Stories From the Trail: The Secret Lives of Ridgerunners

Ridgerunners Rest and Relax

Each month in addition to their regularly scheduled duties, ridgerunners also get treated to some well deserved R&R. This July, Jim Fetig of ATC Headquarters invited me to join him and four NoVA ridgerunners at the PATC’s rustic cabin retreat, the Blackburn AT Center, near Harpers Ferry.

I had a lovely time driving through the Shenandoah, 103F with a broken AC. Totally worth it, though. When I arrived at the center all my cares melted away. The enormous wraparound porch welcomed me, as did a house full of laughter and the smells of food.

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From Jim’s Blog:

Blackburn Trail Center, Round Hill, VA, July 18, 2019 — Once a month in June and July we bring our Appalachian Trail ridgerunners to Blackburn for a little R&R and a short business meeting.  Outside guests from the conservancy, NPS, and our trail club are often invited.  In August they travel to the Scott Farm training center outside Carlisle, PA, where they rejoin their mid-Atlantic peers for an official seasonal debrief and a personal comparing of notes.

Our MO is pretty standard.  We show up Thursday afternoon for some social time, prepare a meal, and have some beer.  Friday morning we do cook-your-own pancakes with a 9 o’clock hard start for our meeting, which varies between 90 minutes and three hours. Lunch is leftovers if there are any.

Ridgerunners are usually fairly stoic people.  They are selected for their maturity, judgment, commitment, and intelligence. But what are they really like when they let their hair down and no one else is looking?

AT RidgeRunners and Gary Sizer

In this episode we talk about:

  • Introductions
  • Where we are: The Blackburn Center, maintained by the PATC
  • Ridgerunner training
  • What the application process is like
  • What the ATC is looking for in trainees
  • What do the ridgerunners think of each other?
  • What do they think of you, the hikers?
  • Privy horror stories
  • Rescue stories
  • Things that would surprise you about being a ridgerunner
  • Copperhead and other venomous snake removal
  • How much authority does a ridgerunner actually have?

And while we’re here and thinking of it, What’s the deal with hikers and nail polish?

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