An off-trail family of hikers, dreamers and friends of the trail working
to preserve, protect and promote the long-distance hiking community.
By LuAnne Anderson
Gathering Program Co-coordinator
Howdy y'all!!!!! C'mon down south and join us for the 36th Annual ALDHA Gathering in Abingdon, Va.!!
The 2017 Gathering will be Oct. 6-9 at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center (in photo above). It's just off of Interstate 81 at Exit 14.
There is a $20 fee to attend the Gathering. Sign up in advance online at aldha.org/join.html to be entered in the Early Bird Raffle for a chance to win some great raffle prizes and gear or register in person when you arrive. All the forms you need are in the column at left: the registration form, a workshop presenter form and the hiker fair exhibitor form.
There will likely be another patch in conjunction with this Gathering, in keeping with the tradition started last fall. A decision, and a design, are still pending but if you have any ideas, contact the coordinator.
At our opening night program we'll have our annual roll call of thru-hikers and long-distance hikers, and we'll recognize the members of the class of 2017 and SOBOs of 2016 with a certificate and patch from ALDHA. After the opening program we'll have a reception, then "game time."
The heart of our annual Gathering lies in the wonderful workshop sessions offered on a wide variety of topics. Sessions will be on Saturday and Sunday. If you are interested in presenting a workshop please complete the online form using the link in the upper left section of this page.
Join us both Saturday and Sunday evenings for interesting and informative keynote speakers.
Saturday Night Party
After our feature presentation on Saturday night, we hope you’ll join us for a fun social time.
Hungry Bear Bake-Off Contest
Friday night at the Gathering just got a whole lot sweeter! Bring a homemade baked good to share on Friday night after the opening program for our Hungry Bear Bake-Off Contest.
ALDHA board member Justin Burns is organizing this year's Earl Shaffer Memorial Photo Contest. Submit your photos at the registration table by 3 p.m. on Saturday to be considered. Winners will be announced on Saturday evening and prizes will be awarded in five categories:
1) The beauty and grandeur of the Appalachian Trail.
2) Beauty and grandeur of another trail.
3) Wildlife/flora along the trail.
4) Humor of the trail.
5) The trail community (i.e., maintainers, trail angels, etc.)
You may submit up to five 8-by-10 (or smaller) photos, unframed please. ALDHA will announce the winners at the Saturday night program, and publish the winning photos in an upcoming edition of The Long Distance Hiker.
Here you'll find ALDHA Central (the registration desk, ALDHA Store, lost and found, etc.), ATC's Ultimate Trail Store, exhibits from various trail clubs, vendors, and authors, and the photo contest. Register online using the form in left-hand column to set up a table at the fair.
With the Virginia Creeper trail literally in the heart of town, and the A.T. just next door in Damascus, we’ll offer several hikes of varying ability levels, so come prepared for a beautiful hike in the southwest Virginia mountains. (Photo of the Creeper Trail, above.)
A number of positions on the ALDHA board will be up for re-election at this year's Gathering, and new members will be needed to fill the roles of those who wish to step down. Please contact the coordinator if you are interested in serving on the board.
Monday Work Trips
We will offer several work trips on Columbus Day, Monday, Oct. 9.
Breakfast will be provided, and you will receive a work trip patch to thank you for your hard work.
Dining & Meal Tickets
Breakfast and dinner will be on your own at any of the restaurant options close by in town. Coffee will be provided at ALDHA Central Saturday and Sunday mornings. Food trucks will be on hand for lunch.
Where to stay
There will be plenty of tenting spaces in an open field right onsite. There are also numerous hotel options in town.
Showers will be available during the weekend. We'll post more info as it becomes available.
Many thanks to "Crooked Sticks," aka H. Dean Clark, for once again providing a bevy of professional photos of the Gathering, including our family portrait taken on Sunday morning. Click on the image below for the high-resolution version that you can download to your computer and use at will. (The original image is about 2.5 MB in size, so download time may take a minute.) If posting elsewhere online, please credit Dean.
The first Gathering was held before ALDHA was even officially created. In the fall of 1982, Warren Doyle gathered together long-distance hikers and friends of the trail for a weekend retreat in southern West Virginia, and it was during that time of fellowship and renewal in the community of the Appalachian Trail that the seed of an idea for ALDHA was planted.
Six months later, at a meeting in Harpers Ferry on March 5, 1983, attendees voted to formally establish an organization of hikers, maintainers, friends of the trail and folks who dream of someday hiking the A.T., and they christened their newborn group the Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association.
ALDHA has held an annual Gathering ever since, with locations varying from north to south to accommodate our ever-growing membership.
At the 2000 Gathering in Pipestem, W.Va., Walkin' Jim Stoltz was asked if he would compose a song for ALDHA to help mark the 20th Gathering the following year. He readily agreed, then admitted later that it proved to be a lot harder than he thought it would be. When he stood up to perform it that next year at the 2001 Gathering in Hanover, N.H., we think he hit it out of the park.
A few years later, he sat down and recorded it for Weathercarrot's video documentary on the 25th anniversary of ALDHA. Click the link below to listen. Feel free to download it, too. After his untimely passing in 2010, Jim's former wife gave ALDHA the rights to it, and we offer it to you all in hopes that it'll stir fond memories of the Gathering and that you'll always remember Walkin' Jim.
"To the Gathering Again"
by Walkin' Jim Stoltz, 2001