It was a real pleasure to hear Ron Tipton, Executive Director of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, speak at Cox Arboretum this past Friday night. It was particularly meaningful because Ron is a Dayton native.
The evening began with a short hike around the Arboretum involving close to 100 hikers. The evening was comfortable and the trails at Cox are easy but beautiful. Cathy and I had a warm conversation as we walked the path. After a group picture, we gathered in a large meeting room with others who came just for the verbal presentation. The room was packed with interested folks. I have found that the topic of the Appalachian Trail is extremely well received in this area.
Andy “Captain Blue” introduced the evening with a slide show relating some basic information about the trail. He started by asking anyone in the audience who had hiked any of the trail to stand. Close to half of the audience stood. He then asked folks to remain standing if they hiked 50 miles or more of the trail…. 100 miles or more….500 miles or more….1,000 miles or more…2,000 miles or more. He asked the final group to come forward and introduce themselves. I was pretty surprised at the number of folks (I did not count but I would guess there were at least 12 of us) who came forward. At least four of the 2,000 milers had completed their thru-hike in the last month. I was the only one who completed in 2014. I would have loved to have gone as a group to a back room and shared stories of our adventures.
Instead, we all took our seats and listened to the insights of Mr. Tipton. He was an articulate speaker who weaved the history of the trail with the current status of the ATC. He has an obvious love for the outdoors and breathes the air of the Appalachian Tail. After his informative talk, he entertained questions from the crowd and provided the inside scoop on his vision moving forward.
He gave a positive plug for the “A Walk in the Woods” movie starring Robert Redford sharing his appreciation for Mr. Redford’s sensitivity to nature and our country’s wilderness areas. The ATC is anticipating an increased interest in hiking the trail this year as a result of the film and Ron commented that the sales of Bill Bryson’s book (of the same title) has put the volume back on the New York Times Bestseller list.
Ron spoke to the recent speed record set by Scott Jurek this summer. While he sympathized with the celebration of a speed record, he also expressed the need of hiker’s to be sensitive to the rules and regulations of state parks. There are scheduled meetings between the ATC and Baxter State Park officials in the next few weeks that will address these issues and how to cooperate in order to make the thru-hike an enjoyable and safe adventure while maintaining the integrity of the various park systems represented along the trail.
I love being around conversations regarding the Appalachian Trail. There is something special about the excitement the trail generates in others and the incredible stories that come from the adventure.