Wednesday, December 16, 2015

AT Museum Volunteer Newsletter - Volume 2, Issue 14

Volume 2, Issue 14 - December, 2015
brought to you by Joe Harold, Appalachian Trail Museum Manager

The recent weather is confusing to me.  With only a few days until the winter solstice arrives, I'm wanting to see some snow.  60 degree days are for spring and early fall, not winter.  But the off season continues.  For me, that means, buying stuff to sell next year.  Work on maybe cataloging the artifacts we accrued this year and updating the Docent Manual and the other things I use to do this job.  The down time is needed, but I'm always needing to get into the woods during every season.  So I squeeze in what I can with the Holidays going on, and continue to have that itch that always needs to be scratched.  

The Bionic Woman 

A few weeks ago, I received an email telling me that Niki "The Bionic Woman" Rellon would be hiking through the park in a few days and they were wondering if we could open the Museum for her as she came by.  If you don't recognize her name, she is an amazing woman that has been hiking the trail this year.  What makes her special, is when she completes (somewhere down in Virginia), she will be the first female amputee to complete a Thru Hike.  Niki is an amazing outdoorswoman, who lost her leg after a rappelling accident in Utah back in 2013.  You can read a little about her on Robert Sutherland's blog.  Her story is quite interesting.

The Bionic Woman, enjoying a Coke in the Museum
So this was right around Thanksgiving and one of our amazing volunteers, this year's Volunteer of the Year, Michele "Amma" Burton, agreed to be on standby (others volunteered to, thanks to all who offered to help) for her arrival.  As you know, hiker schedules can be erratic and you never know exactly when a hiker will arrive.  Their time tables are usually quite flexible.  Having a "local" around really helped me out.

So, Niki did come by and Amma was able to come down and show her the Museum and Amma being the Trail Angel she is, also went well beyond that with her help.  She brought here a big turkey sandwich that day then took her on a food run the next day then brought her home so she could clean up and have a nice bed for the night.  Niki, a German girl, cooked up some stroganoff for a nice meal

Amma and Bionic Woman up the mountain at Amma's place
Niki's last update on her Facebook page had her in Shenandoah overcoming a small problem with her leg, but she is getting close.  Congrats Bionic Woman.  Keep on hiking.

The Halfway Point: Moving through PA since 1937 or so

You all know that "AT Halfway Point" is pretty much our claim to fame here at the AT Museum.  Pretty much on a weekly basis, I have the question about the Halfway Point and when I mention that the point moves, pretty much every year, because the trail length changes pretty much every year, I have devised a little Primer on the whys and wherefores of the living trail that we love so much.  Here is a little bit of information that I have gathered and try to pass on to our visitors when they inquire as to why the trail length changes and therefore why the halfway point moves.  

Back in 1937, when the "completion" of the AT was determined, there was a small knob just outside of Boiling Springs, PA that was named Center Point Knob and a bronze plaque was placed on a nice white rock in the middle of the trail.  The official length at this time was 2049 miles according to Publication No. 5 - 3rd edition.  The Mountain Club of Maryland was pretty proud of this point and tried hard to keep the official trail length the same, so the point wouldn't move.  But sometimes reality doesn't comply to peoples wishes. 

Center Point Knob
So, the reason the trail's length changes, is because the trail will never really be "complete"  There is always somewhere along the trail that needs attention.  It might be a large re-route that changes the length, or maybe a club will add some switch backs that improve the erosion control along a steep part.  Lately, I have been seeing that a simple re-measurement reveals that what was once thought of as being a .4 piece of trail, was actually .6 or something.  Things change.  So, long story short, the trail is a living trail.  Always changing in length.  Sometimes more, sometimes less, but always changing.  

When the trail length changes, so does the Halfway Point.  There have been a few more "permanent" markers along the trail marking the Halfway Point, but they never were accurate for more than a year or maybe a couple.  Now, long distance hikers like to have their little celebrations during their months long hike.  Getting halfway done of an over 2000 mile long trail is one of those events.  They like to know when they are "there".  They dance their dances, sing their songs, then continue on, maybe taking on the Half-Gallon Challenge at the General Store in the Park.

You have probably seen the marker we have outside the Museum.  This marker used to be about three quarters of a mile up Piney Mountain that rises up behind the Museum and was placed there in 1987 by 1985 Hiker Wood Chuck (the same guy who made the Museum's sign)  This marker stood up on that mountain for a couple of decades and was used in many celebrations and pictures even though the point had moved on to somewhere else.  At that time the trail length was 2138 (according to the math on the sign).

1987 Marker, now an artifact at the AT Museum
The next sign the PATC put up was in 2011 (also made by Wood Chuck) and is still standing about 3.5 miles south of the Museum.  This sign adds up to 2081 miles, so you can see that generally the trail has been growing as the years go by.  

2011 Halfway Marker.  About 3.5 miles south of the AT Museum
Back in 2013, when I got involved with the AT Museum and started spending more time on the trail in the area, I came across a place on the trail that was that year's Halfway Point.  There was no official marker, but the hikers had taken it upon themselves to create one.  They had made a small circle of rocks (very abundant material in our state) and formed a 1/2 inside the circle.  

2013 Hiker made marker
This formed an idea in my head.  I decided to help the Hikers out.  Each year, the ATC announces the Official Trail Length and the various AT Guide makers calculate where the Halfway Point is for that year and publish it in their guide.  I decided to take that information and create a place for hikers to mark their actual completion of half of the trail.  I made a small sign and laminated it and placed it in 2014's Halfway Point and the hikers came and did their thing.  It was kind of rinky dink, so I got mixed reviews, but that of course, left lots of room for improvement.  

2014 Halfway Marker.  Ol' Rinky Dink
The hikers would fix it up from time to time with their duct tape and it did last the season.  I asked Vern Graham, one of our Road Scholar Hike Guides if he could make something more substantial and he didn't disappoint.

2015 Halfway Point Marker
So this year, I placed my second movable, temporary Halfway Marker along the trail for hikers to enjoy.  The point was right where the trail crosses Dead Woman's Hollow Road.  This year I added a register so the hikers could record their thoughts.  I removed it for the winter in November.

The Official Length has been announced for the 2016 Season and the trail shrunk just a tad (.1 mile) and the Halfway Point moved a bit back to the North about .2 miles.  I will be placing an updated sign some time after the snows melt next year (if the snows ever come that is)  It will be along the old forest road that heads to the PATC Anna Mitchner cabin.  

And that's the story of the AT Halfway Point.

Longwood Gardens

A little while ago, Larry Luxenberg and Jim Foster were contacted by Longwood Gardens about getting involved with a Community Read Program they were planning.  

The Gardens are this huge place near Philly in Kennett Square, PA and it is a wonderful place to visit that is open 365 days a year and something is always in bloom.  I hear their Holiday decorations are over the top.  A Community Read is when they pick a couple of books on a certain topic, one that would appeal to adults the other to children and promote events throughout the area.  For this next read, they picked Grandma Gatewood's Walk to promote and asked if we wanted to be involved as we represent the Trail in the area.  

A few days ago, Larry and I met with a group of librarians from the local area along with a representative of Longwood Gardens and discussed the program and the things we can do.  
The program is set to kick off in early January and most of the events will be in March and April.  We will be providing speakers to the local libraries and hopefully have an event or two ourselves in the Spring.  We will be sending out more information as the program continues.

Check out Longwood Gardens at their website

Ramp Progress

Just a quick update on the second floor ramp.  We are getting close.  Here are a couple pictures of where we are stopping for the winter.  I can already envision how it will look when the faux bridge is finished up and we get all of our plantings around the ramp.  I think it will look good and will blend into the environment and building.   

Where the ramp will come into the deck
Ginger and the ramp

Things Coming Down the Trail

January 8th, 2016 - Longwood Gardens Community Read Kickoff
January 22nd - 24th, 2016 - Northern Ruck - Bears Den Hostel, VA
March 26, 2016 - AT Museum opens for the 2016 season

Monday, November 16, 2015

AT Museum Volunteer Newsletter - Volume 2, Issue 13

Volume 2, Issue 13 - November, 2015
brought to you by Joe Harold, Appalachian Trail Museum Manager

I admit that I breathe a little sigh of relief and I can feel some stress leaving my body when closing day comes.  I really love when the Museum is open and welcoming visitors, but I also feel there is a time for rest and renewal, just like the trees of the forest, who drop their colorful leaves, store their energy in their roots and sleep until Spring.  It is just nice to not have to worry about filling shifts and organizing volunteers; at least for a while.

But, there is still plenty for me to do at and for the Museum.  Not two days after our "official" closing date, Ed Riggs and I opened the Museum for our last group of the season; I am conducting a full inventory of our retail stock and will start ordering new stuff for next season; I have lots of work planned for the new on-line store on our website, and there are always things to do in the Museum, to keep it safe for the winter and have it ready for the Spring.  As the seasons turn, so does the world of the A.T. Museum

Annual Volunteer Recognition Event

Yesterday, we held our annual Volunteer Recognition Event, one of our favorite traditions at the Museum.  The day itself, was a beautiful fall day.  Clear azure sky, bright sun with a warm breeze occasionally rustling the fallen leaves around the Museum.

Refreshments in the basement
Volunteers mingle and talk
We started the event with some light snacks in the renovated basement, followed by a dedication to our new serviceberry tree that was planted in the middle of October.  We dedicated the tree to Katy Sexton, one of our most valued and dedicated volunteers, who passed away last year.  Larry said a few words about the dedication and then Jay told us a story of Katy and how she loved the serviceberry.  Georgia told us a little more about the tree and Red Wolf followed up with some interesting information.  It was a moving dedication.

Our new Serviceberry Tree
Larry Speaks
Jay shares a story of Katy
Georgia talks about the wonderful things we will see on this tree

Red Wolf speaks
Katy and Duffy

Next, we all headed to the Ironmasters Mansion to eat so much food, it was ridiculous. There was squash soup, meatballs, vegetable lasagna, pork bbq, corn pudding, baked ziti, meatloaf, salad, and more.  There were many pies and cookies for desert.  It was all very filling.

We finished up the event with our recognition part.  After talking about our milestones and accomplishments of the year, we thanks those of you that have gone that extra mile, whether you were present or not.  We also awarded our second annual President's Award to Gwen Loose and our Volunteer of the Year was Michele Burton.  

Gwen Loose - 2015 President's Award
Michele Burton - 2015 Volunteer of the Year
The museum exists because of all the volunteers.  Every minute that is donated is appreciated so much.  I thank you all for what you have given to the A.T. Museum and I hope you want to continue to serve at the Museum next season.


Museum Closes for the Season, Re-Opens for School Group from Texas

November 1st was the last day of the season for the A.T. Museum, but we weren't done welcoming visitors.  A school group from Texas made arrangements to come visit the museum on November 4th and we were able to accommodate them for the second year in a row.  
Large group from Texas hanging out in the pavilion

Ed Riggs and I set up the place and three large groups rotated through the Museum in between doing other things like play by the pavilion and take a hike from Michaux road back to the park.  Once we give the kids a couple of challenges, they seemed to get a little more out of the Museum part of the visit.  After the last group came through, I shut everything down (this time for the season) and headed out to my car.  They were still having fun down at the pavilion and had made a nice fire in our new fire ring.  

Camp fire to end the day

Camp Michaux

I'm sure most of you are aware of the amazing thing in the forest that is Camp Michaux.  This place, which are just the ruined foundations of a once great open area has a lot of history.  The area started off as a farm that supported the Iron Furnace and its workers by providing wheat and other produce.  In the early 1930s, it became a Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) camp and these guys replanted the mountains and built Michaux Road.  

When the war started, the CCC basically ceased to exist, as now those men were needed to fight the war.  Soon that remote camp became a POW interrogation camp, where valuable information was gleaned from the prisoners before they were moved to a traditional POW camp.  

After the war the camp was turned into a Church Camp that was active from the late 40s to the early 70s.  The place was a Church Camp longer than the CCC camp and POW camp combined and lots of kids created many fond memories of the place over the years.

I have become very fascinated with this area.  We take the Road Scholar Groups through the camp and show them a few of the ruins and talk about the camps some, but I have been wanting to explore the whole place for a while now.  I did that last week.  

The steps to nowhere. They used to take group pictures here.
This is the best time to walk through the camp.  The leaves have fallen from the trees and the underbrush has died back for the winter and you can see some of the ruins a little better.

The Cumberland County Historical Society has a nice self-guided walking tour that you can download and print from their website and we have an interesting book at the Museum that concentrates on the POW years.

I also found a very interesting website that has a lot of pictures from all the versions of the camp, but concentrates more on the people who went to the Church Camp.  

Water fountain built by the CCC
If you are looking for a nice walk around the forest this fall or winter.  Check out Camp Michaux.

Eagle Project Improves Museum Grounds

Ali the Boy Scout has finished his Eagle Scout project.  He and his crew, rebuilt the fire ring, providing an area with a grate where you can cook.  They also built two picnic tables for the area and a nice fire wood rack.  I am very pleased with his work and wish him the best of luck on making Eagle.

New tables and fire ring
We hope to have a couple of nice picnics next year using these new fixtures on our grounds.

Things Coming Down the Trail

March 26, 2016 - AT Museum opens for the 2016 season

Thursday, October 15, 2015

AT Museum Volunteer Newsletter - Volume 2, Issue 12

Volume 2, Issue 12 - October, 2015
brought to you by Joe Harold, Appalachian Trail Museum Manager

We are in the home stretch of this year's Museum season and the leaves are looking pretty nice around the park and up on the mountain.  The past month has been a pretty busy one and the last few weeks of the season will continue to be so.  Thanks to all who are giving their valuable time.  It really is appreciated.  Lots of pictures in this edition.

Annual Volunteer Recognition Event

We have set the date for this year's Volunteer Recognition Event and moved the time to earlier in the day.  This year we will come together at the Ironmasters Mansion on SundayNovember 15th, 2015 at 1:00 pm.  All those who have contributed their time this year are invited and encouraged to attend as we have a delicious potluck dinner, tell some good stories and show our thanks for your dedication to the AT Museum.

Far Away and Local Outreach 

Some of you may know that my wife, Lisa and I traveled up to Millinocket, ME this September for the Trail's End Festival, with some hiking in NY, before, and NJ, after the Festival.  We had a great time and I was happy to be able to add three new AT states that I have hiked in and to represent the AT Museum up in Maine.  

Bear Mountain from the top of West Mountain in NY
We drove to New York and spent a night on the trail near Bear Mountain.  The climb up West Mountain was very tough for us, as we hadn't been out on the trail in a while.

Appalachian Trail Lodge
We next traveled to Millinocket, Maine and checked into the Appalachian Trail Lodge, run by Ole Man and NaviGator.

After settling in, we set up the Museum's traveling exhibit in the Community Center and then proceeded to explore the small town.

AT Museum Traveling Exhibit
On Saturday morning, we headed to Abol Bridge and did a nice 15 mile day hike up the Blueberry Ledges Trail to The Birches and then down the AT where we encountered excited Northbounders, who were almost finished with their hike.  

A foggy morning on the Blueberry Ledges Trail
The fog burned off and the day was very pleasant.  We finished up back at Abol Bridge and we could now get a good view of Katahdin "The Greatest Mountain".  

Mt Katahdin from Abol Bridge
We finished up in Maine and received some good comments on the exhibit and headed down to New Jersey, where we hiked another three days with my wife's sister and her friend.  This was a part of NJ I had never seen before, as we spend most of our NJ time down in flat, sandy, Cape May.

Culver Lake from the top of Kittatinny Mountain
After that adventure, I had a speaking engagement at the nearby Green Ridge Village Senior Living Community near Newville at their Living and Learning session.  I talked about the history of the trail and the Museum and answered some very interesting questions form the residents, who seemed to enjoy my talk.  

It lifted my spirits to see that no one is ever too old to be interested in the trail and the Museum.


The ALDHA Gathering

The Appalachian Long Distance Hiking Association (ALDHA) held its 34th Gathering last weekend.  This was once again a "local" event in relation to the Museum.  All the hikers, both young and old, came together on the campus of Shippensburg University, only a 30 minute drive over the mountain.  

The Museum's table set up, with some things to sell and a decent Silent Auction all with donated items.  
Tents of Gathering attendees line the edge of the field
More tents

My cheap Walmart tent.  It did the trick for the weekend, but isn't my normal shelter
One of the attendees, "Wood Nymph" had a pet rat named Little Girl
Saturday evening had a really nice talk from Cam "Swami" Honan who is an amazing hiker.  He talked about his "12 Long Walks" he did back in 2011 and 2012 where he traveled 12 long trails in the US and walked over 14,000 miles in 18 months.  Quite a guy. Check out his website The Hiking Life to learn more about this awesome man.

Swami talks about his dodgy knee

Work Crew at the Museum

One of the things that ALDHA likes to offer after the Gathering, are various work trips that the members can participate in to help the trail and other AT entities.  The had a group out doing AT boundary work and a nice sized group of 19 with Ron Bungay at their lead, came to the museum to transform quite a few areas in preparation of our ongoing renovation projects.  

I had to head out to the board meeting early in the morning, so you could imagine my total delight when I came back to the Museum around 2:30 and saw all that had been accomplished.  
There used to be a cleaning closet here.  Not any more.
Top floor where most of the work was going on
Workers get to work
The old bathroom on the top floor is demolished.  
Sheet rock installed and some floor boards removed to
facilitate the completion of the HVAC ducting.
This vital work enabled us to prepare for the next phase of our renovations.  Eventually 50% of the floor boards in the top floor will be removed to create a mezzanine, allowing visitors to see the nice arched window from below.  This space will also be our Resource Library, where we will house our rare and historic books, guides and other publications for the use of researchers and other interested parties.  We have a long way to go, but this work group helped us get a lot closer than we were.

I didn't get any pictures, but the Museum grounds had a lot of work done to them too.  The grass was cut and a lot of weeding was done at the stone wall along the old road where the trail travels down to the parking lot.  Everything had a nice fall freshness that made me feel good.

The travel time guesstimate for the workers was around 113 hours and the volunteer hours were 119.

The Gathering brings people from all over and these states were represented by the workers. California, Florida, Georgia, Maine, Ohio, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia and Maryland.

My UTMOST Thanks goes to the following workers, who gave their time and sweat to help the Museum realize its dream of expanding to every floor of the Old Grist Mill.

Ron "Yellow Shoes" Bungay
Susan Gail "SG" Arey
Warren & Ann "46 & Storyteller" Axtell
Marilyn "Ameba" Beckley
Mark "Capt. America" Bailey
Dave "Owel Dave" Fleischman
Cheryl "Nike" Hadrych
Veri "Misssing Kink" Hurst
Dan "Milesback" Houchins
Jeff Kunkleman
Pete "Peak" & Laura Lane
Thomas "Radar" Baker
Jim "Jimp" Paschetto
Deb & Charles "Maw & Paw" Tucker
Greg "Weather Carrot" Walter
George "Billy Goat" Woodard

Very note worthy is Billy Goat who probably has more trail miles than than the rest of the crew put together.

Thanks once again.  We really appreciate it.

AT Museum Board Retreat

Back in April the Appalachian Trail Museum Board of Directors held their annual Spring business meeting and decided that a retreat would probably be a good thing to have in October, to see how far we have come since we first incorporated, where we are now, and where we want to go next.  Linda Witmer joined us back in April and was with us again this past Monday as the board came together at Margy's house.  

The board gets to work
With Linda's facilitation, the board figured out what is next for Appalachian Trail Museum, Inc., and made plans to update our documents and plans to show how we have grown over the last several years.  

Linda talks about a strategic plan

Basement Update

Things continue to happen in the new Children's area in the bottom floor of the Old Grist Mill.  Greg of Graphik Masters, our exhibit designer dropped off two of the 14 state display boards for the basement children's section.  They still need to be mounted and several more need to be designed and built, but we are on our way.

Make sure you go down to the basement the next time you are volunteering at the museum to check them out.  

We still have a lot of work gathering pictures (and permission for their use) and writing the copy that will go on the boards to highlight each state that the trail travels through, so if you have good pictures or can write a line or two, let us know. ____________________________________________

Captain Stupid Lives

If you have read our first published book, THRU: An Appalachian Trail Love Story, then you would recognize the trail name "Captain Stupid", the main protagonist of Richard Judy's first novel.  Larry Luxenberg, Richard and Margy Schmidt have collaborated to create a new Tee Shirt that we will sell at the Museum.  I think it came out rather nice. 

Captain Stupid - from THRU: An Appalachian Trail Love Story
Larry models the back of the shirt

Things Coming Down the Trail

November 1st, 2015 - AT Museum closes for the 2015 season
November 2nd, 2015 - Last Road Scholar Hike of the season
November 5th, 2015 - Last Group comes to the Museum
November 15th, 2015 - 1:00 pm - Volunteer Recognition Event

An October addition to the Dead Woman's Hollow sign.