Uncertain season: ATC issues 2021 thru-hiking guidance as pandemic continues

Appalachian Trail thru-hiker season was already in full swing when coronavirus fears prompted widespread lockdowns in March, and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy was swift to react. 

Full house: Photo prompts concern about conditions at Max Patch

Mike Wurman visited Max Patch for the first time in May 2014, and the experience changed his life. 

Wurman, an artist, had only lived in Asheville for about two years at the time after moving from Texas. He wasn’t much of a hiker, but his brother-in-law suggested that he check out the iconic bald, located in Madison County just past the Haywood County line. At the time, Wurman was feeling lost and full of self-doubt about his art. But something changed when he knelt down to take a photo of the white-blazed post marking the Appalachian Trail’s path across the bald.

From end to end: Against ATC wishes, thru-hikers summit Katahdin

When Karly Jones began the Appalachian Trail on Feb. 27, the weather was cold and the trail crowded. She quickly earned the trail name Jitter, short for jitterbug.

“I was constantly moving to try to stay warm, so I would hop from one foot to another and rub my hands together or jump around, or anything to keep warm,” she said. 

As February turned into March, Jones climbed Springer Mountain, traversed Neels Gap and then Dicks Creek Gap, summited Standing Indian Mountain and made her way through the challenging terrain of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. That’s when she first heard about COVID-19, from a group of pre-med students who had just been notified that their classes would be canceled for the next two weeks. By the time she reached Hot Springs, the world had changed. 

“That was when a lot of people were making decisions and plans to go home,” she said. “I significantly noticed it.”

A.T. trailheads to open in four states

Appalachian Trail trailheads and access points on U.S. Forest Service lands in the Southeast will reopen on Friday, May 22.

A.T. dreams meet COVID-19 crisis: Some hikers leave the trail as others press on toward Maine

In the last two weeks, the world has changed. From darkened downtown windows to packed-full parking lots at Ingles and Wal-Mart, the evidence is everywhere, impossible to ignore.

A.T. hikers share their stories

From flip-flops to overnights to the quintessential northbound thru-hike, there are many different ways to experience the Appalachian Trail on its route from Georgia to Maine. An overnight along the trail at Roaring Fork Shelter near Max Patch was enough to meet a variety of hikers, all hiking the trail their own way. 

Life at two miles an hour: A.T. hikers share their stories

From flip-flops to overnights to the quintessential northbound thru-hike, there are many different ways to experience the Appalachian Trail on its route from Georgia to Maine. An overnight along the trail at Roaring Fork Shelter near Max Patch was enough to meet a variety of hikers, all hiking the trail their own way. 

Going for the three-peat: Franklin outdoor store opens two new locations in 2018

When Rob Gasbarro and Cory McCall met in 2008, their friendship formed around hiking and biking the mountains surrounding Franklin, their weekdays filled by burgeoning careers in civil structural engineering and real estate, respectively. 

Then came the recession. Things got bad and then worse. By 2010, the careers that they’d planned to retire in, provide for families with, seemed headed for an early end. 

A.T. identities: Thru-hikers share their trail names’ origins

On the Appalachian Trail, everybody’s story is the same, in a sense — the chill of the cold, the heat of the sun, the constant challenge of placing one foot in front of the other toward the trail’s end in Maine. 

But the stories are just as different as they are similar. Thru-hikers are retirees, recent college grads, folks in the middle of a career change. They’re Appalachian natives, West Coast wanderers, foreign travelers. They’re silly, serious, talkative and silent. 

Trail town chow down: Franklin A.T. season launches with hiker meal

When Sharon Van Horn organized the first-ever Thru-Hiker Chow Down in Franklin, she and her husband Bill were pretty fresh off the trail themselves. 

The Van Horns started hiking the 2,000-plus-mile Appalachian Trail piecemeal in 2005, getting more serious about it in 2010 and completing two 300-mile sections per year thereafter until their 2013 finish. During that time, they became well acquainted with the ways of hikers, from Georgia up to Maine. 

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