Saturday, 1 November 2008

AT: The gathering

 I have almost completed the triple crown but I had never been to any Gathering. I had to change that. This year the Gathering was taking place in Athens, WV and I was hiking in the area anyway. And when Weathercarrot, the coordinator of the program sent an email around that he was still looking for someone to do the CDT workshop I volunteered to do that. I only needed a ride to get to the Gathering - remember: I am hiking in a country with hardly any public transportation. I sent around an email on all mailing lists and what a surprise: Birdnut, another PCT 04 hiker volunteered to give me a ride. We met at Elk Garden and already had a great time driving down to Athens.(Postscript 2011: This meeting laid the foundation of another great trip in the future. During the drive to and from the Gathering we started talking about paddling the Everglades - which we eventually did in 2010)

The program was a blast: There were so many workshops I was busy all weekend long. I learnt everything about hammock camping, got new trail ideas about the Florida Trail and hiking in the Andes, learnt about Peace Pilgrim and the Israeli National Trail and even did some dancing. The dancing was most interesting as I more or less had to drag Birdnut into the square dancing. There were all these hikers at the Gathering who had walked thousands of miles but nobody wanted to do square dancing! The first very reluctant Birdnut liked it so much that we actually square danced well into midnight (I mean real midnight, not hiker midnight!). (Postscript 2011: The presentation of the Florida Trail was so great that I decided to hike it - which I did in 2010)

And I met so many interesting people: First of all old PCT friends like Birdnut, Cadence, Radar, Billygoat and Weathercarrot. Then current AT hikers like Timber (who was so afraid of bears that I had to hike with him), Longwe Tru and Rockfish. And of course new hikers like Roni from Israel (who had to confess that he never hiked the Israeli National Trail), Stumpknocker and Miss Gorp who told me about cycling and so many more.

Even my CDT workshop was a success despite the fact that Jim and Ginny Owen (who had done the workshop in all the years before) were constantly giving their comments on whatever I said. I liked it so much that I decided to come back another year and do a workshop on hiking in Europe. (Jim and Ginny Owen have never been to Europe and can therefore make no stupid comments...) Billygoat told me how proud he is of me: "I still remember you starting on the PCT completely intimidated and convinced that you will never make it - and now you are almost a triple crowner and give CDT workshops." Thank you Billygoat.

Oh, and I forgot to mention the AYCE food 3 times a day that was actually really good. And the campfires at night. And the free book about hammock camping. And the PCT CD's from Weathercarrot. And.. And.. And... When Birdnut had brought me back to the trail I was singing the whole day - so happy was I. I had had such a great time - I will be back for another Gathering.

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