin layer of leaves on your lawn won't kill it (if you must have a lawn at all—but that's another story), and you can compost the rest.
The Xerces Society "Leave the Leaves" campaign has more info and suggestions.
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.