Friday, October 25, 2013

A Gathering of Hikers and Dreamers

I haven't written in a while, so I thought I would jot down a few sentences on my latest adventures.

During the Columbus Day weekend, long distances hikers and those who dream to be all traveled to Shippensburg, PA for the annual Gathering of the Appalachian Long Distance Hiker Association (ALDHA).

As a preparation for my new job as the AT Museum Manager, I attended the Gathering to start putting faces to names and to start networking with the movers and shakers of the trail.

Friday dawned bleak and rainy.  Well, rainy is a kind description.  As I drove towards "Ship" on ever smaller roads, the rain came down in a steady downpour.  I was pretty happy to be inside a vehicle and not hiking my way to the party.  The rain would continue until a multitude of inches of the wet stuff would fall in the area, putting a damper on the plan to pitch a tent on the ball fields of Shippensburg University where the event was taking place.

I spent the morning at the Museum, opening up early for any Gathering people who wanted to check out the nearby museum before heading over to check in for the weekend.  We had a few visitors and I also used the time to load up the truck with retail items to try and sell over the weekend.

I drove over to the University and got ready to check in.  The original plan was to start the check in at the roller rink nearby where we would be setting up our tents.  With all the rain, the plan was changed to just do it all up at the Ceddia Union Building (CUB) where most of the events and workshops would be taking place.

This is what I saw when I arrived at the camping area
I checked in and started meeting people who's names I have been seeing on emails and other documents.  I also got to say hi to one of the Thru Hikers I had followed this year.  I recognized her right away and probably acted like a little fan boy when I told her she was one of my heros and how I loved the pictures she had taken.  Her name was Acorn and here is her blog.  

Throughout the rainy day, I would walk back and forth from the parking/camping area to the CUB, getting my retail stuff ready and just checking out the area.  My pants would get a little wet each time, but thankfully they were those fast drying synthetic kind.  While talking to some of the gatherers, I found out that it might be possible to pitch our tents inside the skating rink.  In no time at all a small tent city grew there.  Out of the rain and nice and cozy.  

My setup

Tent city growing
The night's event was where everyone came together and talked about what would happen over the weekend, it also recognized all the past year 2000 milers.  Near the end, they had this year's hikers come up on stage and get their certificate.  I recognized two hikers that Lisa and I had met in a shelter after hiking to McAfee Knob, back in May in Virginia.  After the event, I went and talked to them a little.
Class of 2013 at the Gathering (photo by Crooked Sticks)
Acorn, Poppins and Ketchup
After the opening ceremonies there was line dancing, but I wasn't interested in doing or watching that.  Also, the night's campfire was cancelled due to the extremely wet conditions, so I just headed back to the rink, hung out for a while talking to some of the other hiker/campers and then crawled into the tent for the night.  

I actually slept pretty good on the cement rink floor.  Better than I thought I would.

The next day, the rain had stopped and the sun even came out for a while.  I checked the fields halfway through the day, but they were still kind of wet.  I decided that another night on the rink floor wouldn't be a bad idea.

The day was filled with workshops and sitting at our museum table talking to Red Wolf and trying to sell books and stuff.  I did attend a workshop where the new Director of the ATC, the new Chairman of the board of the ATC and yours truly were introduced and conducted a Q & A.  I'm pretty sure I was just thrown in there as an afterthought, but it was ok.  I pretty much just sat there while they discussed ATC stuff, but I was able to talk about the museum a little and answer some questions.

Our Museum Display Board

We didn't sell a lot of stuff, but we did make a few sales.  I decided to pare down the retail stock and in the early evening, I  took two boxes back to the museum so I would have more room in the truck the next day.

That night's campfire was on, but it was scheduled rather late for me.  After getting back from the museum, I hung around the rink for a while and then decided to take a nap, which turned into an overnight nap.  I did get up around 10 or 11 to pee and see what was up, but not having a "group" to hang out with made me kind of an outsider.  I didn't mind, but at that point, I think I started forming my next Facebook post of "I would rather be hiking than talking about hiking" that I would confirm and post the next day.

The final day of the event (for me) dawned cloudy once again with a chance of rain off and on throughout the day.  We did a group picture and I attended a meeting of the AT Museum Society Board of Directors, where I once again introduced myself and listened in while they planned museum business.  

Photo by Crooked Sticks

The meeting was due to conclude around 2:45 and the Steelers were playing the Jets.  I had some friends from Pittsburgh coming out, including Tom my brother and Turk my childhood friend and we had some cabin camping to do in the area.  

As soon as the meeting ended, I got to my car and headed to a nearby sports bar, met the guys and watched the rest of the game where the Steelers finally found a way to win one.  

Next up... Our Cabin Camping Adventure

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