[June 22, 2016]
Friends recently attended the Trail Days festival in Damascus, Virginia. To my knowledge, this was our first major outreach effort outside the state of Maine. This three-day event, which draws about 15,000 people, is a celebration of the Appalachian Trail and an annual reunion for the AT hiker community. I’ve been told that it’s the largest festival of its kind anywhere in the world.
Our group at Trail Days included Board members Dick Klain and Jaime Renaud (aka Navigator), Paul Renaud (aka Ole Man), and myself. One of our AT Ambassadors for this year, former BSP Ranger Dave Edwards, also attended. Dave is currently thru-hiking the AT with his daughter Kelly, and both have enthusiastically agreed to serve as ambassadors to other hikers on the trail about respecting Baxter State Park and Katahdin. Our fiberglass Katahdin mountain model made the trip too – including about 200 miles on the roof of my Honda Fit before we switched to a larger rental vehicle. Katahdin was a major draw at the festival, with many people rushing into to our booth eager to take a closer look.
Over the course of the weekend, we had one-on-one conversations with about 1,000 people who visited our booth. Many of these were current thru-hikers with questions about finishing on Katahdin. Friends also gave a presentation on Friday evening to a group of about 50 people. Many thanks to our friends at ALDHA (the Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association) for inviting us to Trail Days, and graciously hosting our table in their large tent. In a nearby tent, staff from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy spent much of the weekend explaining the new Baxter State Park permit system, and chatting with hikers about the need to be respectful on Katahdin. We really appreciate the partnership and support of these two organizations, as well as grant support from Patagonia that helped fund our participation in Trail Days.