Click on the image above for the hi-rez version of the ALDHA group photo at this year's Gathering in Williamstown. Our thanks to H. Dean "Crooked Sticks" Clark for herding cats in order to get the photo, and to Tsaina, the Williams student who volunteered to press the shutter button so Dean himself could be part of the picture.
By Betsy Kane
Gathering Program Coordinator
Please join us for the 35th annual Gathering at Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., on Oct. 7-9. Established in 1793, the historic Williams campus is situated in the heart of Williamstown and was host of the Gathering in 2014 and part of the Gathering in 2011.
The Williams College venue is graciously made available to us through sponsorship of the Williams Outing Club, directed by Scott Lewis.
ALDHA does not have access to any Williams College facilities until Friday at 5 p.m., so if you do get to Williamstown early, please try to hang out in town or at the campsite. All of the weekend's workshops and events will take place on the Williams campus, with the exception of camping, Friday afternoon registration, and the Saturday evening reception, which will take place a few miles off campus at the campsite on the property of Eric White at 237 Oblong Road.
There is a $20 fee to attend the Gathering. Sign up in advance online at aldha.org/join.html 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.
The registration table will open on Friday, Oct. 7, at 12 noon. When you check in, you'll receive the full Gathering program booklet with details about workshops and presentations taking place throughout the weekend. You can also buy your meal tickets at this time.
Arriving on Friday between 12 and 5 p.m.? Check in at the barn, next to the parking area at the campsite.
Arriving after 5 p.m. on Friday? Head to the '62 Center on campus at Williams College. Registration will be closed from 5-9 p.m. for dinner and the Opening Session, but will reopen in the lobby of the '62 Center from 9-11 p.m.
Arriving on Saturday? Check in at the registration table from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on campus in Greylock Hall, which will be home to ALDHA Central and the Hiker Fair.
The above patch will be in your registration packet as a souvenir of this year's Gathering. We hope it will become an annual tradition to commemorate each year's Gathering location. This year's inaugural patch was designed by Mike Wingeart and features the war memorial atop Mount Greylock, which will be a constant presence during Gathering weekend, especially from our campsite.
At the registration table, you'll receive an ALDHA neck wallet (name badge holder) and wristband to wear for the weekend. These are your ticket in the door for all Gathering events and our way of identifying ourselves to the campus community, so please don't remove them until you depart.
Already have a collection of name badge holders from past Gatherings? Help us out by packing your old neck wallet to re-use at this year's event. We will have new neck wallets available but won't assume that everyone needs another one.
While You Are Checking In…
At check-in, be ready to update your personal contact information and list of trails you have completed. It's also helpful to let us know at check-in if you will be presenting a workshop, so we can verify your workshop time and site.
Did you just complete an A.T. thru-hike? Let us know if you did when you check-in and we will be sure you are recognized during the Friday night opening session.
The registration table is also where you can purchase meal tickets, drop off desserts for the Hungry Bear Bake-Off (by 5 p.m. Friday) and submissions for the photo contest (by 3 p.m. Saturday), and sign up for Monday's work trips. Also, make sure to sign the banner for our 35th ALDHA Gathering!
Our opening night program will be jam-packed this year with greetings from ALDHA and the ATC, a special memorial tribute to "Baltimore Jack" Tarlin, guest presenters "Farmer Chef," "Mama Bear" and their children, who will talk about their family hike on the A.T., and our annual roll call of thru-hikers, where we start with the class of 2015 and go back in time to the last person standing. Finally we will call for the members of the class of 2016 and SOBOs of 2015 to stand up, and they will receive a certificate and patch from ALDHA.
The heart of our annual Gathering lies in the wonderful workshop sessions offered on a wide variety of topics. Sessions begin at 9 a.m. on Saturday and run throughout the day until 5 p.m., when we take a break for dinner before our feature presentation.
Workshops resume on Sunday afternoon at 1:30 after ALDHA's annual morning business meeting.
As many as 40 different workshops take place throughout the weekend, with up to 10 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 on Friday night to map out which sessions you'd like to attend on Saturday and Sunday!
All daytime workshop presenters at the Gathering are unpaid volunteers who have taken the time to put together a presentation to share, so please be sure to show your appreciation.
Saturday Night Feature Speaker
We are excited to present special guest Niki Rellon, "Bionic Woman," as this year's Saturday night feature speaker. After a tragic accident in 2013 led to a below-the-knee amputation, Niki made history in 2015 when she became the first female amputee to complete an A.T. thru-hike. Hear Niki's story at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Saturday Night Barn Party
After our feature presentation on Saturday night, head back to the campsite to enjoy a get-together in Eric White's barn! Snacks and drinks will be available but feel free to BYOB as well.
Tom Gathman, "The Real Hiking Viking," will join us to discuss his multiple thru-hikes in a special Sunday evening presentation. Tom has thru-hiked the A.T. three times, both with fellow combat veterans and on his own (including a recent winter hike).
Hungry Bear Bake-Off Contest
Friday night at the Gathering just got a whole lot sweeter! Bring a homemade baked good to share on Friday night after the opening program for our new Hungry Bear Bake-Off Contest. Desserts must be dropped off at the registration table by 5 p.m. on Friday for contest entry. Judges will select a favorite and the winner will receive a carved wooden Adirondack bear.
ALDHA board member Justin Burns is organizing this year's Earl Shaffer Memorial Photo Contest. Submit your photos at the registration table by 3 p.m. on Saturday to be considered. Winners will be announced on Saturday evening and prizes will be awarded in five categories:
1) The 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 publish the winning photos in the winter edition of The Long Distance Hiker. If you have questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Hiker Fair will be set up in Greylock Hall on the Williams campus, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Saturday. Here you'll find ALDHA Central (the registration desk, ALDHA Store, lost and found, etc.), ATC's Ultimate Trail Store, exhibits from various trail clubs, vendors, authors and the photo contest. Gary Sizer is organizing this year's fair. Register online at aldha.org to set up a table at the fair, or contact Gary at email@example.com.
Two hikes in the same location on Mount Prospect are planned for Sunday morning at 9. The choices are a fairly strenuous 1.5-mile hike (1,500-foot climb) and a 0.5-mile easier walk, both leading to the Mount Prospect overlook, where you can see Williamstown, the campsite in south Williamstown, and north into Vermont. Those interested should meet at ALDHA Central in Greylock Hall at 9 a.m.
A number of current positions on the ALDHA board will be up for re-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 take place on Sunday morning at the annual meeting for a new assistant coordinator (1-year term remaining), three at-large board members (for 2-year terms), a membership secretary (2-year term) and a treasurer (2-year term). If you'd like to run or have any questions about these positions, contact ALDHA Coordinator Jim Sample.
Monday Work Trips
We will offer two options for work trips on Columbus Day, Monday, Oct. 10. One will involve A.T. corridor/boundary maintenance in nearby Cheshire, Mass., and the other will be a trail work trip on the A.T., near Mount Greylock. Both trips will meet at the campsite at 8:30 a.m., and work trip coordinator Ron Bungay will meet the volunteers then. Cosmo Catalano of the Massachusetts A.T. Committee, who has been instrumental in getting us access to the beautiful '62 Center, will lead the work trip on the A.T., which will involve clearing a view on Mount Prospect in the Greylock reservation. Another committee member, Dave Pirog, will lead the boundary work trip. A bag lunch will be provided for all work volunteers.
For those who just can't give enough, there will be an additional work trip following the Gathering on Tuesday and Wednesday, Oct. 11-12 in New Hampshire. ALDHA will be working with the Dartmouth Outing Club to maintain their local trail boundary. ALDHA will provide food for this trip, and Dartmouth will offer one of their cabins for housing.
Dining & Meal Tickets
We will be able to dine at Whitman's Dining Hall in Paresky Student Center, which we also utilized in 2014. There are many other dining options in Williamstown, a short walk from campus.
Meal tickets will not be sold in advance this year. Rather, you can purchase your tickets at the Gathering registration desk starting Friday at noon and continuing until Saturday morning. Registration opens at noon inside the barn at the campsite in Williamstown. Absolutely no cash sales will be accepted at the dining hall. The tickets are designed to make it easier on dining hall staff. Lines can still be expected, so other options are worth exploring.
Saturday breakfast ... $8 ... 7:30 - 10:30 a.m.
Saturday lunch ... $10 ... 11:30 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Saturday dinner ... $11 ... 5 - 8 p.m.
Sunday brunch ... $10 ... 11 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.
Sunday dinner ... $11 ... 5 - 8 p.m.
There will be plenty of tenting spaces in an open field with beautiful views of Mount Greylock. Parking spots will also be available for those wishing to sleep in vehicles. A short walk from the circular drop-off area will allow access to your tenting spot. For safety reasons, we will not be able to allow cars in the tenting area.
Port-a-johns will be available in the tenting area; showers will be on the Williams campus. An evening bonfire will be set up away from those wishing to go to bed early, but be advised that sounds carry regardless. Pack earplugs.
Showers will be available during the weekend at Lasell Gym, located on the corner of Spring Street and Route 2, just a short walk from Griffin Hall, our main workshop venue. Hours will be determined later and posted in the program.
Parking will be allowed by permit in the parking garage on campus, located off Whitman Street off Route 7 North. Vehicles taller than 7 feet cannot access the lower levels of the garage; those should park on the uppermost level from Whitman Street. Each car will receive one parking permit at the registration table. There is also a public parking lot at the south end of Spring Street, the main commercial thoroughfare in Williamstown.
Pet dogs are welcome, but their owners must follow the policy of Williams College, the key points of which are: Dogs should be leashed or under the control of the owner at all times; dogs should not be tied to handrails or left unattended outside of buildings; and owners should be responsible for cleaning up after their dogs.
Regarding true service animals, they are permitted at all college facilities, programs and activities, except for research labs, mechanical rooms and other restricted areas, according to the college policy.
On the other hand, assistance animals — including comfort animals — are NOT allowed inside any campus buildings. (The only exception is for students who need their assistance animals inside their dorms. This obviously doesn't apply to Gathering attendees.)
All dogs — whether they are service animals, assistance animals or just plain pets — need to be kept on a leash and cleaned up afterward, not just on campus but at the campsite as well. Dogs are not allowed to roam at the campsite, where people will have food in their tents and don't want to step in any surprises on the camping field.
We had an incident of an unleashed dog biting someone at a previous Gathering, and we do not want that to happen again. So if you must have your dog with you at the Gathering, you must keep it on a leash.
It should also go without saying that any dog brought to the Gathering should have all of its shots.
From the West via Upstate New York
Take Route 2 East to Williamstown. At intersection with Route 7, turn right onto 7 and go south. Turn right onto Woodcock Road, then right onto Oblong. The driveway to the campsite will be on your left in half a mile.
From Interstate 90 / Mass Pike
Take Exit 2 for Route 20 North. Keep going north on Route 7 to Williamstown. After passing intersection with Route 43, look for Woodcock Road on your left, the third road past Mount Greylock High School on left. From Woodcock Road, turn right onto Oblong Road, and the driveway to the campsite will be on left in half a mile.
From Interstate 91
From north or south, take Exit 26 for Route 2 — the Mohawk Trail — and head west for 45 miles to Williamstown. Pass through campus, go around the rotary and take Route 7 South. Stay on Route 7 and turn right onto Woodcock Road, then right onto Oblong. The driveway to the campsite will be on your left in half a mile.
GPS for the campsite:
Here are the coordinates if using GPS:
+ 42° 41' 8.07", - 73° 14' 46.37"
This year's Gathering of the Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association will be dedicated to the memory of "Baltimore Jack" Tarlin, who passed away unexpectedly on Wednesday, May 4, in Franklin, N.C.
Jack never missed a Gathering since he started coming in the late 1990s. Having hiked the A.T. eight times, it had become a fun tradition at the Gathering's Friday night roll call of class years to see Jack stay standing year after year after year. He could be seen before, during and after the Gathering, greeting old friends and new, pitching in where needed, imparting his trail wisdom at his well-attended workshops on how to prepare for a thru-hike, and standing up to voice his views at meetings and other venues, including, of course, the nightly campfire, a Gathering tradition that just won't feel the same for years to come.
For his loyalty, passion and dedication to ALDHA, the 35th annual Gathering of hikers, dreamers and friends of the trail will be dedicated to him. Plans are still in the works but count on there being some recognition, reflection and reminiscences of Jack when the Gathering convenes on Friday, Oct. 7, in Williamstown, Mass.
In the mean time, if anyone wishes to write a remembrance of Jack for the summer newsletter, by all means send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. We plan to devote a decent chunk of space to Jack, but we need your contributions including photos. We'll help ourselves to what's been posted online but if you have other pictures, send them along. Many thanks. /bill o'brien
(P.S. Thanks to Yahoola for the use of the above photo of Jack on the A.T. in Maine in 1997. She tells us it was one of his favorites.)