Add to Calendar 10/08/2021 12:00 PM 10/11/2021 10:00 AM America/New_York 39th Annual ALDHA Gathering The 39th Annual ALDHA Gathering of long-distance hikers, friends and A.T. dreamers, Columbus Day weekend, Oct. 8-11 Abingdon, Va.

The 39th annual Gathering of long-distance hikers, friends and A.T. dreamers will reconvene on Columbus Day weekend, Oct. 8-11, 2021 at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center in Abingdon, Va. 


There's a $20 registration fee to attend the Gathering. Sign up in advance to be entered in an early bird drawing for a chance to win some great door prizes. All the forms you need are on this web page in the right rail: the Gathering registration form, the workshop/presenter form, the hiker fair exhibitor form, and the 2,000-miler recognition form.

Alternatively, you can register when you arrive. Registration will be open throughout the weekend, starting at noon on Friday. When you register or check in, you'll receive a Gathering packet.  Included will be a program and details about the workshops scheduled throughout the weekend. Registration will be located in lobby of HrEd on Friday and Saturday.


Friday Night program information to follow.

Saturday Night – Feature Presentation

Keynote speaker will be Darwin Rakestraw. 

Darwin is an experienced hiker who has thru hiked over 9,000 Miles on the AT, PCT, Pinhoti, AZT, & CT. He has a popular channel on Youtube, Darwin Onthetrail. For further information about Darwin, visit his Youtube channel and the June/July Blaze

Sunday Night program information to follow

Contact the Gathering program coordinator at with any questions.

Gathering Coordinators

Program  Vera Hurst

Facilities  Dennis Newton

Hiker Fair— Chris Vores



No Plastic BottlesIn 1990, it was agreed Styrofoam would no longer be supplied or used at ALDHA functions. In 2020, at the boards request, single use plastic, including water bottles will be discouraged from use during the Gathering. Please plan according. 

'I Hiked ALDHA Way' 

I Hiked ALDHA WayIf 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.

Hiker Fair

Backpacking Gear

Here you'll find ALDHA Central (the registration desk, the ALDHA Store, lost and found, etc.), the A.T. Museum exhibit,  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 right hand column to set up a table at the fair.

Photo Contest


The Earl Shaffer Memorial Photo Contest is now accepting digital photo submissions.  To enter, complete the Photo Contest Form and upload your image from your phone or computer.  Printed images should be submitted as digital files.  

You may enter up to 5 separate submissions.  Entries must be received by September 30, 2021.  Photos will be shared on the ALDHA website, where the general public can vote on their favorites.

Prizes will be awarded in five categories:

1) Trail beauty and grandeur.

2) Trail wildlife or flora.

3) Trail Humor.

4) Trail community (including hikers, maintainers, trail angels, hostel staff, etc.)

Submissions may be related to any trail, not just the A.T.  Winners will be announced at the Gathering, and awarded ALDHA Store gear.

Apple Contest

Sue SpringBack 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.


Raffle TicketsIn addition to the pre-registration door prizes mentioned above, we will be conducting a raffle throughout the weekend. Tickets will be available in ALDHA Central.

Prior to 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, and to a trail project if there are excess funds. This will be a fun way to help support the Gathering and other ALDHA projects.


VoteA number of positions on the ALDHA board will be up for election at this year.  Nominations and elections will be held online prior to the Gathering and results  will be announced at the annual meeting on Sunday morning. 

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

Monday Work Trip

Work TripOn Monday, Oct. 11, we'll have our usual work trips.

Trip details to be announced


Where to stay

In addition to free camping near the HrEd, the “official” Gathering hotel will be the Clarion Pointe (was the Comfort Inn). It is located within walking distance of the SWVHEC.  We have secured a very competitive price for those coming early and during the weekend.  If you’d prefer to not camp or sleep in your RV, this newly, mostly renovated hotel will be comfortable and close.  It is pet-friendly and you can call and make your reservations now. Just tell them you are with ALDHA.  We will pay $55/weekday night, $65/Fri-Sun.

Group photo 

The group photo will be taken immediately after the annual meeting.


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

Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center is ADA accessible. An ADA accessible portable toilet will be available at the campsite.


No alcohol allowed on campus, but reasonable alcohol consumption will be allowed at the campfire.


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.


We're always looking for volunteers to help with activities and contests at the Gathering. If you're interested in volunteering, email

Gathering Registration Form

GatheringSign up for the Gathering, and join/renew in ALDHA all in one swoop, by following this link to the Events page.

Workshop Presenters Form

Jark TarlinWould 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.

Hiker Fair Exhibitors Form

Backpacking GearIf 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.

Trail Completion Signup Form

I HIked ALDHA WayClick 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 "I Hiked ALDHA Way" patch and certificate from ALDHA, to congratulate you before your peers.

Link To Past Programs

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.

The Gathering Song

Walkin' Jim Stoltz

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. 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

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