Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Gathering 2008 - Hiker's Conference

The annual Gathering put on by ALDHA has come and gone, and we were fortunate to attend this years events, held near Pipestem resort in beautiful West Virgina. I had heard about the event via the White Blaze forum, but did not really know what to expect. Come to find out, it's really like a glorified hiker's conference. It lacks some of the silliness and good ol' time at Trail Days in Damascus but instead focuses on hikers and hiker's needs. There were plenty of workshops on a plethora of topics, including workshops that spelled out the how-to's of conquering any of the long distance trails, including the AT, PCT and CDT. They also had other diverse workshops on everything from gear to viewing nature to even hikes in Europe and the Andes.

One of the highlights for me was hearing from the second hiker ever to complete the entire Appalachian Trail- a man named Gene Esby. He underwent his journey back in 1951 and had plenty of fine stories to tell. I enjoyed listening to him and was pleased to learn that he will soon be publishing a book about his trek. Perhaps some dreamer out there like me who once read Ed Garvey's book will pick up Gene's book and receive the same vision I did to complete a hike of the AT.
Another aspect of The Gathering that we enjoyed was meeting other hikers. Mealtimes at the college cafeteria provided a great way to chat and meet new people. We ate with different folks every meal, from a couple planning a 2009 thru, to another couple who were workshop presenters, to men who section hiked and then the proud father of the main presenter for Saturday night whose son completed an entire journey of South America through the Andes.

Whether your plans will take you on a whole hike of a trail, a section, or just a weekend out in the woods, The Gathering is a great place to celebrate the spirit of hiking and enjoyment of the outdoors with others. Plan to come next year if you able!

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