Creeper Trail
The Virginia Creeper Trail goes right through Abingdon, Va., home of the 2017 ALDHA Gathering on Columbus Day Weekend, Oct. 6-9. Give yourself some extra time before or after the Gathering to hike or bike the Creeper Trail. See the summer newsletterfor the latest news and info about the Gathering.

Gathering registration

Sign up for the Gathering and pay your dues all in one swoop by following this link to the digital registration form.

presenters form

Would you like to put on a workshop at this year's Gathering about a trail you've hiked, or a trail-related subject you feel strongly about? Fill out this online form and send it electronically to the Gathering coordinator.

Hikers Fair
exhibitors form

If your trail club or hiker-related cause or business would like to set up a table at our Gathering Hiker Fair, fill out this digital form and send it to us electronically.

Thru-hiker recognition
signup form

Click here to fill out an online form if you have finished the A.T. this past year and plan to attend the Gathering. On Friday night, we'll call you up on stage to present a special patch and certificate from ALDHA to congratulate you before your peers.

Gathering programs
from the past

Follow this link (click here) to see archives of past Gathering programs, from 2003 to the present, all in PDF format.




































































































































































The Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association

An off-trail family of hikers, dreamers and friends of the trail working

to preserve, protect and promote the long-distance hiking community.

 The Gathering

The 2017 Gathering

By LuAnne Anderson
Gathering Program Co-coordinator

We're finalizing plans for the 36th annual ALDHA Gathering in Abingdon, Va., Oct. 6-9. The 2017 Gathering will be at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center, located just off of Interstate 81 at Exit 14.
Here's what's new since the last update:

The heart of our annual Gathering lies in the wonderful workshop sessions offered on a wide variety of topics. Presenters range from Jacquelyn Lowman, the paraplegic hiker we profiled in the winter issue, to Leonard Adkins, who'll discuss wildflowers along the A.T., and Bruce Nichols, who'll give this year's A.T. Museum symposium on "Peace Pilgrim," the first woman to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail and a 2017 inductee into the A.T. Hall of Fame.

Sessions will be on Saturday and Sunday. The workshop schedule is filling up, and the deadline to submit the workshop form is fast approaching. (You can fill it out online and email it, using this link:

If you are interested in presenting a workshop please complete the online form. The sooner you submit it, the more likely you will get your requested time slot. The deadline to submit a form to present a workshop is Sept. 5.

As many as 35 different workshops will take place throughout the weekend, with about five or six offered simultaneously in each time slot so you have options to choose from. The number of workshop choices can be a bit overwhelming (especially to newcomers), so once you check in and receive your copy of the program, it's a good idea to take some time right away to map out which sessions you want to attend.

In addition to informational workshops to help you prepare for an A.T. hike, some of this year's scheduled workshops are:
• Camino del Norte
• Pacific Crest Trail
• TWO Florida Trail presentations
• Benton MacKaye Trail
• Wales Coast Path
• TransPanama Trail — A Tropical Thru-Hike
• ATC Panel Discussion
• A.T. Museum Symposium — "Peace Pilgrim"
• Nutrition in the Outdoors
• Wildflowers of the Appalachian Trail
• Lightweight Backpacking
• Slackpacking the A.T. — Fine Wine and Accommodations in Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee
• Trail Tales – Hiker stories by the likes of Bob Peoples, "Chuck Norris," and "Odie"
• Unlikely Hikers — a small person with paraplegia and her service dog
(WOW. How will I choose?)

In addition, ALDHA Coordinator Ron Burger will host an A.T. Thru-Hikers' Companion field editors discussion.

Ron will also host a group discussion in preparation for a 50th Anniversary National Trails Act ALDHA HIKE in 2018, where at least 11 ALDHA members will represent our organization by each hiking at least 50 miles on one of the 11 national scenic trails. Sounds like fun. This is a great way to celebrate our national trails and get the ALDHA name out there.

Search and Rescue: 4-hour workshop
This course is designed to provide basic Search and Rescue (SAR) knowledge.  It is not going to qualify attendees to be members of the ALDHA SAR Team.  However, those who complete all four hours of this workshop meet a significant portion of the requirements to be “Call Out Qualified,” a critical first step in becoming an active searcher.  This course will include basics of search theory, ropes and knot tying, land navigation, basic search member equipment, communications, and other relevant topics.  If you think you are interested in SAR, this course is a must and well worth the time. It will be presented by ALDHA SAR Team coordinator Ken Bunning.

There is a $20 fee to attend the Gathering. Sign up in advance online at 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 on this web page, in the left rail: the Gathering registration form, the workshop presenter form, the hiker fair exhibitor form, and the 2,000-miler recognition form.

You can register when you arrive if you prefer. Registration will be open throughout the weekend, starting at noon on Friday. When you register or check in, you'll receive a Gathering program with details about the workshops scheduled throughout the weekend. Registration will be located right inside the main entrance to the facility.

'ALDHA Way' patches, certificates
If you've recently completed the A.T., please be sure to let us know at the registration table so we can recognize you during our Friday night program and present your certificate. See details about the "I Hiked ALDHA Way" patch and certificate on this page of the website. You must be at the Gathering to receive your patch and certificate, and there's a form at upper left you can fill out online to let us know you're coming to take part in this ceremony.

In addition to the pre-registration Early Bird Raffle mentioned above, we will be conducting a raffle throughout the weekend. Tickets will be available as follows:

1 for $1 14 for $10
6 for $5 22 for $15
30 for $20

At the Saturday evening program we will draw the winning tickets and give out $250 worth of prizes from the ALDHA Store to the winners. We'll award one prize of $25 in merchandise, three prizes of $50 in merchandise, and one prize of $75 in merchandise.

All proceeds will go to help defray Gathering costs, then to a trail project if there are excess funds. This will be a fun way to help support the Gathering and other ALDHA projects.


Friday night
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 and enjoy the goodies from the Hiker Bake-off, then "game time." For more social time, there will be a bonfire at the Muster Grounds, a short walk from the camping area.

Featured speakers
We're thrilled to welcome our Saturday night speaker, Heather "Anish" Anderson, a record-setting speed hiker on both the A.T. and the PCT. You can find out more about her on her blog at

Our Sunday night speaker will be Matthew "Odie" Norman, of The Hiker Yearbook. Odie is sure to have us laughing with his entertaining and motivational message. Recently while sitting in the presence of some of his A.T. heroes, Odie shared this caption to a photo: "There I sit in the doorway of a dream..... thank you." A humble servant of A.T. hikers and the trail, Odie has a passion for the valuable resource that The Hiker Yearbook has become to the hikers after their adventure is complete.


Hiker Bake-Off Contest
Friday night at the Gathering has become even sweeter. Bring a homemade baked good to share on Friday night after the opening program for our Hiker Bake-Off Contest. A prize will be awarded to the winning entry.

Apple Contest
Back by popular demand is the Apple Contest. Bring your sweet, gigantic, or miniature apples when you register, or to ALDHA Central on Saturday morning. Please provide your name, contact info, and the state the apples came from. Judging will be Saturday afternoon and the winners will be announced at the Saturday evening program. Prizes will be awarded.

Photo Contest
Submit your photos for the Earl Shaffer Memorial Photo Contest at the registration table no later than 3 p.m. on Saturday. We are also requesting a digital copy of your photos (thumb-drive would be preferred) so we can display the winners on the screen when they are announced on Saturday evening. Prizes will be awarded in five categories:

1) 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. Be sure to come by ALDHA Central to view the submitted photos.

Hiker Fair
Here you'll find ALDHA Central (the registration desk, ALDHA Store, lost and found, etc.), ATC's Ultimate Trail Store, the A.T. Museum exhibit, the Spirit Table, exhibits from various trail clubs, vendors, and authors, the photo contest, and the apple contest. Vendors and exhibitors should register online using the form in the left-hand column to set up a table at the fair.

A number of positions on the ALDHA board will be up for election at this year's Gathering, and new members will be needed to fill the roles of those who wish to step down. Elections will be held Sunday morning at the business meeting. Please contact the coordinator if you are interested in serving on the board. (Details on Page 35 of the summer newsletter.)

We encourage all Gathering attendees to join us for the Sunday morning general meeting. It's a great way to see who the leaders of our organization are and to learn more about ALDHA.

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. You can sign up at ALDHA Central throughout the weekend.


Breakfast and dinner will be on your own at any of the restaurant options in town. In addition, the school will offer its Higher Ed Café coffee and a continental breakfast for purchase 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 will be space in a paved parking area for about 10 RVs. There are also numerous hotel options in town, as well as private campgrounds if you'd rather camp with all the amenities.

October is a busy season in southwest Virginia, so the town of Abingdon Tourism Department has arranged for the following hotels to reserve a limited number of rooms for us, and offer discounts to our attendees. When you call to reserve, tell them you are with ALDHA. You must make your hotel reservations by Sept. 1 to get the reduced prices. There are other reasonably priced hotels in the area as well.

Comfort Inn $89 plus tax
Comfort Suites $109 plus tax
Contact Kate Michel, 276-698-3040

Country Inn & Suites
$99 plus tax
Contact Ashley Sword, 276-676-2829

Quality Inn & Suites
Regular rooms $96 plus tax
Suites $103 plus tax
Contact front desk, 276-676-9090

Martha Washington Inn and Spa
Weekday $195 plus tax
Friday/Saturday $225 plus tax (king bed)
Contact Front Desk, 276-628-3161

Restrooms and showers
Showers will be available during the weekend. The town's trolleys will be available at no cost, to run our attendees to town during breakfast and dinner breaks, and for showers at the recreation center. The town is providing portable restroom facilities in the camping area.


Pets — Service animals will be allowed at all events. Dogs must be on a leash at all times, and any gifts dropped on the ground must be cleaned up immediately.
ADA accessibility — The facility is ADA accessible, however it is likely that the restrooms in the camping area will not be. The education center's restrooms will be open while programs are going on, but the buildings will be locked at night.
Charging stations — This first-class, modern facility has numerous charging stations where you can charge your cell phone, tablet, etc.
Alcohol — Not allowed on campus or in the camping area, but reasonable alcohol consumption will be allowed at the bonfire.
Respect — We probably don't need to even mention this, but please be respectful of our hosts at the facility, the townspeople and your fellow Gathering attendees. And please let the workshop presenters, Board members, and event volunteers know that you appreciate their hard work.
Annual meeting — We encourage all Gathering attendees to join us for the Sunday morning annual meeting. This is a great way to see who the leaders of our organization are and to learn more about ALDHA. It's rewarding to be more involved in this great organization, so come and see how you can serve.
Group photo — The group photo will be taken immediately after the annual meeting.
Volunteers — We're always looking for volunteers to help with activities and contests at the Gathering. If you're interested in volunteering, email

2016 group photo

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.

HOME      |      WHAT'S NEW      |      NEWSLETTER      |      COMPANION      |      STORE
ABOUT      |      JOIN      |      VOLUNTEER      |      GALLERY      |      LINKS      |     CONTACT US






Gathering History

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.


Walkin' Jim

The Gathering Song

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