Appalachian Trail Conservancy

SidehillBeth Critton and Bob Proudman
Movies Promise Surging Visitor Use

By Beth Critton and Bob Proudman

A Walk in the Woods—Bill Bryson’s humorous bestseller about his 800-mile A.T. hike with high-school buddy Katz—noticeably increased use of the Appalachian Trail after it was published in 1998. 

Now, after several false starts, filming began in April in north Georgia, with Robert Redford and Nick Nolte starring as Bryson and Katz. The senior producer with Wildwood Productions has worked closely with ATC Executive Director Ron Tipton and Southern Regional Director Morgan Sommerville and other ATC staff to ensure an “authentic film that accurately presents the experience of long distance A.T. hiking,” as Tipton reported to the ATC board.

Wild, From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail is the soul-searching story of first-time backpacker Cheryl Strayed’s 1,100-mile journey on the PCT, after she lost her mother to cancer at age 45. Published in 2012, the book spent seven weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, and is now being made into the film Wild (see the Pacific Crest Trail Association’s blog),scheduled for release in December. As a result, PCT long-distance hiking will very likely increase next year.

Is there any way for us to predict the scale of likely increases? Past publicity has dramatically increased use of the A.T. and its facilities. National Geographic magazine published an article in August 1949 publicizing Earl Shaffer’s first A.T. thru-hike. In 1987, a cover article in National Geographic dramatized the beauty of the A.T. and led to double-digit percentage increases in the number of Trail users. ATC Publisher Brian King and Information Services Manager Laurie Potteiger report that use by thru-hikers—a rough proxy for overall use—increased by 45 percent in 2000 following publication of A Walk in the Woods. While some of that undoubtedly came from those celebrating the turn of the millennium, ATC thinks that most of the increase was due to Bryson’s book. Anecdotally, Potteiger reports that more single women appear to be hiking now, presumably due to Strayed’s inspiring story. Indeed, publicity does bring more people to the Trail, and major publicity has the potential to inundate the A.T. backcountry.

Hiker hordes may increase in the future
What can the ATC, the Trail clubs, and our agency partners do to prepare? We should begin planning a multifaceted and phased response, considering everything from sanitation management to additional ridgerunners and caretakers. With the many hiker blogs and guide options out there now, next-generation PR is a must. Depending on the advance promotion and release date for  "A Walk in the Woods," ATC will be marshaling additional resources to help manage the inevitable impacts, which we anticipate in 2015-16. 
We expect the heaviest influx to be of prospective thru-hikers starting in Georgia. To help disperse them, we should promote alternative itineraries, possibly even scheduling departures via voluntary Web-based reservations. Additional seasonal ridgerunners, backcountry rangers, and trail crews will be needed to work in tandem with anticipated hiker increases. 

Let’s get our best minds and boots working on this opportunity.
Beth Critton is Chair of the Stewardship Council
Bob Proudman is Director of Conservation Operations

Fire and Camping Rules 

As we stated in our March issue, "The Appalachian Trail has a complex,overlapping set of national, state, and municipal rules, regulations, and requirements for camping and campfire use."

The draft
summary of fire and camping rules along the A.T. posted in that issue has been updated and will be posted on ATC's Website for hikers to reference. In the meantime, you can find it here.

We hope the summary will help Trail users and managers navigate the complexities while enhancing the Trail experience for hikers and protecting the Trail and its resources.
L.L.Bean Grants to A.T. Clubs  
UVTA High School Crew (2013 L.L.Bean grant)

This year, ATC is awarding $24,175 to 14 Trail clubs or their partners for projects related to Trail maintenance, Trail and facility construction, visitor services, and public education. Recipients are required to provide a match equal to half of the amount awarded. The labor of A.T. volunteers is the most common match for these grants.

Over two decades, more than a half-million dollars have been provided to the A.T. maintaining clubs through this program, which has been sponsored since the late 1980s by outdoor retailer L.L.Bean Inc. 

A list of 2014 grants is found here.
Boundary Blurb 

Photo by H. Dean ("Crooked Sticks") Clark

Tire-dump clean ups, training workshops, missing-monument searches, and hard-working boundary recovery crews: April was a busy month!  

Special thanks to the Appalachian Long Distance Hiking Association (ALDHA), which teamed up with the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC) for an excellent work trip in northern Virginia. 

May is proving just as busy as April, with annual monitoring, maintaining, and encroachment mitigation on the docket for many volunteers.  Corridor work is more fun (and safer!) with friends, so if you're interested in having a crew work on your section, contact your club's corridor monitor coordinator.

–Nicole Wooten
Corridor Stewardship
Appalachian Trail Conservancy
Mid-Atlantic Regional Office
717-258-5771 x 207  
Norovirus particle enlarged above
Following clusters of severe gastrointestinal illness among hikers in recent years (see our February issue), ATC has worked with health officials, hostel-keepers, and others in the southern part of the Trail to get the word out that hand-washing, avoiding sharing food, and prompt reporting are critical in helping prevent an outbreak. 
A norovirus prevention poster was widely distributed in the region and ridgerunners have been spreading the word and encouraging hikers who are ill or recovering to report it to If Trail club volunteers encounter sick or recovering hikers, please ask them to report it to that e-mail. They will be sent a link to a brief survey to help determine where the illness was contracted. 

Scattered reports of illness have been reported from North Carolina to central Virginia, and recently in Shenandoah National Park. Due to a relatively low number of reports in any one location, hikers have not been tested, and norovirus, the most frequent cause of such illness, has not been confirmed. 

Norovirus Clean-up 

If A.T. volunteers decide to clean and sanitize a shelter or privy where hikers have been sick, they should consult with their agency partner and follow their recommended procedures. 

Some general guidance (adapted from poster): 

Clean up
- Wear protective clothing (such as disposable gloves, apron, mask)
- Wipe up vomit or diarrhea with paper towels
- Dispose of paper towel/waste in a plastic trash bag or biohazard bag
- Use soapy water to wash surfaces
- Rinse thoroughly with plain water
- Wipe dry with paper towels

- Prepare a chlorine bleach solution (make fresh bleach solution daily)
- For porous surfaces (wood, concrete, natural stone) use 1 2/3 cup bleach per gallon of water
- Air dry surfaces
- Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water
- Remove and wash all clothing that may have touched vomit or diarrhea
- Machine-wash clothing with detergent, hot water, and bleach (if recommended), using the longest wash cycle, and then machine-dry them

Hiking through History
2015 ATC Biennial 

The 2015 Appalachian Trail Conservancy's Biennial Conference, "Hiking through History," cohosted by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club and the Mountain Club of Maryland will be held July 17-24, 2015 at the campus of Shenandoah University in Winchester, VA.  (Click here to view a video.)

If you would like to conduct a workshop or give a presentation at the  Conference, please fill out this (very short) form (PDF, DOC)  and e-mail it to

We are seeking volunteers to help with the conference planning, to lead hikes and excursions, to help with registration, and many other needs. If you are interested in volunteering, please complete and return this form.

Volunteer Toolkit

A.T. club leaders, Trail volunteers, and others interested in Trail management will find a wealth of information at

The Volunteer Leadership Handbook found on that page provides an overview of the unique cooperative management of the Trail and describes resources and programs available to assist the Trail clubs.


Subscribe toThe Register

First published in April 1978, The Register is intended for Appalachian Trail volunteers, their agency partners, and others interested in the stewardship of the Trail. 

Subscribe to The Register (and other ATC newsletters) at  or send a message to with "subscribe" in the subject line and with your first and last name and e-mail address in the body of the message. 

Please forward this issue or provide this information to anyone who might be interested in subscribing. 

Volunteer of the Month

Gary Monk of  the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club knew that he wanted to give back to the Trail after his 2002 thru-hike.  

That desire turned
 into more than 10 years of giving back to the A.T. and nurturing cooperation along the Trail and beyond. Read more about Gary's contributions here.


2014 ATC Meetings

Volunteer Leadership Meeting
August 8-10
Shepherdstown, WV

Southern Regional Partnership Committee
October 18
Asheville, NC

Virginia Regional Partnership Committee
October 25
Location TBD

Mid-Atlantic Regional Partnership Committee
October 25
Harrisburg, PA

ATC Stewardship Council
Oct. 30-Nov. 1
Shepherdstown, WV

ATC Board of Directors
Oct. 31-Nov. 1
Shepherdstown, WV

New England Regional Partnership Committee
November 22
Crawford Notch, NH
The Register  is published by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy for the volunteers of the Appalachian Trail, their agency partners, and others interested in the stewardship of the Trail.

Appalachian Trail Conservancy
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy mission is to preserve and manage the Appalachian Trailensuring that its vast natural beauty and priceless cultural heritage can be shared and enjoyed today, tomorrow, and for centuries to come. To become a member, volunteer, or learn more, visit
Our mailing address is:
ATC Headquarters
799 Washington St, PO Box 807
Harpers Ferry, WV 25425

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