Sometimes the expense, time away, and distance to attend a hiker festival or workshop may not seem like a worthwhile investment. But having just returned recently from The Gathering – the Appalachian Long Distance Hiker (ALDHA) premier festival that occurs every October during Columbus Day weekend, I have discovered several really good reasons for taking the time out to come gather with other hikers –
1. Education. Despite the trail miles we may have put on or the adventures we have seen, there is always things we can learn from others. The Gathering I just attended had a multitude of workshops covering a variety of topics: from various hiking trails found around the world, to How To, to preserving the trails we love. All of them provided ways to learn. Even if the festival does not have workshops, attending informal gatherings provides time for feedback about different hiker topics and thus, education (for instance I received valuable info on the Florida Trail and the Benton MacKaye Trail just by chatting with hikers). You can take your backpack to many events and have a shake down from fellow hikers and discuss gear options. And speaking of invaluable education – be sure to check out the all day workshop we conduct in March to get ready for spring hiking (registration opens in December).
2. Networking with hikers. It’s important to meet old and make new friends in the world of hiking. They are the people who best understand the difficulty found on the trail, or loneliness of a hiker who can’t find others who understand their passion or their goals. This kind of networking provides advice, friendship, ideas, companionship, and fun!
3. Adventure. Going to new places, even hiker festivals, provides an outlet for an alternate adventure. I mean, in one sense, we all hike to experience adventure away from the mundane. A hiker festival or gathering provides an outlet also for the adventuresome spirit, when one never knows WHAT will happen or the people you may meet! It can and often does, surprise you.
4. Fun. Festivals are fun. They are magnets for having a good time around a campfire at the tenting area, for joking about things that have happened, to just reveling in the hiker atmosphere such as in the hiker parade at Trail Days in Damascus and having a good, old fashioned water fight!
5. Make New Dreams. I have had my dreams for future hikes stimulated by hiker gatherings. I have found out about new trails or information about a trail or area I plan to go – and by those that have done it. Maybe you also nurse a dream of getting that pack weight down or finding a new friend to hike with, or doing a thru hike. Festivals, Workshops, Gatherings, Rucks, etc. provide a great opportunity to make your hiking dream a reality.