Walkers who Talk
By Bob Proudman and B.T. Fitzgerald
It's June and ridgerunners and caretakers are out on the Appalachian Trail. A dozen individual programs are managed by Trail clubs, ATC, and our agency partners. That cooperative management enables us to field trained recruits to greet and aid hikers, encourage Leave No Trace practices, interpret the A.T. backcountry, act as the “eyes and ears” of Trail clubs and land managers, and respond to occasional emergencies.
In Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee, ATC ridgerunners are in place when the main cohort of prospective thru-hikers starts the northbound trek in March. This year, more than 2,000 hikers headed north from Springer Mountain, "walking with spring” in the words of pioneering thru-hiker Earl V. Shaffer.
Southern ridgerunners complete their seasons in July when the work in other regions is just picking up. In the mid-Atlantic region, ridgerunners work through Labor Day. Some northern ridgerunners work through September and October during peak foliage season.
Above: "Will the Thrill" with Smokies Ridgerunner Billy Jones. Will, now 11, began section hiking the A.T. at age 7 with his father and hopes to complete the Trail by the time he finishes high school. (Photo by Larry Gautney)
Wearing simple uniforms with shoulder patches and caps to identify themselves, most ridgerunners have cell phones or agency-provided radios to use for emergencies. They go out for multiple nights and cover extensive mileage, typically patrolling between 40 and 100 miles of the A.T. In contrast, caretakers are assigned to specific overnight locations, particularly at popular venues in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, where careful stewardship is required due to the numbers of overnight visitors. Northern caretakers oversee and share the Appalachian Trail experience at more than 20 sites, including the high huts operated by the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC).
The Green Mountain Club and AMC began programs in the early 1970s. ATC-supported programs began in Connecticut in 1979 with AMC and with the Roanoke A.T. Club in 1985 at Catawba. ATC has continued to work with local clubs and agencies to implement programs in the most heavily used areas from Springer to Katahdin. Four dozen individuals "walk the walk" and talk about it, representing the best of the Appalachian Trail and its people, parks, forests, and clubs. Greet them if you meet them—catch them up on what's happening off the Trail or offer them some fresh fruit or the daily newspaper. And get the news on the Appalachian Trail.
If you'd like to know what it takes to be a ridgerunner or caretaker, click here. Applications for 2013 positions will be posted late this year on ATC's Job Opportunities page.
Bob Proudman is ATC Director of Conservation Operations
B.T. Fitzgerald is Chair of the Stewardship Council
The Connecticut Memorandum of Understanding
for the Appalachian Trail was signed on June 1. The signing was held at the headquarters of the Connecticut Forest & Park Association (CFPA) in conjunction with the dedication of a new trail.
On hand to affix their signatures were ATC Executive Director Mark Wenger, National Park Service Appalachian Trail Manager Pam Underhill, Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Daniel Esty, Appalachian Mountain Club President John Judge, and A.T. Committee Chair Dave Boone of the Connecticut Chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club. Other AMC members and staff, NPS and state officials, ATC staff, and representatives from the New England National Scenic Trail and CFPA also attended.
The agreement remains in effect for ten years and spells out the responsibilities of each party for managing the Trail and Trail corridor lands in the state.
Left to right: Colonel Kyle Overturf, Bob Proudman, Rita Hennessy, Kip Bergstrom, John Judge, Henry Edmunds, Tom Tyler, Russ Waldie, Dennis Reidenbach, Pamela Underhill, Charles Tracy, David Boone, Mark Wenger (Photo by Heather Clish, AMC)
Leave No Trace Project
By Tom Banks
Al Smith, an A.T. enthusiast starting a southbound thru-hike from Maine to Georgia this month, is interested in making a contribution to the Trail as he hikes. He will informally gather hikers' thoughts regarding the new A.T. Leave No Trace brochures, posters, and signs that will be available this summer for posting at locations selected through a cooperative effort among A.T. partners. Al will photograph many of the signboards along the Trail to help round out the database on the size and content of the signboards.
Tom Banks chairs the ATC Stewardship Council's trail and camping committee. He can be reached at LeaveNoTrace@appalachiantrail.org.
Nicole Wooten has joined the ATC staff as a seasonal boundary technician. She will be working with the program through December.
Nicole hails from North Carolina, where she received a B.A. in environmental studies and in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She returned just a few weeks ago from El Salvador, where she was an environmental education volunteer with the Peace Corps.
This summer, Nicole will work on boundary recovery work from Virginia to Maine. In the fall, she will collect points for the corridor mapping project. She can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
or the boundary tech e-mail: email@example.com
Join me in welcoming Nicole - she and I look forward to working with all of you this season.