The biennial Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) conference, held this year at Emory & Henry College, in Emory, Virginia, was delightful. Over one thousand hikers and outdoor lovers signed up for all or part of the week.
The opening weekend offered workshops on everything from ultra light backpacking to GPS training (beginner sessions as well as advanced). There were also exhibits in the gym where one could buy books, clothing, and mementos, and learn about the Appalachian Trail and associated hiking clubs.
During the week, day hikes were led by ATC volunteers. I got the chance to re-hike the Mt. Rogers area, climb Iron Mountain, and take side hikes to ridges and balds. We got rained on one afternoon, but that’s part of the hiking experience in Virginia. The leaders were knowledgeable, and strangers became friends, at least for the day.
The evening offerings were either music (Bluegrass) or presentations from hikers and others on their remarkable treks. I sampled both but especially enjoyed Emily Kimball’s account of her bicycle trip across America and Leonard Atkins’s account of his Continental Divide Trail hike.
It felt good to congregate with people who enjoy the outdoors and who love and respect our land.