ALDHA Gathering

Now in the back seat of the Caravan with V8 at the helm and Auntie Mame riding shotgun. We’re heading back to Maine after attending the Gathering, sponsored by the Appalachian Long Distance Hiking Association these past two days at North Adams, MA.
Incredible value for the $15 registration fee. Two days of backpacking related workshops, plus camping in a green grassy meadow that overlooked Mt. Greylock. Hiking stars all over the place: Billy Goat, Andrew Skurka, Squatch, Stumpknocker, Weathercarrot, even Ms. Janet!
On Saturday I attended Guthook’s slide show of the north- south New England Trail, which links the northernmost Cohos Trail in NH with the 200 mile National Scenic New England trail on the southern end.  Many hikers are unaware of the fact that Connecticut and MA share this brand new National Scenic Trail that still is a work in progress. Guthook’s full story on this trip is on his most excellent website: Guthook Hikes!

The second workshop I attended was a panel of hikers- “Ask the Class of 2011” where one can ask questions about thru hiking the Appalachian Trail. Lots of opinions, most answers I agreed with. I disagree on the issue about the need to eat healthy food while thru hiking.  I crave and consume what you call junk food while thru hiking, and eventually start reading packages to discover those with the  highest caloric content.
After lunch I attended two more sessions. Warner Springs Monty asked me to sit in as a panel member for the Pacific Crest Trail discussion. There were about 30 in the audience, who were solicited for any and all questions about thru- hiking the PCT. All questions were welcome. The time raced by.
Then, over to “How to Lighten Your Load”, and get your pack weight down to 10-12 pounds by Kentucky Blue. Blue did an excellent job of charting her own progression from a 40+ pound load when she started her own AT thru hike in 2007 to less than a third of that weight today.
By this time, I needed a break, and begged a ride back to the campsite, some 5 miles away, where retreated to the tent to rest up, fired up the Coleman propane stove, and reheated some roasted squash/ kielbasa soup from home, with fresh tomatoes and sour cream thrown in for extras.

Our tent at the camping area

It was quiet, cool, and peaceful back at the tenting area. I chilled out and sometime before 6:30 PM yogi’d a ride to Andrew Skurka’s evening program at Williams College.

Andrew presented his Alaska-Yukon adventure that covered 4,700 miles over the span of six months, where he skied, trekked and pack rafted through eight national parks including Denali, where he skirted Mount McKinley. He descended both the Copper and Yukon rivers, and traversed the Brooks Range. Skurka’s Alaska-Yukon expedition was featured in the March 2011 issue of National Geographic. It was a supremely confident show, in typical Skurka detail.
Back at the campsite later I found my two tent-mates, comfortably settled into the roomy tent, laughing themselves silly with readings from Sole Mates, another AT book I knew nothing about.
It’s a long way to spend a weekend, humping from Maine to North Adams, MA and back again . We’ll see if this first-ever venue makes the list for future Gatherings. I’ve been doing much too much driving these past 10 days, and right now a Columbus Day at 290 in Lincolnville, ME sounds like it has to happen tomorrow.
Unless I feel like hiking up Bald Rock tonight to catch the sunrise come up over the bay tomorrow morning.

6 thoughts on “ALDHA Gathering

  1. Kevin Weir

    Tom, Cynthia’s father, Walter Banfield, is the father of the MA section of the new National Scenic Trail or the M&M Trail. I am one of the representatives to the trail committee from Shutesbury. The old trail runs right throught our land. You have actually hiked a part. Kev


    1. Are you aware that politics are a’ brewing? There was a guy there who is talking about the plan to move the Trail to the eastern side of the Quabbin. Appears that some landowners who are giving easements making up the MA portion of the new New England trail are unwilling to adhere to the laws pertaining to national Scenic Trails, i.e. that the are to be blazed ( marked) somehow and there is a requirement for some shelters/tentsites to be built for hikers to stay overnight. Have you heard of this stuff? Balrog


  2. Kevin Weir

    When Walter laid out the trail in the early 1950s, he told me it was on a dare from the CT trail guys. He followed wood roads and public ways. In the 1950s all that was required was to ask permission of the landowner and trail maintenance, which was done by the Berkshire Chapter of the Appalachian Trail. As it so happens, Cowls Lumber/Jones Real Estate is the largest landowner in MA and VT after the state itself. So a good deal of the trail is located on the Cowls land. Cong. Olver was well aware of the Cowls president, Cinda Jones’s concerns over a federal scenic trail. So Olver included in the legislation that no land would be taken by the feds. Cinda is a big land owner and doesn’t trust big government. So she has continued to allow people access to her land along the trail but not the trail itself. She has painted all the blazes on her land so you have to know where the trail is to use it. A number of her landowner associates have followed suit. So, the scenic trail people have joined with the MA Dept. of Conservation and Recreation to reroute the trail. The most contiguous way is through the Quabbin. There are problems with that between the state and feds. The land that will lose trail access is through Pelham, Shutesbury and Leverett as Walter diverted the trail so it would go through his family property. Cyn and I donated the right of way for the trail to the MA DCR but we are surrounded by Cowls land north, south, east and west. All I can say is having now “owned” a large track of land I really appreciate the concept of stewardship. There were owners before us and owners will come after. We hope our kids will honor responsible stewardship. I certainly appreciate all the wild areas we walk. Kev


  3. I had a good weekend at Aldha. I also attended the PCT forum/session and agreed with pretty much everything. I got the most out of the ultra light session; really learned a lot. What a beautiful weekend in terms of weather, information, and camaraderie.


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