So from part one of my post on the ATC you got the entire abridged history of the trail, lets talk about what the ATC does for us today. First of all, the headquarters of the ATC are located in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, a mere 0.25 miles off the trail. This office is a major destination for people on a thru hike. They have a back room dedicated to thru hikers and a volunteer will take a Polaroid for their hiker yearbook. You can write down all your information on the photo for friends to keep in touch with you after your hike. They have a hiker box, where hikers can help themselves to take or leave an item they no longer want. They have electrical outlets to charge your devices. They also have a mini museum and souvenir shop. The volunteers are friendly and informative, answering any question you have about the trail.
The ATC also employs amazing trail stewards called Ridge Runners. They cover the length of the Appalachian Trail, working in designated areas. For example, a Ridge Runner in the Smokies would be responsible for covering the entire 73-mile length of the AT in the park and works from March until November, spending approximately 120 nights in the backcountry per season. The work of a Ridge Runner involves talking to hikers they meet both on trail and in shelters, clearing small blowdowns off the trail, picking up trash, and cleaning the privy, or outhouse, at a campsite or shelter. For the most part, they are peacekeepers and protectors of the trail in their designated area.
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy acts as a protector of the trail. For example, in September 2015, Congress failed to reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund. This legislation from 1964 designates funding from the profits of offshore drilling to be designated to back into our national parks, forests, and wildlife preserves. The ATC is very active in Washington, D.C. and conservation staff spends time with lawmakers on Capital Hill discussing issues of conservation and their importance to the AT Corridor. The ATC is also active in different areas along the trail to not only preserve the corridor, but to also conserve the areas near the corridor, most recently fighting development along the Roan Highland region in Tennessee. A developer wanted to build a large condo complex right in the sightline of the trail from these beautiful and pristine balds. Now, the conservation issue focuses on natural gas pipelines in Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania.
Finally, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy is a great place to learn of the most important thing we can all do to help protect the trail - Leave No Trace. The seven principles of Leave No Trace are expanded upon in detail on their website and they have a great video series explaining all the ethics. These seven things we can all do on each trip we take out on the trail can help preserve the trail for generations to come.
If you have enjoyed spending any amount of time on the Appalachian Trail, I highly recommend you become a member of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. You can make a donation of any amount on their website and become a card-carrying member of this wonderful trail "club." Your donation to them will help preserve the efforts of this hard working organization to make sure the Appalachian Trail can be protected for years to come.