The ALDHA Gathering was held on October 11-13, 1996. Below are reports
filed by Marty Manzano and Mike Calabrese:
I confirmed my registration Friday afternoon at the campsites, which was located on the premises of the Fraternal Order of Eagles (FOE). There was lots of room for tents as well a huge parking lot in which some camped in vans and RV's. We had the use of the Eagles' Field House, a large building with bathrooms and kitchen facilities. The workshops and meetings were held several miles away at the Swartz Intermediate High School.
The meetings and workshops which I attended are described below.
FRIDAY NIGHT - OPENING SESSION
After the opening remarks, all class years were introduced, including `97 hopefuls. The replacement for Jean Cashin was introduced, Ms. Laurie Potteiger. Remarks were given by author and former thru hiker Cindy Ross, and numerous testimonials made by individuals who had hiked the AT; Ernst Banfield (Raven) sang a song which he composed during his thru hike several years ago, and an excellent slide presentation was given by Mike Henderson.
I missed a reception for 1st timers, but returned to the Eagles' park where a huge bonfire was a welcome shield against the cold. I retired to my tent which was covered with ice crystals. Even in the dark I could see the glitter of ice crystals everywhere, and the cloudless sky allowed a view of the stars.
Workshop: Hiking the Appalachian Trail.
This workshop was given by Warren Doyle. To say Warren is slightly eccentric, maybe even crazy, is an understatement. He is a former professor at George Mason University and has taught courses in thru hiking as well as led AT expeditions for a number of years. He is extremely proud of being "cheap", so he visits Salvation Army thrift shops for his gear: sneakers (rather than hiking boots), ski poles, t-shirts, etc. He wears one t-shirt for the entire trip; never showers; wears one pair of socks until they disintigrate, doesn't cook; his diet consists mainly of Little Debbie snack cakes (he gets a look of ecstasy when he even mentions Little Debbie; I'm inclined to think he has an unhealthy lust for the child). One of his main points is that the cost of the trip is directly related to the comfort level you require. So lower your requirements!
When he leads expeditions of thru hikers, he has them do exercises in creative camping. Warren's favorite sleeping spot was the time he climbed up on the Schoney's restaurant sign in Gatlinburg, strapped himself to the sign with bungee cords, and spent the night. He said he slept well except for being somewhat bothered by the moth.
Warren doesn't carry water on his hikes but drinks every time he comes to a water source. He thinks giardia is not a new parasite but has been with us for a long time; he is reacquainting his body with the bacteria (or is it a virus?) and is building an immunity to it. So far, so good.
Warren's three indispensible items for a thru hike are: Dr. Scholl's insoles; a GI can opener, and ski poles.
Workshop: Women's Issues
This was an informative session, and concerned personal safety, hygiene, attitudes, etc., which are of concern to, and from the viewpoint of women.
Workshop: Profiles of Long Distance Hikers
This session, presented by Dr. O.W. Lacy, was so fascinating to me that I missed hearing Earl Shaffer give a speech in the auditorium at the same time. Dr. Lacy talked at length about the Myers Briggs Indicator, and then related where long distance hikers fell among the personality types. We may have slight differences among each other, but we're overwhelmingly outside the "average" population ! I didn't have to tell you that, did I?
There was a special tribute to Jean Cashin who has recently retired from the ATC after about 24 years of assisting hikers. Ed Garvey was one of many who spoke.
Back at the campground we had live music and a caller for a Contra/Square Dance. In a display of his versatility, Warren Doyle called a dance which had couples doing steps which could have resulted in serious injuries if everyone hadn't been so darned good, to say nothing of fleet-footed! I haven't laughed so hard in years (I was watching, not dancing). Again, the bonfire was roaring, and it was a good place to meet old friends. There was a group who actually placed a huge pot to boil in the flames; they opened a large cooler and pulled out about a half dozen live lobsters, which they cooked. Thru hikers know how to enjoy life!
I was truly astounded at the friendliness and concern of all those present. I had a number of individuals offer help in any way possible during my upcoming thru hike. I gained some invaluable insights from former thru hikers, and generally found camaraderie and good cheer. The one down side of the entire event is that there are so many excellent workshops going on but none are repeated. Therefore, one must make a difficult choice to attend a workshop and miss others which could be equally informative.
10/11/96- I drove up with my brother-in-law Jimmy on Friday night. Jimmy made some neat walking sticks and wanted to try and sell some at the Gathering. We spent the night in Chambersburg, PA as there were no rooms in Carlisle. We stayed in a Days Inn and ate at a Shoneys Restaurant, which weren't bad. I don't like camping out in the cold!
10/12/96- Saturday morning we left early and got to the school where the seminars were. I attended the following seminars:
The Finger Lakes Trail System- A very good presentation given by Edwin Sidote. They showed slides of this 557 mile trail, which starts at Niagara Falls and heads east to the Catskills. This may be a good Rag Tag Rangers Weekend Backpacking Trip some day.
The Opportunities faced by Service Providers along the Trail- This was given by a gentleman that was the caretaker at Blackburn Trail Center when MD 29 did their AT Tag Team Hike. We met him at the Knoxville AYH. He talked about some of the problems that hoteliers, B&B owners and stores have with thru hikers and how to deal with them.
First Aid Along The Trail- A former through hiker told about some things to watch for such as hypothermia, giardia, how to get help, etc.
How To Plan A Section Hike- This was given by a couple who took 6 years to do their section hiking. They would take off 3 weeks a year to do it. Very informative.
The Big Blue/Tuscarora Trail- Given by PATC'er Charlie Irvin. He talked about the Tuscarora in PA, the Big Blue in WV & VA, asked for people to help maintain it and about the trail itself.
We left after the last session. I met some new faces and ran into a number of old faces that I had met on the trail. The Gathering was very informative. I was disappointed that Jimmy only sold 2 walking sticks. I guess it's because Dr. Doyle was pushing used ski poles available at the Salvation Army Thrift Store that depressed his sales! People have told me that I am too obcessive about hiking. The next time someone says that to me I'll just bring them to an ALDHA meeting. These guys and gals are hard core hikers! It was great!
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