Gathering photo gallery
A couple of pages from ALDHA's winter newsletter showing scenes from the 32nd annual Gathering held at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania. It's just one of 12 pages devoted to a retrospective of the Gathering, in addition to 2 pages of minutes of meetings and a look at the annual A.T. symposium sponsored by the A.T. Museum.

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The Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association

An off-trail family of hikers, dreamers and friends of the trail working

to preserve, protect and promote the long-distance hiking community.

 The Gathering
A Shippensburg Retrospective

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 Thanks!

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  • Group Photo

    Many thanks to "Crooked Sticks," aka H. Dean Clark, for once again providing a bevy of professional photos of the Gathering, including our family portrait taken on Sunday morning. Click on the image below for the high-resolution version that you can download to your computer and use at will. (The original image is about 3 MB in size, so download time may take a minute.) If posting elsewhere online, please credit Dean.

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    Gathering History

    The first Gathering was held before ALDHA was even officially created. In the fall of 1982, Warren Doyle gathered together long-distance hikers and friends of the trail for a weekend retreat in southern West Virginia, and it was during that time of fellowship and renewal in the community of the Appalachian Trail that the seed of an idea for ALDHA was planted.

    Six months later, at a meeting in Harpers Ferry on March 5, 1983, attendees voted to formally establish an organization of hikers, maintainers, friends of the trail and folks who dream of someday hiking the A.T., and they christened their newborn group the Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association.

    ALDHA has held an annual Gathering ever since, with locations varying from north to south to accommodate our ever-growing membership.


    Walkin' Jim

    The Gathering Song

    At the 2000 Gathering in Pipestem, W.Va., Walkin' Jim Stoltz was asked if he would compose a song for ALDHA to help mark the 20th Gathering the following year. He readily agreed, then admitted later that it proved to be a lot harder than he thought it would be. When he stood up to perform it that next year at the 2001 Gathering in Hanover, N.H., we think he hit it out of the park.
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  • A few years later, he sat down and recorded it for Weathercarrot's video documentary on the 25th anniversary of ALDHA. Click the link below to listen. Feel free to download it, too. After his untimely passing in 2010, Jim's former wife gave ALDHA the rights to it, and we offer it to you all in hopes that it'll stir fond memories of the Gathering and that you'll always remember Walkin' Jim.

    "To the Gathering Again"
    by Walkin' Jim Stoltz, 2001