A.T. Trail Days in Dahlonega, GA

Why would the organizers of the Dahlonega A.T. Trail Festival invite me to speak about the Mountains-to-Sea Trail? I don’t know either but I said yes.

So from Bryson City, I drove through the Nantahala Gorge and the Chattahoochee National Forest through windy mountain roads to Dahlonega. The organizers had given me a room at a lovely bed and breakfast, which I managed to find just before it got pitch dark last night.

A.T. Trail days are now organized up and down the A.T. Dahlonega is the first one going north. The town of 8,000 in the North Georgia mountains must have worked very hard to attract all the crafters, equipment manufacturers, musicians and even authors.

But they didn’t seem to attract the thru-hikers that are supposed to be the super stars of these festivals. Thru-hikers are starting earlier and earlier and many must be past Dahlonega by now. Also, as it was explained to me, since it was a beautiful day, there was no incentive to get off the trail.

Never mind. There were plenty of people milling around the square and even a nice audience for my talk.

On authors’ row, Gene Espy, the second thru-hiker on the A.T., was signing books, with his wife of 60 years at his side. He’s now 87 and did his famous hike in 1951. They live in Macon, GA where he was an industrial engineer. No slides, no music, just Gene and a microphone.

My outdoor writer hero is Johnny Molloy, 53, who’s been making a living at writing outdoor books. Johnny must have written over 50 outdoor books. He hikes, bikes, paddles, and camps.

He’s not a rich man but loves what he does. He just recently got married and looks so happy. And he’s always talking and writing about something new.

Since most of the audience knew about the A.T., it was easy to make comparisons to other trails. They were an eager bunch and it was very enjoyable. How many of these will actually get on a trail, any trail, I’ll never know. But I like to think that some will be inspired to get out there.

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