Ralph's Peak Hikers' Cabin Volunteers Celebrate 20 Year’s Service
There are approximately 260 shelters/leantos along the 2,182-miles (or so) Georgia to Maine Appalachian National Scenic Trail (AT). Many of them are named after the gaps, notches, or cols they are in: “Low Gap”, “Deep Gap”, “Carlo Col”; the knob, hill, mountain, ridge they are perched on; or the stream, brook, creek, pond, run, spring, or swamp they adjoin.
Some are named after people: many of these are probably “memorials”. There's only one with the somewhat goofy name “Ralph's Peak Hikers' Cabin”. Word has it there are a few AT shelters where pizza can be delivered. The Cabin is one of them. But...how many AT shelters can offer the delivery of Chinese take-out??? Guess which one.
How did this old, drab, cinder-block house become a beloved AT shelter, and, where did that goofy name come from???
Back in the '70's
The AT was slowly, inexorably being overrun, eaten-up by “progress”—condos, subdivisions, developments, malls—”civilization”.
The National Trails System Act was passed in 1968 to protect the AT, and during the Johnson and Carter administrations the National Park Service began acquiring land to protect the actual footpath, and as much of its neighboring properties as possible: a “corridor”.
In the '70's, just about all of the AT in Dutchess County, NY was on roads: cars, traffic, junk yard dogs abounded. Sometime back in the '70's (or '80's) the National Park Service acquired a small parcel of land on Hortontown Road in the Town of East Fishkill, New York. This served to link up the AT that now crossed Shenandoah Mountain to the newly-relocated Trail routed on Hosner Mountain, eliminating another long road walk. This acquisition included three structures: a sturdy cement block cabin, a frame cabin, and a garage.
Enter into the discussions Ralph Ferrusi, a 1975 AT 2000-Miler, and a committed proponent for the development and protection of the AT. After finishing the Trail he began teaching local adult education “hiking” classes, that eventually evolved into week-long hikes on the AT. In  Freddie Schene, one of his students, showed up with a yellow t-shirt with fuzzy red letters proclaiming “RALPH'S PEAK HIKERS”. Pretty corny, but it stuck, and eventually Ralph's Peak Hikers became a bona-fide club. Many of the members became AT maintainers. The club still exists today as Ralph's Peak Hikers' Cabin Volunteers.
After the Hortontown Road parcel was acquired, Ralph recognized the value of the cinder block cabin as—though atypical—an AT shelter. At that time there was no shelter for a very long stretch of Trail south of the Wiley Shelter all the way to the hiker-friendly Graymoor Monastery.
Hair down to his shoulders, full beard, red bandana, cut-off jeans, he very famously proclaimed, out loud, into the woods: “That tharsa shelter!” The Peak Hikers adopted it, and Ralph's Peak Hikers' Cabin has been a very unique AT shelter ever since, hosting thousands of hikers, (thru, day, weekenders) from all over the country and all over the world. Over the years, Ralph has often told this story to hikers he's met on the Trail and at the Cabin, as an example of how one personcan make a difference: Benton MacKaye had a great idea back in the 1920's that has had a huge positive effect on—think about it—millions.
At the RPH Cabin, hikers have easy access to food delivery and area towns for resupply and other needed services.
In the Summer of 1998
In the Summer of 1998, Ralph, his wife Kathy and Tim Messerich decided to spend a weekend in July at the Cabin performing what has been termed Trail Angel work for Thru hikers. They brought food and beverages to the hikers. This was the initial event that evolved into the Annual RPH Cabin BBQ and trail work weekend that has continued for the past 20 Years. In July, 1999, Tim and his cousin Mike brought grills to cook hot food. Over the years the BBQ has become a well known event to the thousands of thru hikers planning their treck on the Appalachian Trail National foot path.
The 2019 BBQ and trail work weekend is scheduled for July 19 – 21. The appeal for volunteers to join the RPHCV club in this annual service weekend is announced. Contact Trail Work Leader at firstname.lastname@example.org (845)401-8817for complete information on the weekend’s activities and projects. Website: https://sites.google.com/site/rphcabin/
Ralph Ferrusi and James Gahn