A.T. hikers get a warm welcome

Thru-hiker season is just about over in Western North Carolina, with most folks who are attempting the 2,190-mile Appalachian Trail having made their way north of the region. But they had some help along the way, in the form of several massive “trail magic” efforts locals have spearheaded to make the trek a little more comfortable.

The First Baptist Church in Franklin served a free pancake breakfast to 950 hikers, serving up the goods seven days a week from March 20 to April 9. It was the largest number of hikers the church had ever fed in a single season, having served the breakfast yearly since 2008. The church also provided shuttle service for the hikers. 

The Nantahala Hiking Club sponsored the 2017 Thru-Hiker Chow Down Saturday, April 1, at the Lazy Hiker Brewing Company and served more than 70 thru-hikers — almost double last year’s number. The increase is likely due to both increased numbers of hikers and improved publicity on NHC’s part. 

About 22 NHC members helped package and distribute Easter trail bags that went to about 200 hikers from Winding Stair Gap to Tellico Gap near Franklin on Saturday, April 15. The bags contained fruits, veggies, colored hard-boiled eggs and dog treats for canine hikers. Volunteers put in more than 100 hours total. 

A group of 13 served up more than 125 meals to A.T. thru-hikers on Easter weekend, April 15-16. Led by former thru-hiker and Jackson County resident Jerry Parker, the group prepared hefty omelets, coffee cake, cookies, fruits, pit-cooked pulled pork, potato salad and a variety of other menu items. They set up at Deep Gap on Saturday and went over to Rock Gap for the Sunday meal. 

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