ATC 2013 Biennial – A wrap-up

ATC Biennial - CelebrationThe Appalachian Trail Conservancy Biennial Conference is over. It was fantastic. Over 950 people registered. Some stayed a day; many took their vacation time to stay the whole week.

Some highlights:

It’s a cliche to say that you couldn’t beat the hiking opportunities-the A.T., MST and the Smokies. Gee, that sounds like my life.

The excursions (my responsibility) were mostly all booked. Maybe I should have scheduled more trips to the Biltmore Estate and rafting. The Smoky Mountain Railroad was the most popular.

And then there was the evening entertainment. Jennifer Davis was the star. She was a tough act to follow, as several people warned me but I had a different message to pass on. My talk on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail was well-attended.

Not everything was perfect.

The cafeteria food at Western Carolina University was, well, school food. They ran out of fresh fruit. Sometimes bananas never showed up. But amazingly, they never ran out of French fries and soda.

Several hikes were marred by very slow hikers. People who never should have signed up for hikes held the group back. One half-day hike got back at dark. Another one was described as follows on Facebook.

Hit a new level in hiking frustration and exasperation: an 8-mile hike on the A.T. with a group of 17 people, mostly downhill, with me as the sweep (last in line). Should take 4-5 hours. One woman greatly overestimated her ability but no bailout points. She and I finished in 8.5 hours.

I led a hike on the last day which went off without a hitch.

But the ATC Biennial Committee worked on so many details.

* Where do campers take showers after the gym closes?

* Where can people park their RVs?

* How do you get all the bikes from a bike trip to the trailhead?

* Who creates the many first aid kits needed for a hike or excursion? Do you really need a first aid kit on an excursion?

* Is the sound system going to work for each and every presentation and music venue?

Am I boring you? Most large conferences like this are planned and managed by event planners who are paid to worry about the logistics. But this was a volunteer effort.

Over 300 people volunteered. Some staffed a desk for three hours. Others led hikes, presented a workshop or registered late comers all week. Lenny has been working on this conference for four years.

Friday evening, we went to the Glass Onion, an upscale restaurant in Weaverville, just north of Asheville. See the photo above.

Thank you ATC community, one and all. See you in Winchester, VA in 2015.

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