Please be sure to check out the winter E-edition of The Long Distance Hiker, ALDHA's newsletter, for more than 12 pages on the 32nd annual Gathering at Shippensburg, Pa. The stories and photographs begin on Page 17 and run through Page 30 and include a centerspread of our group photo (below) and a story about the A.T. Museum's annual symposium featuring the biographer of Grandma Gatewood (his book is due out soon and we'll post the news here when that happens). Other stories look at the Friday night recognition of the year's 2,000-milers, the recognition we bestowed upon former Coordinator Mike Wingeart, the active involvement of the ATC's top two officials, the presentation of the Final Blaze, the Apple and Photo Contests, plus other items. Our coverage of the Gathering concludes with the minutes from the business meeting and Sunday board meeting.
We can chuckle about it now but this year's Gathering was a wet one. It was not quite as soggy as the last Gathering held in Hanover, N.H., in 2005 but the stalled remnants of a tropical storm that soaked the ground leading up to the Gathering made the camping field we intended to blanket with a tent city into a land of a thousand lakes, suitable only for ducks. It made for some interesting last-minute accommodations, the best of which was the small community that popped up inside the skating rink adjacent to the field. The ground was concrete and noises echoed but it was spacious, airy and dry thanks to its massive roof. It was also next door to heated bathrooms and running water, so it was quite cozy indeed.
Still, we managed to pull off nearly every single program as promised, starting with an emotional opening ceremony that saw almost the entire family of the late Jean Cashin on hand for the formal dedication of this Gathering to her memory. Even her husband George, now in his 90s, was able to attend. Besides the dedication, Chuck Wood also presented the family with his iconic "Final Blaze" memorial, and the A.T. Museum presented them with the formal plaque recognizing Jean for her devoted service to the A.T.
Accepting the accolades on his mother's behalf was Bill Van Gilder, who presented to ATC Executive Director Ron Tipton an old metal A.T. sign that Jean happily saved from the trash many years ago. It's now a relic and back in the possession of the ATC for archive purposes. Jean was a founding member of ALDHA and one of its earliest supporters inside ATC headquarters. Among those sharing their reminiscences of her were former ALDHA Coordinators Noel DeCavalcante and Cindy Ross, both of whom said they had been personally inspired by Jean before and after their respective thru-hikes. Cindy credited Jean with encouraging her to become a writer.
Also sharing their time with us at this Gathering were several recently minted A.T. 2,000-milers, including two members of the Warrior Hikers. One of the members of this year's A.T. class -- "Acorn" -- had just finished on Katahdin a few days earlier, and she brought the house down when she told everyone during a testimonial how she'd been convinced to attend her first Gathering, even though she'd never heard of ALDHA before.
"Jester told me coming to the Gathering is just like being on the A.T.
It's raining, you're tired, and everybody smells."
The critiques are being compiled (thank you to all who took the time to fill out those pink sheets in your program packet!) and among the positives from the weekend was the proximity of all the major venues for camping, classrooms, the college center, and the cafeteria. Even the showers were not too far from either the campsite or the college center, and they were open longer and on more days than we've ever had available at a college before. As one grateful hiker put it, you can't discount the small things like that.
If you have anything about the Gathering you want to share, including photos!, by all means email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!