There are some wonderful people associated with the Appalachian Trail. Every thru-hiker has experienced trail magic from trail angels in a vast array of circumstances. It might be the Cookie Lady of Massachusetts or the cans of cold pop anonymously left in the mountain stream, or some kind folks along the way that provide a ride into a town or back out to the trailhead. Most of these people are not paid in any way by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy but rather reach out to the hiking community because they love the idea of the wilderness and the adventure to be found on the trail.
But there was an employee of the ATC that left her mark on the lives of many, if not most, thru-hikers for almost 25 years. Her name was Jean Cashin. She began her career with the ATC Headquarters in 1972 and she relocated to Harpers Ferry, WV. Jean held the title of Information Specialist and helped develop, shape, and personalize the services provided by headquarters to the hikers of the A.T. She earned a well-deserved Trail-wide reputation as the universal Trail Mom. She served as a welcoming committee to the traditional half-way point at Harpers Ferry and strove to befriend a generation of hikers. Among her many contributions and one that thrives today is the tradition of taking a Polaroid (now digital) photo of each A.T. thru-hiker who passed through Harpers Ferry.
Jean retired from the ATC in 1996 and moved to Waynesboro, PA and the Blue Rock Farm. She was 83 when she passed away on August 18, 2013. Jean was born in Allentown, PA, graduated from Allentown High School in 1948 and attended East Stroudsburg University (about an hour’s drive northeast of Allentown) majoring in physical education. Jean was a founding member of the Appalachian Trail Long Distance Hikers Association and was honored in 2012 by the Appalachian Trail Museum for her lifetime of service to the Appalachian Trail.
I obviously will not meet Jean but I will remember her when I get my picture taken in front of the ATC Headquarters in the grand state of West Virginia (Go Mountaineers!).